HR manager's bookshelf

The Active Manager’s Tool Kit • The Consultant’s Big Book of Organization Development Tools • The Workshop Book • Retreats that Work • Managing Multiple Projects • The Project Management Workbook
By Ray Brillinger
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 09/15/2003


ooking for practical tools and approaches to team building, performance improvement, change management or problem-solving? Planning an important workshop or a retreat to work on strategy development, conflict resolution or action planning? Searching for easy-to-read guides on managing projects, either for yourself or others in your organization? The “how to” books featured in this HR Manager’s Bookshelf may provide just what you need.

The Active Manager’s Tool Kit

By Mel Silberman
340 pages, McGraw Hill (2003)
ISBN 0-07-140945-9
At bookstores or 1-800-565-5758,

This is a collection of worksheets, assessment frameworks and skill development tools to help managers strengthen their leadership capability. Topics range from “10 steps to become an effective manager” and “improving your communications” to “moving from boss to coach” and “initiating and managing change.” The tools help the manager to understand and develop approaches to effective problem-solving, meetings and project management. There are instruments and processes to be used with employees to clarify team roles and responsibilities, increase trust levels, develop listening skills and generate discussions about innovation, productivity and empowerment.

Managers or supervisors who want to be “active” rather than “reactive” are the target audience for this book. The active manager is one who inspires and manages top performance, rather than waiting for problems to develop or fires to fight. This book will be of value to those readers who want tools, checklists and exercises for:

•assessing and developing their leadership skills;

•coaching and managing employee performance;

•building collaboration and teamwork;

•facilitating planning and problem-solving; and

•assessing change readiness, and leading change.

The Consultant’s Big Book of Organization Development Tools

By Mel Silberman
314 pages, McGraw Hill (2003)
ISBN 0-07-140883-5
At bookstores or 1-800-565-5758,

Compiled here are 50 reproducible and customizable intervention tools and activities to aid in diagnosing, discussing and solving individual, team and organizational performance problems including:

•leadership development (communicating, coaching, delegating, tapping group power);

•employee development (listening, giving and receiving feedback, learning how to learn);

•team development (sinking or swimming together, using diversity, building ground rules);

•organization development (managing roadblocks, resolving conflict, understanding resiliency); and

•strategic planning and change management (minimizing resistance, exploring merger issues).

This set of interventions is designed to meet the needs of internal or external consultants and facilitators who lead meetings and retreats, provide coaching and consultation, or design and conduct training and development sessions. Readers will find an overview for each activity, a suggested time frame, materials needed, step-by-step procedures, required forms or instructions, and variations to meet specific situations. The materials may be reproduced or downloaded from an Internet site, then customized for specific situations.

The Workshop Book

By R. Brian Stanfield
172 pages, New Society Publishers (2002)
ISBN 0-86571-470-3

This book explains in detail the ICA (the Institute of Cultural Affairs) Technology of Participation (ToP) consensus workshop approach, which has five basic steps:

•context the group;

•brainstorm the ideas;

•cluster the ideas;

•name the clusters; and

•resolve to implement the results.

Practical procedures, design and facilitation guidance are provided, along with examples of workshops for planning, problem-solving, research and decision-making.

OD and group process professionals will benefit from this overview of the ICA methodology. ICA, which operates in 28 countries including Canada (, provides organizational, business and community facilitation, consulting and training. Its goal is to foster fuller input and broad responsibility in decision-making, rather than relying on traditional hierarchical models. The methodology supports workshops (ranging from two to several hundred participants) designed for open participation, where everyone’s wisdom and experience counts. This book can help facilitators who want to address power imbalances, build consensus, develop a structured approach for making progress on issues, encourage groups to take risks, and strengthen trust and commitment to taking action.

Retreats that Work

By Sheila Campbell and Merianne Liteman
336 pages, Jossey-Bass Pfeiffer (2003)
ISBN 0-7879-6444-1
Distributed by Wiley Canada, 1-800-567-4797,

Here’s a comprehensive reference book for designing and conducting off-site events. It covers goal setting, deciding whether a retreat is the appropriate option, logistics, planning, leading sessions, modes of decision-making, recovering from problem situations, closing the retreat and following through with action implementation. Specific types of retreats are described: strategic planning, culture change, teamwork and relationship building, and retreats to stimulate creativity and innovative ideas. The book is full of detailed guidance, checklists and numerous step-by-step activities for achieving each objective of the retreat.

The executive (or “convenor”) who wants to hold a retreat will find this book tremendously valuable, along with the designer, facilitator or leader of the event. Both first time and seasoned retreat planners will gain from the comprehensive material. This book is aimed at readers who want to use a retreat to bring about powerful learning and positive change, those who want to tap into the potential for the retreat to dig deep into organizational issues, enable key decisions and development of appropriate actions to address problems and opportunities.

Managing Multiple Projects

By Irene Tobis and Michael Tobis
211 pages, McGraw Hill (2001)
ISBN 0-07-138896-6
At bookstores or 1-800-565-5758,

Juggling multiple tasks, projects and priorities has become a must. This guidebook helps readers see the big picture, sustain productivity and meet commitments. The book addresses group and individual time management, finding the happy medium of structure, categorizing work and sequences of tasks, team management, dealing with overload and its emotional demands, tracking systems, project evaluation and review techniques. Readers will gain a better understanding of:

•the trap of to-do lists where the nature of the tasks doesn’t fit with that tool;

•the productivity paradox, in which sustained effort, not short-term speed, is what’s really required; and

•avoiding being in perpetual crisis state.

While many books are available to address project management skills, this one is primarily aimed at managers in line or staff roles, rather than dedicated project managers. The book may appeal to you if you feel too busy to get organized or even to seek help, stuck in the bureaucracy of project administration, caught up in a repetitive cycle of setting and revising priorities or fatigued by too many meetings producing too few results. The book is part of the Briefcase Books series, featuring clear definitions and explanations, proven how-to tips, practical advice for avoiding and handling problems, warning signs, case studies and tactics for implementing the book’s ideas.

The Project Management Workbook

By Nancy B. Cobb
169 pages, McGraw Hill (2003)
ISBN 0-07-140840-1
At bookstores or 1-800-565-5758,

Options, worksheets, case studies and lessons learned highlight this step-by-step guide to “strategies for managing your greatest asset” — the people side of project management. Chapters range from how to get started and developing partnerships, to needs identification, funding and documentation.

Human resources considerations, team building, rewards and recognition are all explored in the context of projects. An in-depth chapter on developing internal resources outlines the role of the training co-ordinator, along with tools, training schedules, selection of internal trainers and issues related to unionized workplaces.

Intended users of this guide include:

•project managers, project engineers;

•HR and training and development leaders;

•operational managers and supervisors;

•purchasing, quality and safety practitioners;

•vendors and contractors; and

•any project leader responsible for the learning, training and development aspects of an initiative.

Ray Brillinger is a senior consultant with IBM Business Consulting Services. He provides change management, business transformation and organization effectiveness strategy and implementation support to clients. He can be reached at (905) 316-8733 or

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