Saturday, May 7, 2011

Visual Meetings: How Graphics, Sticky Notes And Idea Mapping Can Transform Group Productivity By David Sibbet

Visual Meetings: How Graphics, Sticky Notes and Idea Mapping Can Transform Group Productivity

Visual Meetings: How Graphics, Sticky Notes and Idea Mapping Can Transform Group Productivity
By David Sibbet

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Product Description

Use eye-popping visual tools to energize your people!

Just as social networking has reclaimed the Internet for human interactivity and co-creation, the visual meetings movement is reclaiming creativity, productivity, and playful exchange for serious work in groups.

Visual Meetings explains how anyone can implement powerful visual tools, and how these tools are being used in Silicon Valley and elsewhere to facilitate both face-to-face and virtual group work. This dynamic and richly illustrated resource gives meeting leaders, presenters, and consultants a slew of exciting tricks and tools, including

  • Graphic recording, visual planning, story boarding, graphic templates, idea mapping, etc.
  • Creative ways to energize team building, sales presentations, staff meetings, strategy sessions, brainstorming, and more
  • Getting beyond paper and whiteboards to engage new media platforms
  • Understanding emerging visual language for leading groups

Unlocking formerly untapped creative resources for business success, Visual Meetings will help you and your team communicate ideas more effectively and engagingly.

Product Details

  • Amazon Sales Rank: #3696 in Books
  • Published on: 2010-08-09
  • Original language: English
  • Number of items: 1
  • Dimensions: .72" h x 9.94" w x 7.06" l, .98 pounds
  • Binding: Paperback
  • 288 pages


  • ISBN13: 9780470601785
  • Condition: New
  • Notes: BRAND NEW FROM PUBLISHER! BUY WITH CONFIDENCE, Over one million books sold! 98% Positive feedback. Compare our books, prices and service to the competition. 100% Satisfaction Guaranteed

Editorial Reviews

Praise for Visual Meetings

"David Sibbet is the father of visual facilitation. This book finally lets us see meetings as he sees them—as eye-opening opportunities to discover what people really think. David's approach to visually recording and visually facilitating meetings will help you become a better meeting leader and participant, see a whole new side of business—and a whole new side of yourself." –Dan Roam, author of The Back of the Napkin

"I have experienced the transformative power of David's pioneering visual methods and tools. Open this book and you will get a clear vision of collaboration in the future—groups inspired and energized, tapping into their collective wisdom to create sustainable solutions: the global brain at work." –Meryem Le Saget, Meryem Le Saget Consulting, Paris

"David Sibbet is a genius. Buy this book, and study it, not only for better meetings, but for better organizations, better teams, and a better future." –Alan M. Webber, co-founder of Fast Company magazine

"This amazing book shows you how visualization can bring clarity to the growing complexity around us." –Bob Johansen, Distinguished Fellow, Institute for the Future

"This book is like David's workshops—fun and fruitful. Time and again, I have seen the principles and processes described in this book yield a rich harvest among audiences in Singapore." –Dawn Yip, Soulbreath Consulting Singapore

"Visual Meetings is an elegant and immensely practical guide to transforming group productivity. It provides novices with a fast start to making the most of scarce group time." –Paul Saffo, Technology Forecaster Visiting Scholar, Stanford Media-X Network

"'What If Meetings Were Really Fun AND Productive?' Can you imagine? Visual meetings master David Sibbet has done it—put all the competency, wisdom, language, technique, resources, tools, everything you need in one delightful book?" –Robert E. Horn, author of Visual Language: Global Communication for the 21st Century

From the Back Cover
Eye-popping visual tools can energy your meetings!

When people work visually they have better ideas, make better decisions, and are more committed to producing results. A twenty-first century guide to using the latest visual thinking techniques with your groups and teams, Visual Meetings give you a bounty of tools and tricks to unlock creativity, collaboration, and breakthrough thinking.

  • Use graphic recording, visual planning, storyboarding, idea mapping, and similar techniques
  • Give better presentations without resorting to PowerPoint
  • Consult and sell with graphics and visualization tools
  • Get beyond paper and whiteboards to tablets, iPads, and other new media platforms
  • Make all meetings more interesting and productive
  • Improve both face-to-face and virtual group work
  • And much more…

About the Author
David Sibbet is a world leader in graphic facilitation and visual thinking for groups. He is the founder and president of The Grove Consultants International, a company whose leading-edge group-process tools and services for panoramic visualization, graphic facilitation, team leadership, and organizational transformation are used by consultants and organizations around the world.

Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews

30 of 33 people found the following review helpful.
5Practical, not academic... a better approach to meetings than PowerPoint
By Rob Eskridge
After reading BACK OF THE NAPKIN (Dan Roam)and his sequel, I pre-ordered VISUAL MEETINGS, thinking it would be a good sequel to the sequel. The day the book arrived I had been a victim of another full-afternoon PowerPoint presentation barrage without much interaction. What fresh thinking I found inside, moving from rank basics of flip chart posters and lists to the post-graduate "graphic skills continuum" in Chapter 21. It's really a nice how-to reference that will live close at hand; I'll refer to it before every meeting that I lead, knowing that group interaction will be better and that my own skills and confidence will improve, starting with a blank sheet of paper rather than a PowerPoint with all the answers predetermined.

Don't miss the Group Graphics keyboard in Chapter 9, which is a great roadmap for practicing visual thinking skills and for selecting an approach to visual formats for different meeting purposes. It's fascinating to see the experience of a long and successful career condensed into one powerful chart.

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful.
5I see what he means!!!
By Jennifer Landau
If you have ever reached for a pencil to explain or hang onto an idea, then you will be delighted with this book. Visual Meetings will change how you think, work and meet - and even think about "visuals." Don't draw? Not to worry - this isn't about drawing per se but how to use "visuals" - text, simple drawn images, photographs, graphic metaphors -- as a natural part of engaging people, analyzing, innovating, and better yet, getting people to put their ideas together and take action. Visual Meetings is about how to surface the knowledge in the room (or in yourself!), and get it organized so that you can use it. And this means both via traditional paper with pens, as well as digitally/virtually - from table top size to huge templates and charts.

Sibbet outlines a comprehensive system of visual strategies and techniques. The clear instruction and tons of inspiring examples / case studies are backed by serious concepts and models about how people think, group dynamics and engaging people around tough questions, real work, deep learning. Storytelling is mixed with bullet-pointed lists and line art, making it easy to understand and apply.

The author doesn't stop at offering the wisdom of his own experience. Sibbet weaves in and acknowledges that of others he has learned from and worked with around the globe, so you will find a wide variety of tried & true strategies, models and techniques as well as Sibbet's own --- all in visual form, all reality tested across languages and cultures. It is truly a treasure trove of "process" gold nuggets, pulling together some of the best in meeting facilitation, project management, and system change...and then launching the reader into realms far beyond.

Visual Meetings is an offering not to be missed. This book will bump up your creativity and effectiveness as it has mine, enriching all that you do at work and in your community - and around your dinner table with the kids, as well!

