Book Reviews

The Infinite Game

by Simon Sinek

Reviewed by Sadie Morrissey

You’re probably familiar with Mr. Sinek who has published a number of popular books about leadership philosophy. His latest, The Infinite Game, is a commentary on how our economy has evolved to a point where most businesses are operating with a short-term (finite) mindset, and explores the toll this takes on individuals and the long-term health of any organization. He asserts that business, like life, is something you cannot “win” – sometimes you’ll be ahead and sometimes behind, but the objective is to stay in the game. 

Sinek reminds us that while profits and growth are the fuel to advance the cause of any business, quarterly or annual targets are arbitrary and don’t take into account the intangibles such as culture and engagement. When leaders are too focused on finite performance metrics, meeting them can come at the expense of trust within the organization. When employees no longer feel safe it leaves organizations vulnerable to ethical fading and renders them less capable of adapting to change.

“Growth as a cause often results in an unhealthy culture, one in which short-termism and selfishness reign supreme, while trust and cooperation suffer... When we have a Just Cause, we are willing to sacrifice our interests to advance it. When we think money or growth is the Cause, we are more likely to sacrifice others or the [real] Cause itself to protect our interests.”

As a project manager you’ve likely seen firsthand how the dynamics of trust and goal setting within an organization will impact your ability to be successful and derive fulfillment from your work. Even if Sinek is preaching to the choir on this topic, you may enjoy reading the many real-life examples of leaders and companies who have risen to the challenge of keeping an infinite mindset, especially when times get tough, and the unfortunate consequences for those who fall short. 

Amazon Description:

From the New York Times bestselling author of Start With Why and Leaders Eat Last, a bold framework for leadership in today’s ever-changing world.

How do we win a game that has no end? Finite games, like football or chess, have known players, fixed rules and a clear endpoint. The winners and losers are easily identified. Infinite games, games with no finish line, like business or politics, or life itself, have players who come and go. The rules of an infinite game are changeable while infinite games have no defined endpoint. There are no winners or losers—only ahead and behind.

The question is, how do we play to succeed in the game we’re in?

In this revelatory new book, Simon Sinek offers a framework for leading with an infinite mindset. On one hand, none of us can resist the fleeting thrills of a promotion earned or a tournament won, yet these rewards fade quickly. In pursuit of a Just Cause, we will commit to a vision of a future world so appealing that we will build it week after week, month after month, year after year. Although we do not know the exact form this world will take, working toward it gives our work and our life meaning.

Leaders who embrace an infinite mindset build stronger, more innovative, more inspiring organizations. Ultimately, they are the ones who lead us into the future.


Born A Crime: Stories From A South African Childhood

by Trevor Noah
Reviewed by Cindy Lewis

Being a frequent traveler, I listen to audio books a lot on the road. One of my favorite books I listened to last year was Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah. Trevor did the audio narration and that was a huge selling point. He is an amazing story teller and that came through in his delivery of the book. He is also able to use his voice and language skills, to play the characters, to share every detail in upmost accuracy, and to share the emotion behind the story. Truly you would have no idea that he was reading anything. I was motivated to purchase this audio book because it had a 5 star rating with 80,000 listeners. The book details Trevor's childhood experiences that touched on the challenges of active children, poverty, entrepreneurship, importance of education, the role of his very wise mother, the role of the community, and the role of family and the role of church. Some of the great takeaways I had in this book:

  1. It is often the perspective of the issue or problem that totally changes the problem.
  2. Sometimes you have to start over or try again.
  3. Energetic and thinking kids will get in trouble, but they can still learn something from the situation.
  4. There can be power in your own personal dedication to something.
  5. You don’t know your situation is wrong, bad, or even different unless someone tells you or you observe something that tells you.
  6. You truly can change your situation and find creative ways to have fun or make money.

Here is an example of a lesson from one of the chapters. Around the middle of the book, Trevor talks about his experience in school when he realizes he is an outsider and he has to either decide to be quiet and sit on the sidelines or to try to find ways to connect with groups he doesn’t belong it. To quote Trevor, “I learned that even though I didn’t belong to one group, I could be a part of any group that was laughing.”

This is a book I will continue to recommend and I hope after you read or listen to it that you can tell me what one of your favorite stories in the book was!


This the Amazon description of the book:
Trevor Noah’s unlikely path from apartheid South Africa to the desk of The Daily Show began with a criminal act: his birth. Trevor was born to a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother at a time when such a union was punishable by five years in prison. Living proof of his parents’ indiscretion, Trevor was kept mostly indoors for the earliest years of his life, bound by the extreme and often absurd measures his mother took to hide him from a government that could, at any moment, steal him away. Finally liberated by the end of South Africa’s tyrannical white rule, Trevor and his mother set forth on a grand adventure, living openly and freely and embracing the opportunities won by a centuries-long struggle.

Born a Crime is the story of a mischievous young boy who grows into a restless young man as he struggles to find himself in a world where he was never supposed to exist. It is also the story of that young man’s relationship with his fearless, rebellious, and fervently religious mother—his teammate, a woman determined to save her son from the cycle of poverty, violence, and abuse that would ultimately threaten her own life.

The stories collected here are by turns hilarious, dramatic, and deeply affecting. Whether subsisting on caterpillars for dinner during hard times, being thrown from a moving car during an attempted kidnapping, or just trying to survive the life-and-death pitfalls of dating in high school, Trevor illuminates his curious world with an incisive wit and unflinching honesty. His stories weave together to form a moving and searingly funny portrait of a boy making his way through a damaged world in a dangerous time, armed only with a keen sense of humor and a mother’s unconventional, unconditional love.  

 


"The Power of Project Management Leadership - Your Guide on how to Achieve Outstanding results"
by Laszlo Retfalvi
Reviewed by Rosemary Mills

Happy New Year!  At this time of year when we all do some reflection of our lives and career, have you ever wondered how you measure up as compared to other professionals in your chosen field?  Whether a seasoned or a young professional, is it clear to me what core skills I need to have to be successful?  When was the last time I did an assessment of my effectiveness?   Do I know if I excel in the core skills of a project management professional?   Or do I have an area (or two) that I have opportunities for improvement? 

In his book entitled "The Power of Project Management Leadership - Your Guide on how to Achieve Outstanding results" the author Laszlo Retfalvi describes the key skills for project managers.  Those skills described are Project Management Expertise, Core Leadership Skills, Risk-Smart Attitude and Accountability-based Behaviour.

For those who attended PDD 2018, I encourage you to read the book provided by the author.  Take the Project Management Leadership Assessment to determine your opportunities for improvement.

This the Amazon description of the book:
Very few initiatives today are so simple that they require little or no project management to guide them along. Those days are behind us. Now it takes project management leadership to successfully drive today's aggressive and complex projects. Mastering project management leadership is what makes any Project Manager an outstanding Project Manager. Perfect for all levels of project management practitioners, The Power of Project Management Leadership lays out critical groundwork for creating successful and outstanding Project Managers. This includes not only Project Managers at every level, but also important and, at times, overlooked individuals who support project management activities as well as those who interact with Project Managers as part of their work. Based on extensive and practical industry experience, the Project Management Leadership Model(c) is used as a framework and guide to better understand and develop the critical skills needed to achieve this highly sought-after level of project manager performance. The material also includes a very important assessment aspect. Readers will be able to assess their skills using the model and determine areas that may need improvement. Also included is a section with information to help readers develop these areas. Written in a concise, easy-to-understand, non-technical manner, it is a valuable addition to any Project Manager's library.