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Book Review of: The Milkshake Moment

Overcoming Stupid Systems, Pointless Policies, and Muddled Management
to Realize Real Growth

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Review of The Milkshake Moment, by Steven S. Little (Hardcover, 2008)

(You can print this review in landscape mode, if you want a hardcopy)

Reviewer: Mark Lamendola, author of over 6,000 articles.

Little makes some excellent points in this book, and provides valuable insights. He also provides a decent number of chuckles. I especially like his clever cultural references, such as "Stairway to Freebird" and "Who Moved My Customer's Chicken Soup?"

However, Little stumbles in some places. Interestingly, two of those are culturally-oriented.

He starts off the book talking about an incident in which he called Room Service and asked for a vanilla milkshake. The reply from "Stuart" was, "I'm sorry, Mr. Little, but we don't have milkshakes." Little then asked the man for a glass of milk, a bowl of vanilla ice cream, and a long spoon. Stuart brought those to the room and with them he made a milkshake. Little then used this incident as evidence that the hotel is a victim of its own stupid policies. As the reader, however, I didn't know what a milkshake was. I don't believe I've ever had one. If you had shown me one before I read this book and had asked me to identify it, I would have been unable to. So, I'm with Stuart on this one.

The second stumble is Little's references to professional sports. This is a common failing in the business book world--the assumption that all serious business people watch professional football, basketball, and baseball. I have never watched any of these. This particular cultural area is a specialized area of interest, not a universal one.

Another place he stumbles is his statement at the end of Chapter 7, "Systems can, at best, only deliver inefficiency." He would have been correct to say something like, "Systems are the tools by which engaged people deliver results, not the other way around." From his earlier comments, the reader can determine that his point was that you can't rely on systems alone. But this statement doesn't make that point. In later chapters, he illustrates his "real meaning" in examples. In fact, he shows how some systems are profoundly inefficient (and what simple things can be done to fix them).

In Chapter 8, Little talks about "Office Space," a movie that illustrates profound dysfunction. I lived "Office Space." In 1999, my (then) girlfriend called to say she had just been to see the movie "Office Space" with a friend of hers. She was sure the movie was a documentary about our workplace. So, I watched the movie and agreed. As she had pointed, even the company name was almost identical. Every character in the movie had a direct counterpart in our company. The list of dead-on accurate items was long. Not long after the movie came out, our company's senior management made it very clear that we could not discuss "Office Space." The company's response would have been perfect material for the sequel, if one had come out.

Little uses many examples, not just a movie and a hotel experience. Some of these are from his own experiences as a customer, some are from his consulting work. All of them are instructive. Some are hilarious.

"The Milkshake Moment" consists of 28 very short chapters. They have titles like, "Lessons from the Cubicle Farm" and "Peeve from Below." I would characterize this book as a series of magazine articles. But let me clarify that. A good magazine editor will plan out a series such that each article stands on its own. It "connects" with the others, without rehashing. When a book reads like a purposeful series of articles, as this one does, you end up feeling satisfied instead of overstuffed at the end of each chapter.

For a business leader, this construction is perfect and easily fits into the typically fragmented schedule. Little talks in this book about identifying and meeting a need. The very structure of this book does that for the target reader.

Little's style is upbeat, he's occasionally witty, and he has something to say in each chapter. That could make "The Milkshake Moment" a plug for his speaking engagements, but this book isn't self-serving in that way. It focuses on providing the reader with a "takeaway" in every chapter. Just to make sure that happens, Little closes each chapter with "Mix It Up!" (a reference to mixing a milkshake). That "Mix It Up!" provides a concise lesson from the chapter, though several chapters provide multiple insights and "Ah Ha!" kinds of things.

The book doesn't provide any formulas for achievement. It doesn't even cover all of the bases. What it does do is get you thinking about how you may be a slave of unnecessarily complicated processes. Are you missing the whole point of doing your job in the first place? How can you tell?

Today's business leaders (and those working on being leaders) are flooded with book recommendations. Some of those titles are good for some people and situations, and not good for others. I think The Milkshake Moment will be appropriate for just about anyone who holds a job anywhere. You can read this book without a huge investment in time, but the ROI on that time could turn out to be very high.

 


 

About these reviews

You may be wondering why the reviews here are any different from the hundreds of "reviews" posted online. Notice the quotation marks?

I've been reviewing books for sites like Amazon for many years now, and it dismays me that Amazon found it necessary to post a minimum word count for reviews. It further dismays me that it's only 20 words. If that's all you have to say about a book, why bother?

And why waste everyone else's time with such drivel? As a reader of such reviews, I feel like I am being told that I do not matter. The flippancy of people who write these terse "reviews" is insulting to the authors also, I would suspect.

This sound bite blathering taking the place of any actual communication is increasingly a problem in our mindless, blog-posting Webosphere. Sadly, Google rewards such pointlessness as "content" so we just get more if this inanity.

The reviews I do will, contrary to emerging trends, actually tell you about the book. I always got an "A" on a book review I did as a kid (that's how I remember it anyhow, and it's my story so I'm sticking to it). A book review contains certain elements and has a logical structure. It informs the reader about the book.

A book review may also tell the reader whether the reviewer liked it, but revealing a reviewer's personal taste is not necessary for an informative book review.

About your reviewer

  • Books are a passion of mine. I read dozens of them each year, plus I listen to audio books.
  • Most of my "reading diet" consists of nonfiction. I think life is too short to use your limited reading time on material that has little or not substance. That leads into my next point...
  • In 1990, I stopped watching television. I have not missed it. At all.
  • I was first published as a preteen. I wrote an essay, and my teacher submitted it to the local paper.
  • For six years, I worked as an editor for a trade publication. I left that job in 2002, and still do freelance editing and authoring for that publication (and for other publications).
  • No book has emerged from my mind onto the best-seller list. So maybe I'm presumptuous in judging the work of others. Then again, I do more describing than judging in my reviews. And I have so many articles now published that I stopped counting them at 6,000. When did I stop? Probably another 6,000 articles ago! (It's been a while).
  • I have an engineering degree undergrad and an MBA. That helps explain my methodical approach toward reviews.
  • You probably don't know anybody who has made a perfect or near perfect score on a test of Standard Written English. I have. So, a credential for whatever it's worth.

About reading style

No, I do not "speed read" through these. That said, I do read at a fast rate. But, in contrast to speed reading, I read everything when I read a book for review.

Speed reading is a specialized type of reading that requires skipping text as you go. Using this technique, I've been able to consistently "max out" a speed reading machine at 2080 words per minute with 80% comprehension. This method is great if you are out to show how fast you can read. But I didn't use it in graduate school and I don't use it now. I think it takes the joy out of reading, and that pleasure is a big part of why I read to begin with.

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