A Book Review by Bill Cook of a new book written by David Osborne and Peter Plastrik
I have read at least 75 books over the past two years and written two of my own. I must admit that The Reinventor's Fieldbook at 667 pages looked a little overwhelming as I cracked open the cover. It's not an easy read due to the breadth of topics covered-from creating clarity of purpose to consequences for performance, from putting the customer in the driver's seat to shifting control away from the top and center, and finally developing an entrepreneurial culture. On the other hand, I found myself making numerous notes to make sure that certain people in my organization receive copies of the book with emphasis on particular sections.
Anytime you are on the front of the wave-reinventing something-the more guidelines, lessons learned, and resources available the better. This book contains a truckload of each. As the individual responsible for organizational development in a medium-sized county government (24 departments with 2,600 employees), I find this book very thought provoking, informative, and useful. As a former administrative manager in public works, I would have difficulty implementing many of the approaches described because they are strongly influenced by the broader organization's culture, systems, politics, etc. (e.g., citywide). However, from a public works perspective, the chapters on managed competition and customer quality assurance are very timely and directly applicable.
As a student of performance management and measurement I found the chapters on these subjects very much in alignment with all of the work being done in this area by the American Public Works Association.
If you are not a careful reader this book can look like another flavor of the month. It's not. The introduction of terminology like "clearing the decks," "uncoupling-separating steering and rowing," and viewing our activities as "leadership, utilities, or marketplace" is appropriate and healthy. If you consider yourself a "reinventor," this book will be a wonderful addition to your collection and a must for your fieldwork.
Bill Cook is the Executive Office Administrator for the Snohomish County Executive in Everett, Washington. He is a past member of the APWA Management Practices Advisory Committee, APWA Accreditation Council, and APWA Leadership and Management Committee.
Editor's Note: The Reinventor's Fieldbook, Tools for Transforming Your Government by David Osborne and Peter Plastrik (Paperback, $35.00) is available for purchase through APWA's web site.