Saturday, February 26, 2011

Human Resource Management

Authors:              Rob Dransfield
Published:           2000
Publisher:            Heinemann
Paperback:         124 pages

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Readers in India:

This book is a part of the series Studies in Economics and Business meant for college undergraduate studies. It examines the nature of Human Resource Management and approaches used to manage the people in UK organizations.

Chapter 1 explains the concept of Human Resource Management and traces its development from 19th century till the dawn of the current millennium.

Chapter 2 shows how approaches to managing people in the work-place have moved on from the top-down techniques to modern day trend of empowering the front-line employees. It also discusses several theoretical ideas about motivating employees.

Chapter 3 focuses on the way in which organizations are increasingly becoming more dependent on human resources as compared to machinery. It also examines the relationship between the new economy (driven by IT and network of links) and the flexible business.

Chapter 4 discusses the macro-planning process followed by medium and large organizations for matching supply and demand of labor.

Chapter 5 examines a range of human resource development issues related to the employment life-cycle in an organization - right from recruitment to separation of employees.

Chapter 6 looks at the linkages between the overall organizational performance , unit level performance and the individual performance. The important role played by performance appraisal in aligning individual and organizational needs are also discussed.

Chapter 7 is concerned with employee relations and shows how these have altered and how Human Resource Management is based on a unitary or managerial approach to relationships within the organization.

Chapter 8 examines important aspects of employment law and other legislations that impacts on the Human Resource Management issue.

The book concludes with asking some questions about the future prospects for Human Resource Management in the 21st century.

I have read  and summarized two other books in this  series Studies in Economics and Business  viz;  Markets  and  Corporate StrategyWhile I found them quite informative and interesting, same cannot be said of this book. I found it somewhat outdated and too UK specific especially the chapters on Employee Relations and Employment  Law. 

I am sure there are better introductory text books on Human Resource Management out there in the market.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Life Tree - Poems

     Author:         A.P.J. Abdul Kalam
     Published:     2005
     Publisher:      Penguin Books India
     Hardcover:   100 pages
     Readers in India

I was browsing in a second-hand book shop when I came across this book. The author, Bharat Ratna A.P.J. Kalam  is perhaps one of  the best President our country India had ever had and is one person whom I would love to meet and talk to. So far I had never read a complete poetry book, but after I  leafed its pages I could not resist buying it. 

This excellently produced book,embellished with beautiful contemporary paintings by Manav Gupta, is a collection of 26 short poems reflecting the musings of the poet Kalam on various subjects like - Youth, Life, Harmony, Happiness, Nature, God, Mother, Dreams , Patriotism etc. For each poem , Kalam also gives a brief background on how the poem was conceived and written.

The poems are  in free verse and read more like a prose. While I don't see a great literary merit in the poems, what makes them endearing to me  is the simplicity of the language and the sincerity and the good intentions with which they are written. This  touches you and strikes a chord. 

A good read for all Kalam admirers !

Previews and Links to Some Poems
  • Song of Youth - "As a young citizen of India, armed with technology, knowledge and love for my nation, I realize, small aim is a crime......" .          Read the Complete Poem.
  • Rock Walls - " Some build rock walls all their lives, When they die miles of walls divide them.Others build rock walls, one rock on another, And: then build a terrace, where they pray for love......."  Read the Complete Poem.
  • My National Prayer - " The grand Scene of birth of Independent India, In that mid-night, the flag of the ruler of two centuries lowered; The tri-color Indian flag flaps in the Red Fort in the midst of National Anthem, The first vision of Independent India was dawned........" Read the Complete Poem.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Integrating CMMI and Agile Development: Case Studies and Proven Techniques for Faster Performance Improvement

Author:        Paul E. McMahon
Published:    2010
Publisher:    Addison Wesley Professional
Paperback: 368 pages
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The two apparently contradictory  product development frameworks/methodologies viz; CMMI and Agile are actually quite complementary to each other.
Of late there have been  attempts from proponents of both the factions (more from the CMMI side) to understand each other better and evolve a synergestic and pragmatic way of developing products. This book will go a long way towards achieving this objective as it presents real life case studies from the author's consulting experience where he successfully blended both the techniques to enable faster performance improvements in software development projects.

As a Process Consultant , I have always been of the opinion that there is no conflict between CMMI Model and Agile  Methodologies, so it was with great interest I read this book. My view points and the approaches I take in my consulting engagements  found support  in this book. I also got some good tips on how to do an agile implementation of certain processes viz;  Risk Management, Peer Review, DAR etc.  and yet satisfy the required goals of CMMI.