34 of 41 people found the following review helpful.
2Expected more than an autobiography
By Carmen
I felt compelled to write a review of this book as I did not find the professional reviews spoke to the content of this book. I was excited to pre-order this book as the topic is pertinent to my current position, I was expecting to add some new tools to my belt to help me facilitate team meetings that are both productive and worthwhile. I was disappointed to find that the book read like the author's portfolio. The chapters and headers outlined the content but the text is full of stories describing how the author handled a meeting with a client. I do not think I read one paragraph in the book that did not use the first person. If you are looking for a book to review how 'someone else did it' - this book fits the bill. If you are looking for strategy, tips and 'how to' - it is not written in a way that is easy to incorporate the authors experiences into your arsenal.
One other annoyance is the size and shape of the book make it difficult to hold upright to read once opened, it is too wide; its too thick to wrap the pages behind the book once you are past the first few chapters. Setting it on your lap will not work either, cannot see the outer margins where the supporting graphic are placed. Very annoying.


Gamestorming: A Playbook For Innovators, Rulebreakers, And Changemakers By Dave Gray, Sunni Brown, James Macanufo

Gamestorming: A Playbook for Innovators, Rulebreakers, and Changemakers

Gamestorming: A Playbook for Innovators, Rulebreakers, and Changemakers
By Dave Gray, Sunni Brown, James Macanufo

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Product Description

Great things don't happen in a vacuum. But creating an environment for creative thinking and innovation can be a daunting challenge. How can you make it happen at your company? The answer may surprise you: gamestorming.

This book includes more than 80 games to help you break down barriers, communicate better, and generate new ideas, insights, and strategies. The authors have identified tools and techniques from some of the world's most innovative professionals, whose teams collaborate and make great things happen. This book is the result: a unique collection of games that encourage engagement and creativity while bringing more structure and clarity to the workplace. Find out why -- and how -- with Gamestorming.

  • Overcome conflict and increase engagement with team-oriented games
  • Improve collaboration and communication in cross-disciplinary teams with visual-thinking techniques
  • Improve understanding by role-playing customer and user experiences
  • Generate better ideas and more of them, faster than ever before
  • Shorten meetings and make them more productive
  • Simulate and explore complex systems, interactions, and dynamics
  • Identify a problem's root cause, and find the paths that point toward a solution
Play a Game from Gamestorming

We're hardwired to play games. We play them for fun. We play them in our social interactions. We play them at work. That last one is tricky. "Games" and "work" don't seem like a natural pairing. Their coupling in the workplace either implies goofing off (the fun variant) or office politics (the not-so-fun type).

The authors of Gamestorming, have a different perspective. They contend that an embrace and understanding of game mechanics can yield benefits in many work environments, particularly those where old hierarchical models are no longer applicable, like the creatively driven knowledge work of today's cutting edge industries.

Here is one of the 83 games featured in Gamestorming:


OBJECTIVE OF PLAY: What has been a time-proven exercise in product development applies equally well in developing any new idea: writing the elevator pitch. When developing and communicating a vision for something, whether it's a new service, a company-wide initiative, or just a good idea that merits spreading, a group will benefit from going through the exercise of writing their elevator pitch.

Often this is the hardest thing to do in developing a new idea. An elevator pitch must be short enough to deliver in a fictional elevator ride but also contain a compelling description of the problem you're solving, who you'll solve it for, and one key benefit that distinguishes it from other ideas.

NUMBER OF PLAYERS: Can be done individually, or with a small working group

DURATION OF PLAY: Save at least 90 minutes for the entire exercise, and consider a short break after the initial idea generation is complete before prioritizing and shaping the pitch itself. Small working groups will have an easier time coming to a final pitch; in some cases it may be necessary to assign one person with follow-up accountability for the final wording after the large decisions have been made in the exercise.

HOW TO PLAY: Going through the exercise involves both a generating and a formative phase. To set up the generating phase, write these headers in sequence on flip charts:

  • Who is the target customer?
  • What is the customer need?
  • What is the product name?
  • What is its market category?
  • What is its key benefit?
  • Who or what is the competition?
  • What is the product's unique differentiator?
These will become the elements of the elevator pitch. They are in a sequence that adheres to the following formula.

To finish the setup, explain the elements and their connection to each other:

  • The target customer and customer need are deceptively simple: any relatively good idea or product will likely have many potential customers and address a greater number of needs. In the generative phase, all of these are welcome ideas.
  • It is helpful to fix the product name in advance--this will help contain the scope of the conversation and focus the participants on "what" the pitch is about. It is not outside the realm of possibility, however, that useful ideas will be generated in the course of the exercise that relate to the product name, so it may be left open to interpretation.
  • The market category should be an easily understood description of the type of idea or product. It may sound like "employee portal" or "training program" or "peer-to-peer community." The category gives an important frame of reference for the target customer, from which they will base comparisons and perceive value.
  • The key benefit will be one of the hardest areas for the group to shape in the final pitch. This is the single most compelling reason a target customer would buy into the idea. In an elevator pitch, there is no time to confuse the matter with multiple benefits--there can be only one memorable reason "why to buy." However, in the generative phase, all ideas are welcome.
  • The competition and unique differentiator put the final punctuation on the pitch. Who or what will the target customer compare this idea to, and what's unique about this idea? In some cases, the competition may literally be another firm or product. In other cases, it may be "the existing training program" or "the last time we tried a big change initiative." The unique differentiator should be just that: unique to this idea or approach, in a way that distinguishes it in comparison to the competition.

The Generating Phase
Once the elements are understood, participants brainstorm ideas on sticky notes that fit under each header. At first, they should generate freely, without discussion or analysis, any ideas that fit into any of the categories. Using the Post-Up technique, participants put their notes onto the flip charts and share their ideas.

Next, the group may discuss areas where they have the most trouble on their current pitch. Do we know enough about the competition to claim a unique differentiator? Do we agree on a target customer? Is our market category defined, or are we trying to define something new? Where do we need to focus?

Before stepping into the formative phase, the group may use dot voting, affinity mapping, or another method to prioritize and cull their ideas in each category.

The Formative Phase
Following a discussion and reflection on the possible elements of a pitch, the group then has the task of "trying out" some possibilities. This may be done by breaking into small groups, as pairs, or as individuals, depending on the size of the larger group. Each group is given the task of writing an elevator pitch, based on the ideas on the flip charts.

After a set amount of time (15 minutes may be sufficient), the groups reconvene and present their draft versions of the pitch. The group may choose to role-play as a target customer while listening to the pitch, and comment or ask questions of the presenters.

The exercise is complete when there is a strong direction among the group on what the pitch should and should not contain. One potential outcome is the crafting of distinct pitches for different target customers; you may direct the group to focus on this during the formative stage.

Don't aim for final wording with a large group. It's an achievement if you can get to that level of completion, but it's not critical and can be shaped after the exercise. What is important is that the group decides what is and is not a part of the pitch.

