The Executive Checklist

It's often said that leadership is about doing the right things, and management is about doing things right. Both traits are indispensable for top executives, who must navigate their companies through a maze of global competition, stakeholder demands, technological change, and regulations.

The Executive Checklist: A Guide for Setting Direction and Managing Change, by James Kerr, gives C-level executives a powerful change management tool for elevating their companies, their employees, and themselves to new levels of performance.

First and foremost, the checklist approach works because it's suited to the rational approach to problem-solving that successful executives employ. Checklists are a great way to break complex problems into manageable tasks. Each checklist item can then be further broken down into sub-checklists, making them easy to execute and to track progress.

The checklist consists of ten topics: establish leadership; build trust; set strategy; engage staff; manage work as projects; renovate the business; align technology; transform staff; renew communications practices; and reimagine organizational design.

Regardless of industry or company size, every executive with whom Kerr, a seasoned management consultant, has worked with over the years can follow this checklist and fashion the type of organization that's needed to flourish in the new millennium.

The book is organized and presented in a fresh, clean way, making for easy consumption. Each checklist item is treated in a separate chapter, so that readers can easily locate the information they need whenever they need it.

Although the ideas presented in The Executive Checklist have their foundations in management theory, the book is not theoretical, but rather it is about application. All of the key ideas are supported by examples, from PIXAR as an example of great collaboration under Steve Jobs, to the success of John Mackey's Whole Foods for putting employees first, to Zappos' commitment to holacracy. The collection of topics covered in the book form a playbook for driving change. The resulting collection of checklists serves as a primer for how to best oversee and lead a 21st century organization into the future.

The Executive Checklist's straightforward, no-nonsense writing style makes it easy to read. Whether it's motivating employees, overhauling organizational structure, or harnessing technology, Kerr illustrates the concepts in action with real-life examples of organizations that have implemented them.

Today's corporate environment is a tumultuous place, where even the most seasoned executive can make a mistake that could lead to absolute failure for an enterprise. This book is about making the business world simpler.

Reviewed by Steve Marlin, Business Journalist, MARKETS MEDIA