The book is structured into five major parts.
Part I provides a required bare minimum introduction to CMMI and Agile.
Part II focuses on techniques to help CMMI process mature organizations increase their agility.
Part III demonstrates how a successful Agile organization can increase its CMMI process maturity without compromising the agility.
Part IV provides multiple examples demonstrating how the CMMI can help organizations that are trying to be agile but are missing key ingredients of true agility.
Part V addresses how real performance improvement is achieved by focusing on how to find repeating specific weaknesses, and what you can do about them. (I somehow could not understand and appreciate this part since the author has taken an analogy of his golf game and stretched it too far delving deep into technicalities of  golf (hand grips, swings etc.). He should realize that not every reader will share his enthusiasm for golf.)

Discussion on six major case studies run throughout the length of the book.  Lessons,  Insights, CMMI/Agile Myths and Cautions related to these case studies are clearly highlighted. 
The author provides us 16 insights, 15 myths,16 cautions,and 62 lessons interspersed  throughout the book.
Each chapter is summarized in terms of how CMMI can help Agile and vice versa.
In the appendices some examples of  process assets like Agile Project Management template, Agile Organization Process Focus Process, Agile Organization Process Definition Process are provided. 

A very useful guide  for all quality and process improvement professionals irrespective of the school (CMMI or Agile) they belong to. 
Also a Highly Recommended Must Read for all CMMI Lead Appraisers and Assessment Team Members. This book will surely help them pragmatically  interpret CMMI and minimize the appraisal costs and effort, thereby getting better buy-in when they perform assessments in organizations with agile mindset.

Some useful links:
  • Sample Pages (68 pages almost 20% of the book ! This pdf file which can be downloaded from the publisher's website  has - detailed Table of Contents, Foreword, Preface, Complete Chapter 4 : Bringing Process Maturity into Agile Organization - Part One & Index)
  • Compilation of Key Points ( I have compiled all the Lessons, Insights, Myths, Cautions, Key points on how CMMI helps Agile and how Agile helps CMMI in a single document)

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Nanovation - How a Little Car Can Teach the World to Think Big

Authors:       Kevin and Jackie Freiberg,
                    Dain Dunston
Published:    2010
Publisher:    Penguin Books India
Paperback: 372 pages
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"Nanovation is the authorized story of how a little car is teaching the world to think big, the story of an incredible team of engineers, designers and business people who decided to develop a safe,affordable, all-weather form of transportation for a vast growing market - middle-class India - and solve  a problem that was holding it back: how to get around." (Excerpt from the Prologue of this book).
And the  little car is -  Nano which has hit the Indian roads.

This  is certainly one of the most interesting and fascinating book I have read in recent times.
While Nano has been on the roads for almost 2 years, the story behind its making was a real inspiring revelation for me when I read this book. I felt  proud that an Indian company Tata Motors has "created one of the greatest innovations in the auto industry since Model-T" as the blurb on the back cover of this book puts it.

Today India is more known as an IT Outsourcing Hub rather than an Innovative Design and Manufacturing Center. Hope the achievement of  Tata Motors changes the way the world looks at India when they read this book after its global launch later this year (at the time of writing this blog post, the book is for sale only in India and Singapore).

However there is one disappointing fact that Nano sales have really not picked up as expected and also there have been several cases of its going up in flames all of a sudden. But I am sure the Team Nano will exhibit the same grit and spirit to overcome these teething problems. Nowadays whenever I spot a Nano, I pause and have a more closer look than ever before. Hope to buy one someday (may be after the Santro which I currently own has served its purpose).

Now let me come back to the book. The book is much more than the story of Nano. It is also a great lesson on the process of Innovation (or Nanovation as authors put it)  using Nano and many other examples as case studies. The book is in four parts.

The first two parts describes the story of Nano - starting right at the beginning  when the idea for Nano germinated when Ratan Tata, CEO, Tata Motors  witnessed a minor scooter accident during a monsoon in Bangalore in 2002 till the Nano is finally rolled out for sale in 2009.

Part Three discusses the Eight Rules of Nanovation - the must haves to foster creativity and innovation in any organization:
1. Get Wired for Nanovation
2. Lead the Revolution
3. Build a Culture of Innovation
4. Question the Unquestionable
5. Look beyond Customer Imagination
6. Go to the Intersection of Trends
7. Solve a Problem That Matters
8. Risk More, Fail Faster, Bounce Back Stronger

Part Four is about Nanovation Effect. Authors state that the story of Nanovation does not end with the delivery of the car to the buyers. They believe that the success story of Nano will spawn a diverse and far-reaching movement in business and design that will radically change the way we think about products and companies that make them.