Role play is the fastest way to test a pitch. Assuming the role of a customer (or getting some real customers to participate in the exercise) will help filter out the jargon and empty terms that may interfere with a clear pitch. If the pitch is truly believable and compelling, participants should have no problem making it real with customers.

The elevator pitch, or elevator speech, is a traditional staple of the venture capital community, based on the idea that if you are pitching a business idea it should be simple enough to convey on a short elevator ride.

Product Details

  • Amazon Sales Rank: #1278 in Books
  • Published on: 2010-07-30
  • Original language: English
  • Number of items: 1
  • Dimensions: .61" h x 7.04" w x 9.22" l, .85 pounds
  • Binding: Paperback
  • 288 pages


  • ISBN13: 9780596804176
  • Condition: New
  • Notes: BRAND NEW FROM PUBLISHER! BUY WITH CONFIDENCE, Over one million books sold! 98% Positive feedback. Compare our books, prices and service to the competition. 100% Satisfaction Guaranteed

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Dave Gray is the Founder and Chairman of XPLANE, the visual thinking company. Founded in 1993, XPLANE has grown to be the world's leading consulting and design firm focused on information-driven communications. Dave's time is spent researching and writing on visual business, as well as speaking, coaching and delivering workshops to educators, corporate clients and the public. He is also a founding member of VizThink, an international community of Visual Thinkers.

Sunni Brown, M.P.A., is Owner of BrightSpot Info Design, a company specializing in visual thinking to support organizational and group success. Sunni was trained in graphic facilitation at The Grove Consultants International, a San Francisco-based company that pioneered the use of visuals in meetings and group processes. She is currently an Associate of The Grove, a freelance consultant for XPlane - the visual thinking company - and an Associate of Alphachimp Studios. She is also co-Founder of VizThink Austin, currently the largest visual thinking community in the United States. Sunni presents regularly on the topics of graphic facilitation, graphic recording and visual thinking. She is also a contributing researcher for Nancy Duarte's upcoming book on storytelling and presentations. Sunni holds Bachelor's degrees in Journalism and Linguistics and a Master's in Public Affairs from the Lyndon Baines Johnson School of Public Affairs. She lives in Austin, TX.
James Macanufo: As a consultant at XPLANE, James helps large technology and government clients develop their vision, strategy and communication plans. He is actively obsessed with understanding what things are, the way they work, and why they matter. He is also an occasional inventor of card games.
Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews

18 of 18 people found the following review helpful.
5A play book for work and life
By C. Avampato
For several weeks, I've been combing my bookshelves for activities to incorporate into my LIM College class on social media marketing. I wanted games to drive home the information in unconventional, interactive ways. I went to my theatre books, my business books, and my books filled with writing exercises. Nothing seemed quite right. And then I found Gamestorming. It felt like a gift out of the sky. My anxiety about the class diminished a bit more with every page.

Gamestorming details games that engage groups, both large and small, in learning and discovery. They work in corporations and in schools, and I'd like to add that they are a valuable tool for navigating just about any decision and complication in life. I found myself noting in nearly every margin how to use each game. The clear, concise description, depictions, and plan for each took a great deal of thought and care from the authors.

The metaphor of life as a game is well worked over. The trouble with the game of life is that there are no rules. You don't make them and neither does anyone else. They change from moment to moment, and the rule that seemed to work today may never be useful again. We are forced in every situation to think on our feet. Gamestorming gives us more confidence and empowers us to take our futures in our own hands.

13 of 15 people found the following review helpful.
5A Gamechanger
By A. Osterwalder
With Gamestorming Dave, Sunni, and James created one of the most valuable and applicable collection of tools and techniques for organizational design that I have ever come across. The "games" outlined in the book help you make ideas more tangible and meetings more productive, notably through visual techniques. Gamestorming is a window into the future of how groups will work.

There is no way around this book if you are serious about making innovation and change happen in your organization.

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful.
4Building a Shared Language of Effective Meeting Strategies (and more)
By Murray Thompson
In their book, Dave Gray, Sunni Brown, and James Macanufo have researched and codified a number of strategies to help people generate new ideas, work through them, and act on them. But in making this book, the authors have done more than create a valuable reference of approaches for idea generation and decision-making: they've also begun to create a shared language that we can all make use of.

Rather than going into the games cold, they begin by placing them in the context of a larger framework, allowing the reader to better understand how each game could best suit their situations and mix and match with each other.

Those who've read Gang of Four patterns in the programming world, have dabbled with various design pattern libraries, or are familiar with other collections taking the approach of Christopher Alexander's "A Pattern Language" may find the format recognizable. As they never mention a pattern approach, I'm not sure if the authors intended it that way, but the book is structured in a very similar fashion: naming each game, explaining the basic layout of how it works, and when to apply it.

As with the other pattern-related books, the authors do not claim to know it all, and in fact expect others to discover more patterns -- in this case, the games -- and for the ones they mention to be refined over time. Also similar to the pattern-based approaches, they encourage the reader to use the ones they feel will best fit together for what they need to accomplish, rather than use them in very prescriptive ways.

In naming each game and using a pattern-like structure to explain them, it not only makes it easy to read each individual game, but also helps codify them -- packaging them up into a shorthand that people came refer to and apply quickly with shared understanding.

The authors mention using the games in 'knowledge work' situations, but I feel that it is really applicable to any industry. The things that they are really talking about address real LEADERSHIP, rather than industrial-age, control-focused management approaches that apply less and less to even manufacturing industries today. (I find a lot of ideas in the book reflecting the organizational learning approaches advocated by Senge and Mintzberg.)

You'll find the likely-used-too-often SWOT method in this book, and probably many more that you're already familiar with. But like me, I bet you'll read a few more that you'll be thinking about applying in a future meeting, project, or even when you're stuck for ideas working on your own.

Read the first 75 pages to start, and look through the rest of the games as you can, and keep it nearby as reference for your next strategy session.


Business Model Generation: A Handbook For Visionaries, Game Changers, And Challengers By Alexander Osterwalder, Yves Pigneur

Business Model Generation: A Handbook for Visionaries, Game Changers, and Challengers

Business Model Generation: A Handbook for Visionaries, Game Changers, and Challengers
By Alexander Osterwalder, Yves Pigneur

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Product Details

  • Amazon Sales Rank: #166 in Books
  • Published on: 2010-07-13
  • Original language: English
  • Number of items: 1
  • Dimensions: .85" h x 9.46" w x 7.48" l, 1.56 pounds
  • Binding: Paperback
  • 288 pages


  • ISBN13: 9780470876411
  • Condition: New
  • Notes: BRAND NEW FROM PUBLISHER! BUY WITH CONFIDENCE, Over one million books sold! 98% Positive feedback. Compare our books, prices and service to the competition. 100% Satisfaction Guaranteed

Editorial Reviews Review
Business Model Generation is a handbook for visionaries, game changers, and challengers striving to defy outmoded business models and design tomorrow's enterprises. If your organization needs to adapt to harsh new realities, but you don't yet have a strategy that will get you out in front of your competitors, you need Business Model Generation.

