Book Reviews

change management; the dopaminergic mind; others in mind; masculinities; and what your stuff says about you

Project Managing Change: Practical Tools and Techniques to Make Change Happen
Ira Blake & Cindy Bush
Prentice Hall; 2009; Pb £24.99
 

Project Managing Change is written for anyone involved in leading or managing a project team that is introducing change. It sets out to provide a structure for organising the activities needed to deliver change.

As an occupational psychologist who has worked in many large organisations undergoing change, I found three things appealing about this book – it takes the ‘mystery’ out of how to make change happen and how to make it last (I seem to have spent a large part of my professional life doing this with occupational psychology);it is very practical (again I have held the tension between pure and applied approaches, and always erred towards the latter); and it puts people at the centre of organisational change (a view after my own heart).

The book itself is organised in three parts; the first is about the principles for project managing change, the second has all the tools, techniques and templates, while the third looks at the change manager in action. Diagrams, models and illustrations are used throughout, along with case studies, myths and mythbusters, hints and tips that support, enrich and enliven the narrative.

In Part 1 the authors have distilled their understanding and experience to construct their own change planning methodology – the 4Ds (Diagnose, Design, Develop and Deliver), which they explain can be integrated with existing projects and programmes using other project management methodologies. They go on to describe a ‘change prism’ model with eight lenses (Strategy and future state; Planning and management; Leadership and capability; Stakeholders and communication; Resilience and capacity; Organisation alignment; Culture and behaviours; Employee motivation and skills) to consider when project managing change and that can act as a checklist and framework for planning. The eight lenses map to the 4Ds to give a generic and comprehensive change prism transformation plan.

Part 2 unpacks the inputs and outputs of each of the eight lenses and gives step-by-step guides for use during the project, in effect the change management toolkit. Each guide follows the same format: What is it? Why do it? When to do it; How to do it; and there are downloadable templates to accompany the task or activity. Those new to project managing change could start to feel overwhelmed by the range of tools offered, but Blake and Bush wisely caution against trying to do everything, advising the selection of only those tools that will give the greatest benefit to the specific change situation.

If anything, it is this latter aspect that could warrant further development, with more on how to select the right tools and also ‘How not to do it’. While there is some of this in Part 3, more detailed case studies illustrating applications for each of the eight lenses would help, particularly where change is more emergent than planned (perhaps a field book to accompany this publication?). While on the subject of case studies, some of these are not attributed and the reader is left to assume that it was one or both of the authors.

Part 3 explores what a change manager does and refers to specific tools and techniques deployed to deliver change. It charts the process from the setting up of the project, through planning and preparation, to making the change happen and making it stick, closing the project and handing over to the business. Themes that resonated strongly with me, not surprisingly, were about the change manager as an individual, their courage, level of self-awareness and belief in what they are doing.

Overall, the book gives you the reassurance of having the knowledge and expertise of seasoned project managers of change close at hand. The plethora of concepts, principles and tools presented, combined with the insight from the authors’ experiences and expertise, makes this an extremely rich and enjoyable read. Above all, this book will be an invaluable practical toolkit over years to come for all those engaged with making change happen.

Reviewed by Julie Langridge-John
who is Director of MetaSuccess Ltd, an occupational and change agent consultancy 

 

The Dopaminergic Mind in Human Evolution and History
Fred H. Previc
Cambridge University Press; 2009; Hb £55.00

Previc begins by defining dopamine and its role in brain and behaviour, moving on to analyse the link between dopamine excess and a number of neuropsychological disorders, including autism and schizophrenia. He then provides an account of the history and evolution of brain and behaviour, from hominid to human, before presenting an innovative theory.

Previc argues for a gene–environment interaction to explain human evolution and presents evidence of a causal link between dopamine rise and advanced intelligence, illustrating examples of notable ‘hyperdopaminergic personalities’ in history, from Columbus to Einstein. The concluding chapter weighs the achievements of the modern hyperdopaminergic society against the negative consequences – scientific discoveries, art, music, but also slavery, war, pollution – calling for a need to abandon our hyperdopaminergic, goal-driven society, towards a healthier balance.

Previc nurses the reader through his theories, with each chapter usefully summarised at the end. A pleasant and accessible read for anyone with an interest in cutting-edge theories on the evolution of our brain, mind and behaviour.

Others in Mind
Phillipe Rochat
Cambridge University Press; 2009; Pb £15.99 

Rochat’s book is underpinned by two premises: we are nothing without other people; and social rejection – the ‘mother of all fears’ – animates everything that we do and feel. On these rests his thesis that self-consciousness occurs through constant triangulation between our subjective experience, and our experience of ourselves through others’ eyes. For Rochat, identity exists where first- and third-person perspectives meet.

Consistent with his research career, Rochat pays much attention to the emergence of self-consciousness in the infant. He is keen to identify the social and cultural functions behind familiar developmental research paradigms – seeing theory-of-mind abilities as a framework for negotiating and sharing behaviours, for example.

The influences of Freudian and evolutionary psychology are clear, as the author places an instinctive drive at the centre of his model and locates selfhood at the intersection of conflicting inputs. Greater still is the debt to John Bowlby’s writings on attachment. For Rochat, regulating the proximity of others is not only central to caregiving relationships, but is the key to understanding how we experience our own existence.

Reviewed by Tania Heap
who is an Associate Lecturer at the Open University

 

Juxtaposing different perspectives
An Introduction to Masculinities
Wiley-Blackwell; 2009; Pb £21.99
Reviewed by Dan Shepperd

Kahn engagingly introduces biological, psychological and constructionist approaches to different understandings of masculinity, juxtaposing the different perspectives in ways that promote critical thinking.

Written primarily for undergraduates, this book would doubtless also interest postgraduates approaching gender and masculinities forthe first time. Especially helpful are the ‘Who’s Who’ boxes explaining the contributions made by (selected) scholars and gender theorists, which will be useful for planning further reading. There is also an extensive glossary – ideal for a subject area that sometimes uses familiar words in unfamiliar ways.

The book manages to be topical (e.g. the ‘crisis in masculinity’), which gives it a contemporary relevance; and to aid accessibility Kahn uses vivid analogies and references to popular culture. While this is mostly successful it occasionally distracts from the main issues. Some of the given examples are USA-specific, which could pose an obstacle for readers less familiar with that context. However, this is a clear and well-structured book that raises important debates and asks thought-provoking questions.

 

Snoop: What Your Stuff Says About You
Sam Gosling
Profile Books; 2009; Pb £8.99

Going into areas long seen as the domain of social psychologists, Sam Gosling’s enjoyable light read Snoop examines how much personal choices, intentionally or inadvertently, display our personalities. His work considers potentially confounding influences such
as conscious impression management, observer biases, and the very affordances of environments that dictate how much idiosyncratic display is sometimes possible.

The typical methodology involves quantification of candidate constructs (pictures of people or objects, neat or messy organisation, well-thumbed Bibles or ‘Slayer’ CDs) in a particular environment (e.g. office desk, university hall of residence room, or personal web page), correlating these with self-reported and observer-rated personality. His findings are useful but for some ‘no kidding, Sherlock’; Openness (or maybe intelligence?) can be inferred from book collections, Conscientiousness from organised, tidy and uncluttered rooms, and Extraversion from signifiers of social connectedness (e.g. humans in photographs, sports gear).

Being for popular consumption, findings are related free of magnitude (which is generally modest), though the bibliography provides references to the source journal articles; whatever, better to have Gosling’s proven soft signs than a quack’s spurious cold readings.

Reviewed by Vincent Egan
who is Senior Lecturer in Forensic Psychology at the University of Leicester

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