Thursday, October 27, 2011

Agile Coaching

Published: 2009
Publisher: The Pragmatic Bookshelf
Paperback: 240 pages

This book is a must-have tool of an Agile Coach ! Highly recommended reading for every one in the agile team as well!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Delivering E-Learning

Author:       Kenneth Fee
Published:  2009
Publisher:   Kogan Page
Hardcover: 200 pages
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In this information age one cannot afford to keep away from the potential benefits which e-learning can deliver. However the subject of e-learning is still misunderstood and still accounts for only 10 % of all the training though its popularity seems to be on rise. 
The author Kenneth Fee through this book presents a complete strategy of design, application and assessment of e-learning initiatives.
The focus of this book is on the process of learning rather than on the digital technologies that enable e-learning.

There are seven main chapters in this book.
Chapter 1- Understanding e-learning: Corrects some of the common misconceptions about e-learning and defines e-learning, the three components of e-learning and five different models of e-learning.
Chapter 2- Advocacy of e-learning: Provides guidelines on recognizing and overcoming objections to e-learning and influencing effective e-learning implementations.
Chapter 3- E-learning strategy: development:  Discusses the know how of devising and implementing an effective e-learning strategy which is aligned  with the organization's learning strategy as well as its overall business strategy. 
Chapter 4-  E-learning strategy: suppliers and resources: Demystifies the digital technology associated with e-learning and examines ways of classifying the technology vendors and integrating them in the strategy in a most effective manner.
Chapter 5- E-learning strategy: learning design issues: Explains how e-learning design is different from the design for other media and shows how to make e-learning program work well by pointing out the pitfalls to be avoided in this process.
Chapter 6- E-learning strategy: measurement and results: Discusses the various approaches that can be taken to evaluate an e-learning program and how they can be linked to strategy development.
Chapter 7- Learning more about e-learning: Gives pointers to further information in terms of web references and annotated bibliography.
 Epilogue - Offers some  thoughts on the future trends on e-learning.

Most of the chapters have a section called "Virtual Round Table" where the author consolidates the responses of six international experts on e-learning to the following questions he asked them in separate interviews:
  • What  are the big issues in e-learning at the moment?
  • What works well and what doesn’t work so well in e-learning?
  • What the main trends in e-learning are at the moment?
  • How e-learning will change in the future? What it could look like in 10 years’ time.
There is also an illustrative case study which runs throughout the book. It is about how a learning and development manager with a leading UK retailer successfully implements e-learning in her organization.
Quite a concise, well-written, introductory  book on the e-learning strategy  which also provides insights on how to manage e-learning effectively.
A MUST READ for every learning and development professional taking first steps towards e-learning.

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Monday, October 17, 2011

Exploring Indian Railways

Author:      Bill Aitken
Published:  1994
Hardcover: 292 pages

As a kid I used to look forward to train journeys a lot. And I still do. This interest in trains led to my picking up this book from the library. Though this book was somewhat outdated (last published in 1994) I was expecting  interesting accounts of some fascinating train journeys undertaken by the author , interspersed with interesting anecdotes and facts about Indian Railways. But I was rather disappointed. This book devotes much space to the bureaucracy and politics prevailing in Indian Railways around the time the book was written. Though in bits and pieces some interesting information is available, by and large I found this book rather boring and outdated.
I rather keep this review short and not waste too much time writing about the book which I wish I had not read at all.

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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Prince of Ayodhya - Book One of the Ramayana

Author:        Ashok K. Banker
Published:  2005
Publisher:   Penguin Books India
Paperback: 534 pages