Co-created by 470 "Business Model Canvas" practitioners from 45 countries, the book features a beautiful, highly visual, 4-color design that takes powerful strategic ideas and tools, and makes them easy to implement in your organization. It explains the most common Business Model patterns, based on concepts from leading business thinkers, and helps you reinterpret them for your own context. You will learn how to systematically understand, design, and implement a game-changing business model--or analyze and renovate an old one. Along the way, you'll understand at a much deeper level your customers, distribution channels, partners, revenue streams, costs, and your core value proposition.

Business Model Generation features practical innovation techniques used today by leading consultants and companies worldwide, including 3M, Ericsson, Capgemini, Deloitte, and others. Designed for doers, it is for those ready to abandon outmoded thinking and embrace new models of value creation: for executives, consultants, entrepreneurs, and leaders of all organizations. If you're ready to change the rules, you belong to "the business model generation!"

The Power of "What If" Questions
Content from authors Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur

We often have trouble conceiving innovative business models because we are held back in our thinking by status quo. The status quo stifles imagination. One way to overcome this problem is to challenge conventional assumptions with "what if" questions. With the right business model ingredients, what we think of as impossible might just be doable. "What if" questions help us break free of constraints imposed by current business models. They should provoke us and challenge our thinking. They should disturb us as intriguing, difficult-to-execute propositions.

What if...
…furniture buyers picked up components in flat pack form from a large warehouse and assembled the products themselves in their homes? What is common practice today was unthinkable until IKEA introduced the concept in the 1960's.

…airlines didn't buy engines for their airplanes, but paid for every hour an engine runs? That is how Rolls-Royce transformed itself from a money-losing British manufacturer into a service firm that today is the world's second biggest provider of large jet engines.

…voice calls were free worldwide? In 2003 Skype launched a service that allowed free voice calling via the internet. After five years, Skype had acquired 400 million registered users who collectively had made 100 billion free phone calls.

From the Back Cover
You're holding a handbook for visionaries, game changers, and challengers striving to defy outmoded business models and design tomorrow's enterprises. It's a book for the business model generation.

Disruptive new business models are emblematic of our generation. Yet they remain poorly understood, even as they transform competitive landscapes across industries. Business Model Generation offers you powerful, simple, tested tools for understanding, designing, reworking, and implementing business models.

Business Model Generation is a practical, inspiring handbook for anyone striving to improve a business model - or craft a new one.


Business Model Generation will teach you powerful and practical innovation techniques used today by leading companies worldwide. You will learn how to systematically understand, design, and implement a new business model — or analyze and renovate an old one.


Business Model Generation practices what it preaches. Coauthored by 470 Business Model Canvas practitioners from forty-five countries, the book was financed and produced independently of the traditional publishing industry. It features a tightly integrated, visual, lie-flat design that enables immediate hands-on use.


Business Model Generation is for those ready to abandon outmoded thinking and embrace new, innovative models of value creation: executives, consultants, entrepreneurs — and leaders of all organizations.

Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews

53 of 54 people found the following review helpful.
3Interesting, easy read
By M. Hyman
This book is very different as a business book. Instead of being filled with dense, usually overly wordy pages, it is beautifully laid out, the wording is kept to a minimum, and there are lots of illustrations.

The book is focused on ways to think of the model for your business... with some nice guidelines for structuring the thought process... as well as a bunch of examinations of different types of businesses.

It has good discussions on thinking through what is critical for the business, where the cost structures are, where the benefits are, and how to organize and present those ideas.

It also has a number of cases studies of various companies that changed or invented new business models, such as Amazon's introduction of Web Services.

The book is fast to read, and there were several sections I bookmarked to put into use in my company, which to me is always a good sign for a book.

Where the book is lacking is that I would really have liked more case studies -- a bit more meat so to speak -- once a company came up with the new model, how did the artifacts of the book's discussions come into play with the execution? Did any of the techniques discussed help with the inevitable pitfalls associated? What are some case studies for when people tried the techniques discussed and failed miserably? Innovator's Dilemma, by comparison, does a much better look at both positive and negative case studies, which can provide a lot more learning.

I also would have liked more depth on the blue ocean discussion.

Altogether though, an interesting read and a good addition to my management book shelf.

54 of 59 people found the following review helpful.
5A Brilliant Book: easy and fun to read
By Michael Uschold
This is an absolutely superb book and my first and only book on business models. It is so up to date and filled with gems that I feel no need to read another anytime soon.

The book is aptly titled, being all about how to generate business models. However, you have to know what it is before you can generate it. To this end, the first section of the book is devoted to introducing a standard language and format for talking about business models. They introduce nine key items which serve as the building blocks for all business models. These are listed below, illustrated with Skype's business model.

CUSTOMER SEGMENTS: Who will use the product?
1) web users globally 2) people who want to call phones

VALUE PROPOSITION: Why will they use the product?
1) free Internet and video calling 2) cheap calls to phones (SkypeOut)

CHANNELS: How will the product be delivered to the customers?
[...] and headset partnerships

CUSTOMER RELATIONSHIPS: how will you develop and maintain contact with your customers in each segment?
Mass customizedMass customized

REVENUE STREAMS: How is revenue generated from which customer segments?
1) Free 2) SkypeOut prepaid or subscription

ACTIVITIES: What are the key things that you need to do to create and deliver the product?
Software development

RESOURCES: What assets are required to create and deliver the product?

PARTNERS: Who will you want to partner with (e.g suppliers, outsourcing)
Payment providers, Distribution partners, Telco Partners

COST STRUCTURE: What are the main sources of cost required to create and deliver the product?
Software development, complaint management

These building blocks are laid out on a page in a very specific way, referred to as a "business model canvas". As each chapter unfolds, we get a clearer and clearer understanding of each building block and how to use them to create, evaluate and communicate business models.

The business model canvas can be used to describe any of a wide variety of business models. Patterns emerge which correspond to categories of business models. For example, the Long Tail business model is all about selling less of more. The focus is on "offering a large number of niche products, each of which sells relatively infrequently". This pattern is illustrated with the transformation of the book publishing industry and Netflix.

Another example is the so-called "Freemium" business model used by Skype and countless other Internet businesses. This is compared with the standard Telco model making the two models easy to compare. A similar analysis compares the traditional computer gaming model used by Sony and Microsoft which competes on high performance with Nintendo's Wii business model which focuses on casual gamers and a dramatic reduction in development costs. Visualizing these alternatives on a canvas is very powerful (much easier than the above lists).

The Freemium model is a special case of a more general "multi-sided market" pattern which "brings together two or more distinct but interdependent groups of customers". For example, Google gives away a variety of services to one customer segment, the average web user, and earn income from keyword auctions from advertisers, which comprise the other side of the pattern. As is typical with the multi-sided market pattern, the key resource is the platform which facilitates interactions between the two customer segments.

Another major section of the book is devoted to designing business models. Very explicit instructions and tips are given in the context of an overall process. Different phases include: gathering customer insights, ideation/brainstorming, visual thinking, prototyping, storytelling and scenarios.

A major section on strategy includes a section on how to evaluate existing business models, identifying problems, and brainstorming about possible solutions. Nintendo's Wii is featured. One problem with the traditional gaming model is that consoles are sold at a loss to a relatively small market. By eliminating the huge cost of gaming platform development and adding motion-controlled games with a family focus, the market grew much larger.

The design and layout of the book is equally delightful. It is a cross between a Powerpoint pitch and a regular book, and is easy and fun to read.

The only negative I can think of is the binding. I don't know the lingo, but basically, the front and back (hard) covers are not directly connected to each other. Between them are the sewn and glued sections of the book that are normally hidden. Unfortunately, the book seems to be flimsy. But this is a minor niggle.

Overall, this is a brilliant book. If you have any interest in business models, get it as soon as you can. I got mine by chance on a recent trip to Europe while visiting a colleague. I saw that it was not available yet in the US, so he traded me for my copy of an equally excellent book: The new business road test: What entrepreneurs and executives should do before writing a business plan (2nd Edition).

20 of 20 people found the following review helpful.
3A Good Place to Start
By Ken Rider
"Business Model Generation" is a breezy read and a well-organized introduction to several related topics including: basic types of business models, techniques and strategies for generating ideas and thinking creatively about them, along with process steps for moving good ideas forward.

PROS: Anyone new to these topics would likely have to read four to six separate books to get the broad coverage you'll find here. The authors have done a real service for folks who want to come up to speed more quickly and each chapter has additional references for further reading. The designers also deserve some credit for a creative and varied layout that makes the text seem fresher and more enjoyable. You can feel good about yourself as you plow through 50+ pages in half an hour without fatigue. The bonus: this is a business book that won't have you drowning in business jargon.

CONS: As several reviewers have noted, there's breadth here but not as much depth on the core topics as some might want. Those expecting more may be disappointed and some may find the title a bit misleading. Probably more accurate if they called it "A *PRIMER* for Business Model Generation" instead of a Handbook. Finally, the small font sizes that a few reviewers mentioned will surely be difficult to read for those with less-than-great eyesight. The tradeoff here, given the book's open design, is that a bigger font might have added a bunch more pages.


The Six Sigma Handbook, Third Edition By Thomas Pyzdek, Paul Keller

The Six Sigma Handbook, Third Edition

The Six Sigma Handbook, Third Edition
By Thomas Pyzdek, Paul Keller

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The authoritative classic--revised and updated for today's Six Sigma practitioners

Whether you want to further your Six Sigma training to achieve a Black or Green Belt or you are totally new to the quality-management strategy, you need reliable guidance. The Six Sigma Handbook, Third Edition shows you, step by step, how to integrate this profitable approach into your company's culture.

Co-written by an award-winning contributor to the practice of quality management and a successful Six Sigma trainer, this hands-on guide features:

  • Cutting-edge, Lean Six Sigma concepts integrated throughout
  • Completely revised material focused on project objectives
  • Updated and expanded problem-solving examples using Excel and Minitab
  • A streamlined format that puts proven practices at your fingertips

The Six Sigma Handbook, Third Edition is the only comprehensive reference you need to make Six Sigma work for your company. The book explains how to organize for Six Sigma, how to use customer requirements to drive strategy and operations, how to carry out successful project management, and more. Learn all the management responsibilities and actions necessary for a successful deployment, as well as how to:

  • Dramatically improve products and processes using DMAIC and DMADV
  • Use Design for Six Sigma to create innovative products and processes
  • Incorporate lean, problem-solving, and statistical techniques within the Six Sigma methodology
  • Avoid common pitfalls during implementation

Six Sigma has evolved with the changing global economy, and The Six Sigma Handbook, Third Edition is your key to ensuring that your company realizes significant gains in quality, productivity, and sales in today's business climate.

Product Details

  • Amazon Sales Rank: #6494 in Books
  • Published on: 2009-09-21
  • Original language: English
  • Number of items: 1
  • Binding: Hardcover
  • 560 pages

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Thomas Pyzdek is a Six Sigma consultant with over 40 years of experience in the field. His clients include Ford, McDonald's, Intuit, Boeing, Seagate, Avon Products, and many other companies. Mr. Pyzdek is a recipient of the American Society for Quality (ASQ) Edwards Medal for outstanding contributions to the practice of quality management and the E.L. Grant Medal for outstanding leadership in the development and presentation of meritorious educational programs in quality. He has also recently received a Lean Six Sigma Leadership award from the American Quality Institute.

Paul Keller is Vice President of and senior consultant with Quality America, a Six Sigma Training company. Nearly 3,000 students to date have used his Six Sigma training program to achieve Six Sigma Green Belt and Black Belt certifications. Mr. Keller is the author of Six Sigma Demystified.

Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews

24 of 27 people found the following review helpful.
2If I didn't already know about Six Sigma, this book would not have taught me
By David Elliott
The book contains a lot of information, but it's very difficult to learn from it. I already knew the basics of 6 Sigma, so I was able to understand what the author was talking about. If I didn't already know the concept, it would have been like reading greek. The book never gives a simple overview of what 6 Sigma means. He explains the details of each piece of the jigsaw puzzle, but doesn't tell you what the puzzle will look like in the end. The book begins not with an explanation of what 6 sigma is, but with the benefits of it. He provides equations on limits of r, u, np, sigma, averages charts, and others, early on, but doesn't explain what those charts are until chapter 8. I kept reading and re-reading, thinking that I missed something. Another example: He uses the term "subgroup" in equations, examples, and descriptions of situations. The term "subgroup" is not defined until page 235. Sure, I tried to look it up in the glossary -- it isn't there. I tried the index, as well. It's not there either. Believe me, if you need to read a book in order to learn and understand 6 Sigma, look elsewhere. I admit, I didn't read the entire book. That's because I didn't learn anything in the first 250 pages.

18 of 22 people found the following review helpful.
2A Must HAVE- But a hard read....
By R. D. Hill
I took a very in-depth online Six Sigma certification class. This book was the required textbook for the course. It does thoroughly cover all aspects of Six Sigma, but BE WARNED!! It is dry reading FILLED with acronyms that I don't think even certified black-belts could remember all of. I was glad to see another reviewer comment on the writing style. I also found it poorly written. The author reminds me of a boss I once had- it's the classic "I'll just keep talking over everyone's head, until they see my superior intellect or I convince them of their own stupidity." I consider myself to be well educated, and one who picks up almost any project easily. I found myself scratching my head and asking, "SERIOUSLY? Is this guy for real??" While it probably is the definitive Six Sigma textbook, be prepared for the math, algebra, an alphabet soup of acronyms and more corporate "buzz word" speak than you can shake a stick at!

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful.
5Indispensable reference from the authority
By Stephen Salaka
Thomas Pyzdek has been doing 6 sigma and 6 sigma training for many years. The reference manual is an indispensable tool for any SSGB/SSBB. It is extremely comprehensive and thorough and goes over each stage in the DMAIC road map, along with the tools, in a very high level of detail. If you are not enrolled in a SS training course or if you are new to SS, this is not a book you want to be using as a self teaching book - however, for everyone else (those who are SS certified or are going through certification), this handbook is a treasure trove of tools, tips, and techniques for everything six sigma related.

