Good ideas often come from obscure places

WORTH A LOOK

December 10, 1990|By Tom Peters | Tom Peters,1990 TPG COMMUNICATIONS

Subscribe to Business Week? Inc.? Forbes? Sure. Like me, you couldn't live without them. The Harvard Business Review? Probably. The Economist? Maybe.

Gotcha time: I bet you don't subscribe to Target. CIO. Healthcare Forum Journal. If not, you're missing a bet.

I'll stick my neck out: Target, the quarterly publication of the Association for Manufacturing Excellence, is the best business magazine going today.

Consider Vol. 6, No. 3, the Fall 1990 issue. Motorola's Matt Van Wallene, controller in one of the firm's Mexican operations, writes about "Accounting Cycle Time Improvement"; his group now closes the month's books in eight hours, down from 50 hours two years ago. Van Wallene didn't challenge Octavio Paz for the 1990 literature Nobel -- but if your game is profit, his practical, jargon-free analysis will warm the cockles of your wallet.

Xerox, a 1989 Baldrige Award winner, details its approach to quality management in this issue, too. And Northern Telecom reports on the triumph of self-directed work teams at its North Carolina customer-service center; one important measure of errors fell to just 81 in 1989 from 1,737 in 1987!

(The previous issue is just as good. My favorite: A detailed, insider's look at Florida Power & Light, the American utility that won Japan's ultra-prestigious Deming prize for quality in 1989.)

Target's parent, AME, offers a service as valuable as the magazine: on-site, multiday workshops at member organizations. The fall issue announces workshops at General Motors-Buick in Flint, Mich., 3M in Hutchinson, Minn., and Ranco in Plain City, Ohio. AME member dues -- the only way to get Target -- are $100; write to 380 W. Palatine Road, Wheeling, IL 60090.

And now for something completely different. (And just as good!) CIO: The Magazine for Information Executives. Make no mistake, CIO, as in chief information officer, is for you and me, and maybe for some info execs as well.

Any who don't believe that information technology (IT) is changing everything should get out of management. When it comes to applying IT, some firms are 10 years ahead -- and many are losing the race. If you're not an intuitive "IT type," you need case studies, with a minimum of infobabble. Right? If so, welcome to CIO.

The October 1990 issue provides a nitty-gritty, very readable story about Hyatt Hotels' IT revolution. Another feature examines the construction of global IT networks. Then there's a terrific piece on EDI. (Electronic data interchange -- I trust I didn't need to spell it out.) There's all sorts of nifty "stuff" in the departments and columns, too -- including an attack on the author of this column; but, hey, if you're not being attacked, why be in business?

If I've titillated, write to CIO Publishing Inc., 492 Old Connecticut Path, P.O. Box 9208, Framingham, Mass. 01701-9208.

Next up: What's the world's most complex business? Running a car or computer company? Hardly. Try health care. Half regulated, half not. A jillion conflicting constituencies. A business. A citizen's right. If you can excel in hospital management, you could run a big GM operation blindfolded. And if you want to learn from the best of health care's best, subscribe to Healthcare Forum: Send $35 to 830 Market St., San Francisco, Calif. 94102.

The July/August 1990 issue cover: "Quality Trendsetters Go for the Gold." All the features are invaluable -- a case study of teamwork for quality at the University of Michigan Medical Center; a statistical approach to quality at Hospital Corporation of America's West Paces Ferry Hospital; not to mention the "nice people" strategy to achieve world-class customer (patient) service at Hawaii's Castle Medical Center. If you can't pick up tips from these pages, you're a lost cause -- whether your business is accounting, cars, computers or (yes) health care.

Then there's my favorite academic journal: I've used the research presented in MIT's Sloan Management Review in a dozen columns over the past six years. Again, Nobel literature it ain't. But if there were a Nobel for management thinking, it might go to the SMR. In the Fall 1990 issue, Honda's Hideo Sugiura writes an eye-popping piece, "How Honda Localizes its Global Strategy." Christoph-Friedrich von Braun of Germany's Siemens offers invaluable insights on dealing with shrinking product-life cycles ("The Acceleration Trap"). And, yes, there are fine studies by academic and nonacademic U.S. authors, too.

Interested? Write to MIT Sloan School of Management, 1 Amherst St., E40-292, Cambridge, Mass. 02139; $50 covers a year's subscription.

I've got no bone to pick with the "popular" business magazines. They do their job well. But the generic approach falls short when it comes to useful details, and typically a story appears in these periodicals years after its first wave breaks in practice. If you need to be on the front edge, with ideas, cases and details alike, try the publications I've recommended here.

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