The story of  Ramayana takes me back to my childhood days when I  used to repeatedly hear it from my grandfather who was a great storyteller. His vivid narration had a deep impact on me and I myself at the age of 5 or 6 started telling the story of Rama to whoever cared to listen and appreciate!
Nowadays I prefer Mahabharata to Ramayana since I think the characters in the former are more realistically portrayed.  However  this book - Prince of Ayodhya : Book One of the Ramayana -  written by Ashok Banker has rekindled my interest in Ramayana enough to look forward to reading its sequels too.
I had always thought of Ashok Banker as a pulp fiction author and had not cared to read any of his books.  I could not have got to reading even this, had I found the book - The Immortals of Meluha by Amish Tripathi  - I was looking for in the library.  Tripathi's book has received good reviews for its contemporary treatment of Lord Shiva's story. But it so happened that  "The Immortals of Meluha "was not available so I picked up this book instead since it seemed to be of the same genre i.e. modern interpretation of a mythological figure.
The book begins with the Author's note where he tells us how Ramayana came to be written by Valmiki and subsequently by many others who followed him, each adding their own interpretations and embellishments so that  " there are as many Ramayanas as there are people who know the tale, or claim to know it. And no two versions are exactly alike". Then Banker proceeds to say what was his motivation to add yet another version of this great epic to the literature. 
This volume deals with princes Rama and Lakshmana  being sent with Sage Vishwamitra to protect the yagna (sacrificial rites) he is performing from getting disturbed by  the Asuras. The princes successfully accomplish this mission by killing the demons Taraka and Subhahu. 
Now this is a bare outline of this volume. Banker through his creative imagination and interpretations has added sub-plots and incidents not found in any of the previous versions of Ramayana and has described them very vividly. This has bloated the size of the book to 500 odd pages based on this outline. Yet  not in any point of time while  reading it I was bored. This itself speaks of the author's story telling prowess.
Visit the Wikipedia entry about this book where plot summary and a section on how it differs from the original Valmiki Ramayana is provided.

Recommend this book for a light and entertaining reading. But definitely won't  recommend it to highly religious and pious people who look upon  Rama as a God. 

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Saturday, October 8, 2011

High Performance Operations

Author:        Hillel Glazer
Published:    2011
Publisher:     FT Press
Hardcover:  272 pages

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Acknowledgement :
I thank the author and the publisher for sending me a free pre-publication copy of this book  and seeking an honest opinion of mine through this blog post. It has been a privilege to have read this book before it was released.

Book Review:
Many organizations treat compliance requirements like SOX, CMMI , FDA, ISO 9001, which are imposed on them either by clients or regulatory authorities as a necessary evil or a dead weight which needs to be endured as a hygiene factor to sustain their business. 
But at the same time there are also some organizations (though in minority numbers) who have successfully leveraged the same compliance requirements to enhance their business performance and gained competitive advantage. The author Hillel Glazer has helped several such organizations to achieve this feat by creating process solutions that build compliance into the value stream using a system engineering approach.
This book provides the essence of this approach called Process Solutioneering (R) [ patent applied for by the author].
The key points regarding  effective handling of the compliance requirements as described in this book are:
  • To effectively integrate compliance requirements into the operation one must tie in their expectations to performance requirements.
  • Instead of focusing on the compliance practices specified in the standards, one should focus on the values from which these practices are derived. This will enable the operations to address these practices without unnecessary additional work.
  • Any activity undertaken to meet the compliance requirements should contribute to TQ$ (Time, Quality and Money)
  • Compliance requirements must be examined from the two perspectives - risk it is intended to avoid or/and the opportunity it intends to exploit. If an existing operation is already avoiding the expected the risk or exploiting the same opportunity, the effort required to achieve compliance is minimized.
The author has primarily aimed this book at managers and executives. And it has found its mark right on ! The book can be a real eye-opener for them when they realize how compliance issues can be effectively leveraged to transform their operations to a high performing one  provided they are willing to invest in terms of establishing appropriate leadership, culture, trust, autonomy, learning and communication system.

As far as the experienced and well read  business process management professionals are concerned they may be already  aware of many of  the concepts discussed in this book.

A few suggestions  to enhance the utility and popularity of this book - lesser repetitions of the same concept, more diagrams to support the explanations (for e.g. the analogy of  Lift, Drag ,Thrust in an aircraft), inclusion of real life case studies from the organizations where the author had been a consultants.

Look forward to a second edition or  a sequel which addresses these suggestions.

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