A must read for everyone who needs doses of inspiration to think big, be brave, act bold and achieve the seemingly impossible !

The book is in 31 chapters and at the end of each chapter the key points of the chapters are summarized under the headings Nanobites and Questions.
I am providing just a couple of samples below. 
If that leaves you asking for more, then you may download a complete compilation of Nanobites and Questions  (11 pages, 579 KB, PDF file) .
 And if  you do so don't forget to send out a silent thanks to me !(-: 
 I spent nearly 6-8 hours typing them out ! (-: )

Nanobites from Chapter 3: The Culture of Thinking Big

  • Innovation requires thick skin. Where do you get it? From a deep-seated belief in what you are doing.
  • Avoid the incumbent’s mentality-the more market share you own the easier it is to be set in your ways.
  • Question your expertise- sometimes experts know what is not possible so well that they miss out what is possible.
  • Evaluate the risk of a big idea based on your track record. Do you have a history of rising to the occasion and winning?

Questions from Chapter 19: Leading Through Crisis

  • When faced with a crisis where do you find your leaders? On the frontline? In the trenches? At the point of action? Or somewhere else? 
  • The coverage of conviction exemplified in a leader’s unbending resolve to do what’s right gives followers hope and willpower to persevere. How do you measure up in a crisis?

Monday, February 7, 2011

Implementing Six Sigma and Lean - A Practical Guide to Tools and Techniques

Author:        Ron Basu
Published:    2009
Publisher:    Butterworth-Heinemann
Paperback: 376 pages
Readers in India

The author's objective is to provide a single source of reference tools and techniques commonly used in  any  quality initiatives especially - Six Sigma  and Lean -  in a comprehensive, user-friendly and hands-on book.
The book is divided in four parts:

  • Part 1: The Foundations of Quality . Deals with some of the fundamentals and the perception of quality which varies significantly depending on the type of industry, economy and culture. 
  • Part 2: Tools . Provides the definition, application, examples and training requirements of tools. It contains five chapters structured in the sequence of probable tools used in  Six Sigma methodology - DMAIC.
  • Part 3: Techniques . Gives complete coverage of advanced quantitative techniques and team based qualitative techniques supported by examples, training requirements, benefits and pitfalls.
  • Part 4: Implementation . This part provides a step-by-step approach of making it happen in all types of organization. Case studies are included to offer a practical insight of their applications. 14 Case studies are presented, however I wish at least one case study could have been from the software industry.
For more details on chapter wise coverage refer the preview of Table of Contents at 

The author makes a clear distinction between the terms "tools" and "techniques" which are interchangeably used in many books. 
He says "A single ‘ tool ’ may be described as a device which has a clear role and defined application. A ‘ technique ’ , on the other hand, may be viewed as a collection of tools".
The book describes:

  • 38 Tools (e.g. SIPOC Diagram, Control Charts, SWOT Analysis, Value Stream Mapping etc.)
  • 7 Quantitative Techniques - FMEA, SPC, QFD, DOE, DMAIC, DFSS and Monte Carlo Simulation
  • 8 Qualitative Techniques - Benchmarking, Balanced Scorecard, EFQM, Sales and Operations Planning, Kanban, Activity Based Costing, QMS and Lean Thinking
For every tool and technique:

  • Definition, application, basic steps and worked-out examples are provided.
  • Training requirements , prerequisites and suggested duration are specified
  • Both the benefits and pitfalls have been clearly stated so that a user can obtain a balanced view of the technique without being unduly influenced by its popularity, fashion or fad

This book also has an appendix describing in brief  14  popular Management Models, since they can help assess the 'big picture' of the business scenario and reduce the complexities involved in quality management.
The models described include - Ansoff's product/market matrix, BCG Matrix, McKinsey 7-S framework. 

The author also proposes his own methodology  FIT SIGMA which he claims will sustain Lean Six Sigma Implementation. It has  four additional features embedded in the Lean Six Sigma philosophy:

1. A formal Senior Management Review process at regular intervals, similar to the Sales and Operational planning process.
2. Periodic self-assessment with a structured checklist which is formalised by a certification or award, similar to EFQM award but with more emphasis on self-assessment.
3. A continuous learning and knowledge management programme.
4. The extension of the programme across the whole business with the shifting of the theme of variation control  of Six Sigma to the integration of a seamless organisation.

While I agree with the above points, I don't consider FIT SIGMA a very novel approach. It is just a branded common sense, found in several other quality programs too.

On the whole a very useful book for non-IT people ! Useful for IT professionals too, however since there are hardly any examples from IT industry, they need to put in some extra effort to see how they can map these tools and techniques to their day-to-day work.