Eight to Late

Sensemaking and Analytics for Organizations

Book Announcement: The Heretic’s Guide to Best Practices

with 4 comments

After two years of chewing up most of my free time, I’m delighted and relieved (in about equal measure) to announce that the book I’ve written with Paul Culmsee is finally out: The Heretics Guide to Best Practices is now available through Amazon (also on Kindle) and iUniverse.

In this post I present the first couple of paragraphs from the book to give you a flavour of the content and style. I also include some quotes from reviewers who read drafts of the book.

The first few paragraphs

The following lines are taken from the start of the book:

Have you ever noticed that infomercials trying to sell you the latest ab-sculpting, fat burning, home fitness device with three easy credit card payments, always start with questions designed in such a way that the answer is invariably “Yes”? We have too—so as a tribute to these infomercials, we are starting this book with some seriously loaded questions.

  • Have you ever had the feeling that something is not quite right in your workplace, yet you cannot articulate why?
  • Are you required to perform tasks that you instinctively feel are of questionable value?
  •  Have you ever questioned an approach, only to be told that it is a best practice and therefore cannot be questioned?
  •   Have you ever sighed and blamed the ills of your organisation on “culture” or “that’s just the way things are done here”?
  •  Have you ever lamented to others that “If only we got ourselves organised”, we would stop chasing our tails and being so reactive?

If you answered “No” to these questions then, seriously—you are holding the wrong book. What’s more, if you manage staff and you answered ”No” to these questions, then chances are  your staff gave you this book to read in the hope that you might learn a few home truths.

For those who said a hopefully emphatic “Yes!”—and we are hoping that’s a fair chunk of our readers—this book might offer you some answers and put some names to some of the things that make your organisational “spider senses” tingle. Bear in mind, you are not going to get any glib “Seven Steps to Organisational Nirvana” type stuff here. Instead, you are about to undertake a varied and, at times, heretical journey into the fun-filled world of organisational problem solving. Not only will this book provide you with some juicy ammunition in relation to organisational debates about the validity of best practices, but the practical tools and approaches that we cover might also give you some insights in how to improve things.

Quotes from reviewers

Here are some pre-publication quotes from reviewers who read draft versions of the book:

“In Paul and Kailash I have found kindred spirits who understand how messed up most organizations are, and how urgent it is that organizations discover what Buddhists call ‘expedient means’—not more ‘best practices’ or better change management for the enterprise, but transparent methods and theories that are simple to learn and apply, and that foster organizational intelligence as a natural expression of individual intelligence. This book is a bold step forward on that path, and it has the wonderful quality, like a walk at dawn through a beautiful park, of presenting profound insights with humor, precision, and clarity.”

Jeff Conklin, Director, Cognexus Institute

Hugely enjoyable, deeply reflective, and intensely practical. This book is about weaving human artistry and improvisation, with appropriate methods and technologies, in order to pool collective intelligence and wisdom under pressure.”

Simon Buckingham Shum, Knowledge Media Institute, The Open University, UK.

“This is a terrific piece of work: important, insightful, and very entertaining. Culmsee and Awati have produced a refreshing take on the problems that plague organisations, the problems that plague attempts to fix organisations, and what can be done to make things better. If you’re trying to deal with wicked problems in your organisation, then drop everything and read this book.”

Tim Van Gelder, Principal Consultant, Austhink Consulting

“This book has been a brilliantly fun read. Paul and Kailash interweave forty years of management theory using entertaining and engaging personal stories.  These guys know their stuff and demonstrate how it can be used via real world examples.

As a long time blogger, lecturer and consultant/practitioner I have always been served well by contrarian approaches, and have sought stories and case studies to understand the reasons why my methods have worked.  This book has helped me understand why I have been effective in dealing with complex business problems. Moreover, it has encouraged me to delve into the foundations of various management practices…”

Craig Brown, Director, Evaluator

“Paul and Kailash have written a book that largely mirrors what I have learned through my own (sometimes painful) experience: at the foundation of every technical solution there should be a clear understanding of the business problem. It amazes me how many projects proceed without this basic planning building block, and yet the percentage of projects that fail remains fairly constant. This book provides an informative and entertaining look at the role of the business analyst, with guidance on how to improve your problem-solving skills.”

Christian Buckley, Director, Product Evangelism at Axceler

“Paul and Kailash have done a fantastic job of pulling together many areas of research and presenting this in an accessible and compelling way.  They walk you through their discovery process,  helping you gain a real understanding of way things work but more importantly why things work, and then apply these in the real world.  If you have ever been told something is a best practice, you owe it to yourself to read this book.”

Andrew Woodward,  Founder and CEO,  21Apps

We think there is something is the book for most professionals, regardless of where they sit in their organisation’s hierarchy.  But in the end it is your opinion that counts. We would love to know what you think of our effort, and look forward to hearing from you – either via a comment on our blogs or a review on bookseller websites.

Note (added on 31 Jan 2012):

Check out the customer reviews on Amazon.

4 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Well done Kailash and Paul. Given the quality of your posts this book is guaranteed to be a stimulating read. I am adding it to my reading list right now.

    Cheers, Shim.


    Shim Marom

    December 7, 2011 at 10:05 am

  2. Hi Shim,

    Thanks mate, I truly appreciate your support! It would be great to hear what you think of the book.





    December 7, 2011 at 5:11 pm

  3. […] Wicked problems have no straightforward solutions, so it is difficult if not impossible to ensure alignment to organizational strategy. There are several techniques that can be used to make sense of wicked problem. I’ve discussed one of these – dialogue mapping – in several prior posts. Paul Culmsee and I have elaborated on this  and other techniques to manage wicked problems in our book, The Heretic’s Guide to Best Practices. […]


  4. […] It should be emphasised that alliancing  takes a fair bit of effort and commitment from all parties to implement successfully. In general such effort is justifiable only for very large projects; typically public infrastructure projects (which is why many government agencies are interested in it). It is interesting to speculate how such an approach can be “scaled down” to smaller projects like the ones undertaken by corporate IT departments. Unfortunately such speculations are not permitted in research papers. However,  we discuss some of these at length in our book,  The Heretic’s Guide to Best Practices. […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: