"Your book is subversive"
"What do you mean?"
"Your book. I can't recommend it to people. It will cause them to get fired. I read it, and all I could think about was calling up my CEO and telling him how to run his business"
That was the beginning of a conversation I had with Laurence Haughton, the author of It's Not What You Say, It's What You:How Following Through At Every Level Can Make Or Break Your Company. Aside from an ability to write catchy titles, Laurence is a subversive that delves into the guts of a corporation and comes out with some startling information - corporations are big on image and terrible in follow-through.
That's why the book is likely to lead to awkward Christmas parties where peons like me corner the CEO with a copy of the book in hand and a martini in the other.
A third of all software projects fail. It's a terrible number, but development is complex. 33% Failure is pretty good compared to the failure rate of the Major Company Initiative, where a whopping one-half end up failing. Why is it so tough to push through effective change in an organization? Laurence tells us. It's because we're big on plans, and not so good on details.
Archaeologists who sift through the remains of teh 20th century would see the problem immediately. Every major corporation has the debris left from past campaigns hanging from their walls. Contests, marketing slogans, Ethics manuals, and banners about quality litter the walls and storage closets of corporate America, and yet each year, some big new project is announced to huge fanfare, trumpeted in press releases, and quickly forgotten among the excrutiating minutiae of everyday life.
This book has some answers. From speaking with Laurence and reading his book, I can tell you several things. One, the book was a learning experience to write, and the conclusions that are reached and not what was expected at the beginning of the project. Two, Mr. Haughton is a devilishly clever writer who peppers his book with examples, fables, stories, jokes, and historical trivia that make it fun to read even if you need the dictionary, the Reader's Digest, and a laptop opened to a Google Browser nearby to fully appreciate his writing. Three, this book is not meant to be blazed through at a Borders and tossed aside for a paperback romance.
Business Books bore. Most authors tell their story in the first three chapters, and then spend the rest of the book justifying the $25.00 you spent on the hardcover. Some of those books have great themes, but are very thin on advice. Others are great on anecdotes and worksheets, but fail to convince you that they apply to your company.
It's Not What You Do, It's What You Say is different than most Business Books because isn't a quick read. I spent four hours reading 220 some odd pages. I read at a normal pace of over 100 pages an hour, and tend to speed through bad books at about 200 pages an hour, seeking to extract some nuggets of information and call it a day.
Laurence's book made me stop, and think, and write.