Author: Paula Marshall
Publisher: Yorkshire Publishing
ISBN: 9780881443264

CEO since 1985 of the Bama Companies, Paula Marshall has extensive experience in handling the company's internal and external issues. Her company must be doing something right, if it has been in existence since the 1960s as an innovator of wholesome bakery products that cater to some of the most well-known restaurant chains in the world. Bama Companies serve customers in more than twenty countries utilizing production facilities in the USA and abroad.

In Finding the Soul of Big Business Marshall brings to light the culture that prevails at Bama Companies and notably the influence of the teachings of some of her teachers and spiritual leaders who have shared and shaped her business philosophy as well as that of the company's. The book is the integration of every lesson and distinction that Marshall has learned and has applied to her intention as CEO. As she discloses in the introduction, to define her own intention and underlying motivation, she turned to Dr. Stephen R. Covey's book, First Things First, that explains why it is crucial for each of us to write out our own Personal Mission Statement. Marshall maintains that discovering her own voice and defining her Personal Mission Statement has enabled her to encourage others to do likewise.

Another leader whose business principles Marshall and Bama have pursued is mathematician and statistician Dr. William Edwards Deming. Deming is well-known for improving production in the USA during the Cold War. He is also known for changing the 1940 census, wherein the US government used a sampling technique that he developed in 1982. Above all, Deming is known for having been sent to Japan after World War II to rebuild the country's industrial infrastructure.

Deming penned Out of the Crisis, which includes his four principles of System of Profound Knowledge and 14 points enumerating key management principles. Deming's four principles, which Marshall justifiably claims to have particular relevance in to-day's environment are: appreciation of the organization (including suppliers, producers, employees, customers and consumers), knowledge of variation in cause and range of quality, theory of knowledge, which distinguishes what is applicable to the organization and what is ineffective, and knowledge of psychology, the understanding of human nature. The basis for the application of Deming's 14 Points for management is the System of Profound Knowledge. Marshall informs us that the common denominator of all these points is human capital or people. As a result, all of Deming's principles and points have been successfully integrated into the company's operations.

Marshall recounts that when her grandmother, Cornilla Alabama “Bama” Marshall started the Bama Pie Company in 1927 and for eight decades thereafter the business has operated with two basic principles: keeping an eye on quality, and people make the company. A recurring theme of the book is that the success of Bama Companies is its reliance on the knowledge, skills, and experience of many individuals to solve multifaceted problems, to make good decisions, and to deliver effective solutions. Thus an environment is created wherein members keep up with change, learn more about the enterprise and in the process develop cooperative skills. Acknowledging that it is systems that create most of the problems, individual blame is avoided when something goes wrong.

Furthermore, instead of having a mechanistic organization, where the direction is deliberately decided and planned, you have organic leadership, where the direction evolves through trial and error. Managers listen attentively and lead by facilitating innovation in others rather than imposing their points of view. As Marshall states, it is essential to avoid a contaminated culture wherein greed, ego, envy, and fear can prove to be lethal contaminants. To provide insight into how well a team or community in any organization will perform, Marshall refers to a twelve-point questionnaire that was developed by researcher, business leader, motivational speaker, and trainer Marcus Buckingham for the Gallup Organization.

Among other themes the book explores is that of ego,which more than any economic circumstance or process deficiency, can sabotage a business or organization. Marshall quotes Alicia Smith's June 2006 article, where she suggests several steps to take to keep the ego in check. And as stated, unfortunately this is not taught in executive MBA programs.

As the book reminds us, running a successful business can be compared to riding a bike; either you keep cycling or you tumble over. There are no quick fixes, as there must be a long term commitment to garner as much new knowledge and techniques as possible in order for management to transform or change. As Marshall quotes Deming, “The job of management is inseparable from the welfare of the company. Through our commitment to the well-being of others, we can revive not only our businesses and our economy, but also our world.”

Marshall has put together an excellent inspirational book, devoid of pointless fillers, sharing with us wisdom from leaders who have faced a variety of challenges. Her rational approach to success will surely find a welcome home on the bookshelves of business owners and managers.

Author's Bio: 

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