ReOrg: How to Get It Right

By Stephen Heidari-Robinson and Suzanne Heywood

Harvard Business Review Press, 256 pp., $32

Reorganizations—or reorgs—are never simple. And they're often a big source of anxiety and dread. In fact, according to Heidari-Robinson and Heywood, half the people going through a reorganization feel some degree of depression during the process.

Getting a reorganization right is important for the health of both a business and its employees. In ReOrg, the authors serve up a practical guide for leaders planning to go through the process, offering tips to succeed through various bits of advice, checklists, and the story of a company experiencing some ups and downs.

The authors mention that reorganizations can be valuable tools. According to their research, the most common reasons leaders undergo reorgs are to facilitate growth in the company, cut costs, and move to a best-practice model. Of these reorgs, 70 percent deliver value—but only 16 percent are unqualified successes.

So there are many variables to consider when beginning a reorganization. Early on, Heidari-Robinson and Heywood discuss the importance of communicating with stakeholders about the plan. They also mention the pitfalls, such as the "wait and see" trap, in which a leader tries to keep reorg news under wraps (and it inevitably leaks out), and the "ivory-tower idealism" trap, in which a leader feels that everything is working out great, and her over-excitement feels fake to employees.

Successful communication is essential to a successful reorganization, and, once it gets going, so is the five-step process given by the authors:

  1. Construct the reorg's profit and loss.
  2. Understand the business's current weaknesses and strengths.
  3. Develop a new company structure.
  4. Design and plan implementation.
  5. Launch, learn, and course-correct.

ReOrg is a trip through these five steps, each section beginning with a questionnaire to determine how well your current (or past) reorg is going, then launching into the serialized story of John, the CEO of an energy utility company; Amelia, a trusted employee; and their reorg effort. Following that comes advice that readers can use to help get it right.

For instance, in the "develop a new company structure" step—a fatal flaw that many leaders make is starting with this step, the third in the book's list—Heidari-Robinson and Heywood discuss four major pitfalls. One is skipping steps one and two; another is "focusing only on lines and boxes." The book also offers winning ways, or methods that can lead to success.

"A reorg is like any other business problem: you need to understand the benefits the reorganization may bring, the costs and risks you face, and the time and effort it will take to deliver," the authors write. And, they mention, don't forget to be mindful of the people who work for you. This process can change their careers, incomes, and happiness. A leader with a sense of empathy and humility can go a long way toward succeeding during a tough reorganization process.


Be the Boss Everyone Wants to Work For: A Guide for New Leaders

William Gentry

Berrett-Koehler, 216 pp., $19.95

Plenty of books offer established leaders tips and tricks to improve their managerial skills, homing in on specific tactics for experienced managers. Be the Boss Everyone Wants to Work For starts at the beginning, with one overarching tip: Flip the script. That means altering the way you work. Focusing on your own work and individual contributions speaks well of your drive and determination as an employee, but you can't take that attitude into a role that puts you in charge of others. Gentry offers various "flips" readers can undergo to achieve that larger goal and start on the path to managerial effectiveness.


Simply Said: Communicating Better at Work and Beyond

Jay Sullivan

Wiley, 288 pp., $22

How do you communicate? Maybe, when you speak with someone or to an audience, your message is less about you and more about what the other person can gain from you. Maybe you embrace silence and listen to what others have to say. That would put you on the path to effectively communicating—but not everyone is like that. In his book, Sullivan explains how readers can improve their communication skills to connect with others in a way that improves the outcome for everybody. And though these tips are instrumental for performing better in the workplace, they have larger implications: The advice that Sullivan doles out is the kind that readers can take with them everywhere.


The Founder's Mentality: How to Overcome the Predictable Crises of Growth

Chris Zook and James Allen

Harvard Business Review Press, 256 pp., $30

Periods of growth are exciting times for companies, but growth doesn't always mean a happy ending. In an environment where just one of nine companies has had more than a minimum level of profitable growth during the past 10 years, how can a business keep growth alive? It comes down to the founder's mentality. As Zook and Allen explain, the founder's mentality has three distinct parts: an owner's mindset, a sense of insurgency, and a frontline obsession. Executives who possess all three have a founder's mentality, which will help their organizations keep long-term growth alive while avoiding internal issues on the way there. Executives can use Zook and Allen's book as a manual for keeping growth strong and navigating effectively through webs of complexity.


What's on Peter Cappelli's Bookshelf?

Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen. Among other things, Springsteen's memoir is a great account of family structure and culture for Baby Boomers.

The Fifteen Decisive Battles of the World: From Marathon to Waterloo by Edward Shepherd Creasy. Each of these battles represents a moment when the direction of Western civilization changed, such as the Battle of Saratoga where the victory of the Continental Army over the British persuaded the French to join in and declare war on Britain, making the independence of the United States possible.

Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. This book is a compendium of what we know about biases in the way we process information. It is destined to be a classic in the sense that it is often referred to and less often actually read because it is long and it's tough to get through the whole thing.