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1000 Black Lines

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Business books, schmisiness books: crushing the competition with a pile of books

Due to a change in my career path, I've taken to withdrawing volumes of books from the Pack Library on the topic of business, management, new/progressive business growth, and strategic planning. [wow, look at that, just like a business memo: four, alphabetically arranged bullet points--sans the actual bullets and missing a motivational poem. OK, how's this for a poem?]

"It is difficult
to get the news from poems
yet men die miserably every day
for lack
of what is found there."
--William Carlos Williams

One thing I have observed is that management books are dryly written (and printed in 14 pt. or 16 pt. body copy) and clearly established as a cottage industry for the American business class.

I switched reading material due to the fact that business books offer the same bullet point platitudes followed by motivational poems/quotes directing the reader to true success in business. But what is true success? Can it really be defined in four bullet points or a four hundred-word, single-sheet memo? The issue is that most of these group-think writers operate on 20-year old maxims (possibly older). The marketplace has changed dramatically and dynamically. The new rules are:
1) implement
2) adapt
3) adjust or
4) rue
How's that for business book table of contents? I know. It lacks the catchy strategic planning acronym (or maybe anacronym) of SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) that was devised by someone from an Ivy League school back in the 1960's.

Like I stated, I've changed my reading material to military biographies or histories for two reasons:
1) Military leaders win or lose--success is clearly defined.
2) Military leaders, despite training and resources, must implement, adapt, and adjust to a changing environment the moment they take to the battlefield or they will die.

Instead of reading books about notable military leaders like Charlemagne, Turenne, or Napoleon, I chose to read about the tragic failures. General George Armstrong Custer has had more books and opinions written about him than I care to count. But Maj. Gen. George E. Pickett has very few books written about him and the infamous charge at Gettysburg during the War Between the States.

It is from Leader of the Charge that I learn what management books don't tell you. One needs to follow orders from his/her superiors. One may protest the executive's orders and present logical reasons as to why those actions should be avoided, but ultimately one is to implement the command of the superior officer for fair or foul. I am not advocating that one follows orders and does something unethical or criminal as in the case of Enron. However, it is a very difficult truth that is notably excluded from a lot of business books--how to submit to one's superior.

I am almost done reading the book. It appears to me that Pickett was a good soldier in that he followed orders. He was responsible for the charge as General Lee was responsible for the order. The story of Pickett has many business applications. I'll detail them after I finish the book. And maybe I'll present it in a four-point presentation. In Pickett's case, one might consider the charge toward Cemetery Ridge a bad management decision--Lee's.

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  1. Anonymous michael | 9:19 PM, March 30, 2007 |  

    Excellent. History's winners, losers and tweeners have a lot to teach us. Of course, I'm rather a fan of history, so my bias is obvious.

    Looking forward to your analysis of a general who is sometimes unfairly maligned. Of course, when something goes wrong, it's the general's fault. When something goes right, we praise the men in the blue or the gray.

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