In this week's reviews of great business books: The power of mindful self-control. Also, the book that compelled managers around the world to do everything differently

*     *     *

The Daily Edge: Simple Strategies to Increase Efficiency and Make an Impact Every Day

David Horsager
Berrett-Koehler Publishers

We don't control our days. Rather our days control us. This new book by Horsager, a business strategist and speaker, is meant to give us back the reins. Horsager agrees with Albert Einstein: "Make everything as simple as possible but no simpler."

The Daily Edge comprises 35 very simple, very clear ways to manage the day-to-day small stuff that needs management. That leaves you more time to focus on the big things that need significant time and attention, particularly building trusting relationships.

For example, Horsager advises that each day you write down the top five things you need to do to accomplish your goal. (He calls these "difference-making actions.") To keep you focused over the longer-term Horsager offers a "90-Day Quick Plan" that could apply to launching a project, closing a deal, or even losing weight.

(Ninety days is a "sweet spot," he says: "a short enough time frame to stay absolutely focused" yet "long enough to get done more than most people get done in a whole year.")

The Daily Edge is aimed at executives, but practices such as the "power hour"--a distraction-free period when you just do stuff that really needs doing--can be adopted by the whole company.

*     *     *

Primed to Perform: How to Build the Highest Performing Cultures Through the Science of Total Motivation 
Neel Doshi and Lindsay McGregor

Great cultures always sound a little magical. Business leaders constantly read about workplaces like Southwest Airlines, the Apple Store, and Starbucks, and they can't imagine creating anything comparable.

But Doshi and McGregor, both formerly of McKinsey, believe that there is a science behind high-performing cultures. To unearth it, they've engaged in exhaustive discovery: building on a century of academic study and adding their own research involving tens of thousands of workers--from programmers to investment bankers--employed in legendary cultures.

What it comes down to, of course, is how you activate and nourish their self-motivation. The authors identify nine basic motives that underlie work. "Play, purpose, and potential strengthen performance," they write. "Emotional pressure, economic pressure, and inertia weaken it."

Tools help when you're dealing with science; and the book includes a neat one for measuring and tracking improvement in cultures over time. The authors used the tool, called ToMo for "Total Motivation," to assess employees' motives at the companies they studied.

From that they derived data-driven advice on subjects like leadership styles, performance-management systems, and results-driven compensation. It's nice to see empiricism applied to a subject too many people view as soft. Yes, some great leaders build high-performing cultures intuitively. But for most, it is better simply to know how...and explain why.

*     *     *

And from the backlist:

Reengineering the Corporation: A Manifesto for Business Revolution
Michael Hammer and James Champy
Collins Business Essentials/HarperBusiness (1993)

"Forget about Adam Smith and any 'invisible hands' solving your problems," Hammer and Champy advised business leaders almost 25 years ago. Instead, "focus on improving what you do by improving how you do it."

This enormously influential book set off legions of executives and managers breaking down and then rebuilding their business processes "to achieve dramatic improvements in critical, contemporary, measures of performance, such as cost, quality, service and speed." For young, small businesses just starting their systems-ward march, there's great value in understanding where you don't want to end up.