Remember, this book is not designed as a self-study guide (you could use it, but because it jumps into a lot of the more high level material, it would be confusing to many new to SS). This book is designed as a road map and a reference guide for those already familiar with the SS process and methodology and want to gain a better understanding of each of the DMAIC/DMADV process steps, as well as a very thorough overview and in depth discussion of each of the statistical tools. The biggest improvement of this book over the second edition was a more in-depth review of software tools as well as an expanded appendix reviewing statistical charts.


Rescue The Problem Project: A Complete Guide To Identifying, Preventing, And Recovering From Project Failure By Todd C. Williams PMP

Rescue the Problem Project: A Complete Guide to Identifying, Preventing, and Recovering from Project Failure

Rescue the Problem Project: A Complete Guide to Identifying, Preventing, and Recovering from Project Failure
By Todd C. Williams PMP

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When budgets are dwindling, deadlines passing, and tempers flaring, the usual response is to browbeat the project team and point fingers of blame. Not helpful. For these situations, what is needed is an objective process for accurately assessing what is wrong and a clear plan of action for fixing the problem. "Rescue the Problem Project" provides project managers, executives, and customers with the answers they require. Turnaround specialist Todd Williams has worked with dozens of companies in multiple industries resuscitating failing projects. In this new book, he reveals an in-depth, start-to-finish process that includes: techniques for identifying the root causes of the trouble; steps for putting projects back on track audit the project, analyze the data, negotiate the solution, and execute the new plan; nearly 70 real-world examples of what works, what doesn't, and why; and, guidelines for avoiding problems in subsequent projects. Many books explain how to run a project, but only this one shows how to bring it back from the brink of disaster. And with 65 per cent of projects failing to meet goals and 25 per cent cancelled outright, that's essential information.

Product Details

  • Amazon Sales Rank: #708439 in Books
  • Published on: 2011-03-20
  • Original language: English
  • Number of items: 1
  • Binding: Hardcover
  • 277 pages

Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

WARNING: Your latest project could be headed into the red.

Think it can't happen? Think again. Some two-thirds of all projects—even well-designed initiatives that get off to a flying start—are bound to go over budget, blow their schedules, or otherwise fail to live up to expectations. A whopping 25% will get canceled outright, and you know who will be on the hot seat. Your reputation, your job, your career, and your entire organization could be at risk if a major project fails.

Don't let it happen.

At last you've got a real defensive weapon against failure. With nearly 70 real-life examples of project rescue methods in action on the job, Rescue the Problem Project is the book to use before—or while—you're in full-blown emergency mode. Project recovery expert Todd Williams presents a proven approach to identifying problems and creating and executing a targeted, effective recovery plan. The book breaks the recovery process into four distinct and practical steps:

Audit. Determine the human and technological factors, scope, time frame, and other roles and issues in the project's failure.

Analyze. Is the project worth saving at this point? If so, determine the root causes of the problems; create an action plan; apply the appropriate methodology; define the recovered project; and more.

Negotiate. What project elements are on or off the table going forward? Provide multiple recovery options to the stakeholders; do proper planning and presentation of proposed solutions; and address concerns.

Execute. Implement corrective actions that keep problems from recurring on the rescued project and prevent new ones from cropping up in their place; manage perceptions and reactions to failures large and small.

The book's final section deals with applying lessons learned so that your future projects avoid problems and pitfalls from the beginning. You'll learn how to apply better risk assessment and management strategies and quantify the probability of success on almost any project.

Crucial chapter takeaways provide the right-now starting points for each stage and step in the recovery process, so that you can start making progress today. Whether you are involved in the daily processes of the project or are responsible to senior management for its success, Rescue the Problem Project gives you powerful, repeatable processes to rein in schedules and budgets, improve products and processes, and make yourself and your team heroes to your clients, your bosses, your colleagues—and anyone counting on your success!

Todd C. Williams is an experienced Senior Project Audit and Recovery Specialist, and a certified PMP®, with over 25 years of international experience in project recovery. His project experience includes managing the development of large-scale business systems integration initiatives throughout the world. Mr. Williams is an active member and frequent contributor to the Society for Information Management (SIM), the Project Management Institute (PMI®), the Association for Operations Management: Advancing Productivity, Innovation and Competitive Success (APICS), and the Financial Executives Networking Group (FENG).

From the Back Cover

Back from the brink: presenting the first fail-safe recovery plan for turning around your most troubled projects!

When budgets are evaporating, deadlines passing unmet, and tempers flaring, the project team must to do more than point fingers of blame. With up to 65% of projects failing to meet goals and of those 25% canceled outright, what is needed is an objective process for accurately assessing what's wrong—and a clear plan of action for fixing the problem.

Rescue the Problem Project provides executives, project managers, and customers with the answers they require. Turnaround specialist Todd Williams has worked with dozens of companies in multiple industries resuscitating failing projects. In this new book, he reveals an in-depth, start-to-finish process that includes:

Techniques for identifying the root cause of the problems • Steps for putting projects back on track—audit the project, analyze the data, negotiate the solution, and execute the new plan • Nearly 70 real-world examples of what works, what doesn't, and why • Guidelines for avoiding problems in subsequent projects.

Many books explain how to run a project, but only this one shows how to bring any project—and just maybe your entire organization—back from the brink of disaster!

Advance Praise for Rescue the Problem Project:

"Whether you are trying to prevent, identify, or recover a failing project, this book shows you how to analyze the interaction between people, process, and technology." —Jackie Barretta, Senior Vice President and CIO, Conway, Inc.

"Rescue the Problem Project addresses what everyone on the team, from the CEO to the individual contributor, needs to know about recovering projects. Furthermore, it suggests actions to guide corporate change and create an agile and aggressive company." —Dick Albani, Vice President (retired), TRW, Inc.

About the Author
For twenty-five years Presidents, Vice Presidents, and C-Level executives of manufacturing and service companies have asked Mr. Todd Williams to help them build leading-edge systems, improve organizational efficiency, and turn-around troubled projects.  From this experience, he has developed methods to streamline organizations, recover red projects and help prevent recurring failures.

In his first book, Rescue the Problem Project: A Complete Guide to Identifying, Preventing, and Recovering from Project Failure, published by AMACOM Books (the publishing arm of the American Management Association), he defines a project audit and recovery process that rescues failing projects while focusing on root cause correction and prevention. His experience covers many domains inside manufacturing and service industries.  Experience is drawn from working on internal and third-party projects, including integration of manufacturing systems, equipment integration, web-based collaboration tools, thick clients with automated internet update, and large-scale business systems integration.  His cultural experience includes the Pacific Rim, Middle East and North America, coordinating teams dispersed in as many as five countries, three continents and countless time zones.

As President of eCameron, Inc., located outside Portland, Oregon, he is considered an expert in rescuing projects and preventing their failure.  He maintains a blog at that has been quoted on CIO Update, ZDNet, IT Business Edge, The Center for CIO Leadership, CIO Essentials, and Project Managers Planet.

Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful.
2Nothing New Here
By Sue White
There really wasn't anything new or particularly helpful in this book - I feel like I wasted my money and my time to read through it.

0 of 0 people found the following review helpful.
4Good Stuff
By Holli Radmin
This book offers sound advice and guidance in dealing with red projects or those heading in that direction.
Todd offers insightful and sometimes amusing explanations in his case studies. I particularly liked Case Study #3-1 The Stockholm Syndrome. But my favorite was Case Study #8-5 Name the One Thing the Customer Would Love. It never hurts to make me smile while reading something that could, in someone elses hand, be considered dry.

0 of 0 people found the following review helpful.
5Down to Earth Practicum Guide for Project Recovery
By Josef Pfister
I would make Todd William's book a must read for any new or current project manager looking to move up the professional knowledge ladder. Not only is this book well organized for process steps and information retrieval, but it has plenty of case studies that demonstrate how he used these skills in various real situations. To me this is a workman's book on how to get it done as a true professional.


Notable Events - From May 08 To May 14

May 08, 1541 - Hernando de Soto reached the Mississippi River. He called it Rio de Espiritu Santo.

May 08, 1794 - The United States Post Office was established.

May 08, 1886 - Pharmacist Dr. John Styth Pemberton invented what would later be called "Coca-Cola."

May 08, 1970 - The Beatles album "Let it Be" was released.

May 08, 1977 - Olivia Newton-John made her New York City debut with a concert at the Metropolitan Opera House.

May 09, 1502 - Christopher Columbus left Spain for his final trip to the Western Hemisphere.

May 09, 1926 - Americans Richard Byrd and Floyd Bennett became the first men to fly an airplane over the North Pole.

May 09, 1940 - Vivien Leigh debuted in America on stage in "Romeo and Juliet" with Lawrence Olivier.

May 09, 1944 - Jimmie Davis became the Governor of Louisiana. He wrote "You Are My Sunshine."

May 09, 1961 - Jim Gentile of the Baltimore Orioles set a major-league baseball record by hitting grand slam home runs in two consecutive innings (against the Minnesota Twins).

May 10, 1773 - The English Parliament passed the Tea Act, which taxed all tea in the U.S. colonies.

May 10, 1869 - Central Pacific and Union Pacific Rail Roads meet in Promontory, UT. A golden spike was driven in at the celebration of the first transcontinental railroad in the U.S.

May 10, 1924 - J. Edgar Hoover was appointed head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

May 10, 1965 - The Rolling Stones produced their very first recordings when they recorded "Come On" and "I Wanna Be Loved" from the album "Out of Our Heads."

May 10, 1969 - The National and American Football Leagues announced their plans to merge for the 1970-71 season.

May 10, 1974 - Eric Clapton recorded "I Shot the Sheriff."

May 11, 1573 - Henry of Anjou became the first elected king of Poland.

May 11, 1910 - Glacier National Park in Montana was established.

May 11, 1947 - The creation of the tubeless tire was announced by the B.F. Goodrich Company.

May 11, 1949 - Siam changed its name to Thailand.

May 11, 1957 - The Everly Brothers made their debut on "Grand Ole Opry" in Nashville, TN.

May 11, 1965 - The Byrds made their TV debut with "Mr. Tambourine Man" on NBC's "Hullabaloo."

May 12, 1847 - William Clayton invented the odometer.

May 12, 1957 - A.J. Foyt won his first auto racing victory in Kansas City, MO.

May 12, 1960 - Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley appeared on the same TV special and performed the other's hit. Elvis sang "Witcraft" and Sinatra sang "Love Me Tender."

May 12, 1965 - "Satisfaction" was recorded by The Rolling Stones.

May 12, 1978 - The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced that they would no longer exclusively name hurricanes after women.

May 13, 1607 - Jamestown, Virginia, was settled as a colony of England.

May 13, 1865 - The last land engagement of the American Civil War was fought at the Battle of Palmito Ranch in far south Texas, more than a month after Gen. Lee's surrender at Appomattox, VA.

May 13, 1867 - Confederate President Jefferson Davis became a free man after spending two years in prison for his role in the American Civil War.

May 13, 1967 - Mickey Mantle hit his 500th homerun.

May 13, 1968 - Peace talks between the U.S. and North Vietnam began in Paris.

May 13, 1982 - The Chicago Cubs became the first major-league baseball team to win 8,000 games.

May 13, 1985 - Tony Perez became the oldest major league baseball player to hit a grand slam home run at the age of 42 and 11 months.

May 14, 1787 - Delegates began gathering in Philadelphia for a convention to draw up the U.S. Constitution.

May 14, 1853 - Gail Borden applied for a patent for condensed milk.

May 14, 1878 - The name Vaseline was registered by Robert A. Chesebrough.

May 14, 1913 - The Rockefeller Foundation was created by John D. Rockefeller with a gift of $100,000,000.

May 14, 1985 - The first McDonald's restaurant became the first fast-food business museum. It is located in Des Plaines, Illinois.

May 14, 1998 - The final episode of the TV series "Seinfeld" aired after nine years on NBC.
Thanks to On-This-Day / MemoriesOfHistory

The Value Proposition In Multichannel Retailing

Consumers love low prices, but retailers shouldn't overlook the way shoppers perceive value online and in stores.

Consider, for example, how consumers view leading sellers of women's apparel in the United States (Exhibit 2). While actual average prices at Kohl's and JCPenney are similar (the x-axis), consumers clearly perceive Kohl's as offering lower prices (the y-axis).—which typically has among the lowest prices in categories such as consumer electronics—charges more for similar types of apparel than Kohl's and JCPenney do, yet retains a "halo" of value among the consumers we surveyed.

In our experience working with dozens of offline, online, and multichannel retailers, we've found that they can use certain pricing moves to play the value card. The first is identifying key value items—products that have the greatest impact on value perceptions. In consumer electronics, for example, flat-screen TVs and computer hard drives are hot-ticket products that draw customers to stores or Web sites. Second, these items must be priced competitively to create a public perception that a retailer offers good value, and discounts on them can be recouped with higher prices on less visible products. Finally, prices should be the same no matter which retail channels a consumer uses: stores, the Web, or catalogs.

Retailers also can carefully craft product assortments in ways that influence value perceptions. For instance, in categories with clear "good," "better," and "best" ranges—such as flat-screen TVs—retailers can display models side by side, attract consumers with hot prices on good models, and then encourage trading up by clearly articulating the features and benefits of the better and best options. This strategy has proved to be as effective online as it is in stores.

Second, value "heroes" with low price points should be overrepresented in online, in-store, and external marketing. An apparel retailer, for example, can disproportionately showcase $15 men's business shirts in marketing materials while keeping the majority of its product assortment well above that price point. Third, tactics such as free shipping, in-store pickup, generous return policies, and price-match guarantees are critical drivers of value perceptions. For the consumer pondering the wall of TVs—or, for that matter, browsing a Web page of them—any money saved by purchasing one elsewhere may seem trivial compared with benefits such as free shipping, in-store pickup, a range of financing and extended-warranty plans, and options for expert installation.

About the Authors:-
Jeffrey Helbling is a principal in McKinsey's Chicago office, Josh Leibowitz is a principal in the Miami office, and Aaron Rettaliata is an associate principal in the Pittsburgh office.

Thanks to McKinsey & Company


Rediscovering The Art Of Selling

Even after researching products on their own, many customers enter stores undecided about what to buy. For retailers, that's an opportunity to improve off-line sales in an increasingly multichannel world.

Many retailers assume that customers walk into stores for purely transactional purposes: they know what they want and just need to buy it. Yet McKinsey research indicates that as many as 40 percent of customers remain open to persuasion once they enter a store,1 despite undertaking extensive product research, reading online reviews, and comparing prices on their own. Retailers that fail to have knowledgeable staff on hand to help customers make decisions, or even to create arresting in-store visual marketing materials, are losing sale after potential sale. More than ever, retailers need a sales-driven mind-set focused on having the right number of sales staff; ensuring those staff are knowledgeable, well-trained, and motivated to sell; and providing the right in-store experience for customers.

Bolstering the sales staff

Many retail executives argue they can't afford to provide high-value sales help. Simple arithmetic suggests they can't afford not to. It's true that adding frontline staff that can sell effectively is costly and takes time, and we're not suggesting a return to an old-fashioned, expensive, labor-intensive sales system. But there's a powerful and straightforward business case for investing in frontline sales staff: when done correctly, adding salespeople offers one of the more attractive payback opportunities in retail.

Consider the case of home electronics sold through discount stores—the ultimate self-help format, where consumers typically undertake product comparisons independently before ultimately going to a store to make a purchase. With an average selling price of $200 and an average gross margin of 10 percent, or $20 per sale, the cost of hiring a good salesperson is recouped by selling just one additional product per hour on the floor. When the profit margin from up-selling or cross-selling accessories is added, just one additional sale every two hours is needed. At one self-help apparel company, for example, providing extra sales assistance during select hours increased the conversion rate by 1.5 to 2 times, driving fitting-room use 37 percent higher and recouping the cost of the extra human help within an average of 10 to 15 minutes during normal selling hours.

Building the right frontline sales force

Watch skilled salespeople at work and you soon realize that while selling is an art that can be approached in a variety of ways, it boils down to four basic steps: open, ask for needs, demonstrate, and close. Surprisingly few frontline sales associates know these steps well, and fewer do all four consistently. At one retailer, for example, we found that associates failed to ask to close the sale 86 percent of the time. Having staff that understand and enjoy the sales process is paramount, and that means attracting the right employees, training them effectively, and rewarding them appropriately.

Effective sellers share common traits: they are motivated by helping customers, have extroverted personalities, and are passionate about their work. Our research indicates that, at most, 45 percent of frontline employees across multiple retailing sectors have the personality and attributes to be effective sellers (for examples of right and wrong behaviors in frontline sales, see the interactive, "Secrets of making the sale").2 Retailers need to redesign the way they hire and deploy staff into selling roles to attract employees with the personality and attributes required to succeed. In addition, we found that few retailers provide training with the specificity and quality to effectively support sales associates in their mission to sell more. That leaves even natural salespeople often unable to answer basic questions about their products from potential customers who are increasingly informed (in some categories, more than 75 percent appear in the store having done extensive independent research).

Improving the in-store experience

Better visual merchandising can make a big difference in helping consumers make certain buying decisions, accelerating the payback on frontline staff. Consider one self-help retailer that simplified its point-of-sale signage for digital cameras to make comparing products easier for both consumers and sales staff. Rather than using technological jargon such as megapixels and zoom sizes, the retailer instead used "photo-enlargement sizes" and "distance to picture object." Memory cards emphasized the number of photographs a card could hold, rather than describing them in gigabytes. Because sales staff could use the visual displays as a way to sell products to customers without having to memorize technical details, they were more confident and achieved more sales per hour.

Examining the way consumers make decisions also makes a difference. At one leading personal-bath-care chain, for example, executives realized that people preferred to shop by "scent" rather than "function"—they preferred all vanilla products in one area, rather than all shampoos in one area and all soaps in another. Reorganizing the entire merchandising layout from a function-based to a scent-based display resulted in increased category sales, as customers bought multiple products with the same scent, rather than just one. It was a simple but effective change reflecting how consumers actually shop. Paying attention to these kinds of customer behaviors remains invaluable, despite the unprecedented access to product information, reviews, and prices that consumers have online.

About the Author:-
Josh Leibowitz is a principal in McKinsey's Miami office.

Thanks to McKinsey & Company


Rapid Transformation Of A Sales Force

Taking a phased "university approach" to change helped one company transform its sales force—successfully—in 6 months rather than the usual 12 to 24.

Changing the way a large, dispersed sales team operates is hard, and implementing a sales program quickly and making it stick is even harder. Yet that was the challenge facing a direct-service company's commercial-business unit, which had 20 area managers, 200 sales managers, and 2,000 sales representatives spread across North America. The unit was struggling with high staff turnover and poor performance: each year, for example, a third of the sales leads coming in through the call center—roughly 100,000 calls—were never followed up on, because of weak management tools and processes.

Investors were looking for quick results, so the company's senior leaders insisted on a program that would raise sales almost immediately. They therefore decided to implement it in 6 months rather than the 12 to 24 typical for a project of this scale. Additionally, in recent years the company had conducted a number of sales-improvement programs, with mixed success, which suggested that employees might be reluctant to attempt another complex change program.


Rather than relying on a central team of change leaders and rolling out the program in sequence, from area to area, the company adopted a phased "university approach," which enabled it to launch the program in all areas simultaneously. The 20 area managers, who had a pivotal role in the sales hierarchy, attended central "academies" along with sales managers. Here they all learned to use new tools and processes, including standardized performance metrics, diagnostic reports, and a custom-designed tool to track and promote accountability for every sales lead. Once the area managers "graduated" from the academy, they rolled out the program in phases, starting with high-priority markets in their own areas. Sales managers and the reps they supervised applied the new tools.

To ensure that these changes endured, the company instituted recurring structured-coaching sessions where area managers used the performance tools to evaluate sales managers and to pinpoint and address their weaknesses. The sales managers in turn coached their reps in the same way. Both the tools and the coaching sessions played a crucial role in the success of the program, which was implemented in most markets within the required six months. By the end of a year, the unit had increased its lead-conversion rates by 20 percent and the number of self-generated leads by 25 percent.


Just having the right tools won't force quick or lasting change in the way a large and dispersed sales force operates. But companies can achieve that kind of transformation by identifying an appropriate group of managers, distributed across the organization, to take the lead in promoting change and by adopting the university approach, in which trainees in turn train the employees who report to them.


About the Authors:- Josh Leibowitz is a principal in McKinsey's Miami office, and Ben Vonwiller is a consultant in the New York office.

Thanks to McKinsey & Company