I had high expectations for this book after reading "How to Measure Anything", and unfortunately none of them were met. My very short review would sta...moreI had high expectations for this book after reading "How to Measure Anything", and unfortunately none of them were met. My very short review would state: were it not for those high expectations, I would have stopped reading the book about 1/3 of the way in, but based on past performance, I stuck it through to the end. That was a mistake.
The defects in Hubbard's second book are many. First and foremost, it is simply not pleasant to read. While "How to Measure" adopted a posture of helpful tutorial, "Failure" attempts to rehash most of the same material, albeit from a posture of criticizing almost every risk analysis method Hubbard has not personally worked on. The tone is shrill, smug, and "low emotional intelligence quotient". In the book we are treated to several "I won't name names but you know who you are" diatribes, a personal critique of author Nicholas Taleb for being too abrasive in delivery (which he is ... but Hubbard delivers this assessment with apparently no hint of irony), and ever more stories of how Hubbard publicly shames clients during working meetings into admitting they do not know as much as he does. If that is one's corporate approach towards change management, it would seem Hubbard is your man. Ironically, all of these things suggest a sensibility towards the actual "people systems" of not just management, but implementation, which is completely lacking - and thus undermines Hubbard's credibility as an expert on anything other than analytic techniques. This may be an unfair personal assessment, but Hubbard does little in the book to communicate even rudimentary management sensibilities, and the burden of proof - especially when exploring a topic such as this - should be his.
Hubbard spends an inordinate portion of the book repeatedly - redundantly - making the same self-evident point that low-fidelity risk analysis methods such as scoring approaches are, well, low-fidelity, and subject to bias. This is tautological. Even for those consumers of the methods who haven't thought hard about the issue, the point can be made in five pages, and does not need 150. (Note that it is at least that long before solutions begin to be offered). Even worse, Hubbard's primary critique other than offending "first principles" sensibilities is that these techniques have not been proven to actually have measurable impacts on performance. This might be an interesting line of inquiry had Hubbard actually done any new research on the subject, or joined with management consultants who had. Or, more importantly, had demonstrated the benefits of using the more rigorous, probabilistic risk assessment techniques which he advocates. He does not. (He alludes to this in literally the closing chapters of the book, but never actually tackles the challenge of performance-based assessment. Simple techniques are bad because they are not as rigorous or unbiased as the techniques he would advocate - therefore they must (or perhaps may?) do more harm than good. Difficult to say, as this issue is delivered rhetorically rather than rigorously.
The biggest failure of "The Failure of Risk Management" is that it mostly declines to tackle actual management. As Hubbard himself seems to realize and admit very late in the book, he has written a text about risk analysis, not risk management. Ultimately, the content - even if it were not largely a rehash of the material from "How to Measure" - is much, much, much thinner than the title, and the title could have been a very interesting exploration of modern (or not so modern) management techniques. A further challenge is that from Hubbard's anecdotes, it appears he views even risk management (read: analysis) as something done solely for the purpose of decision support for senior executives. No mention is made of risk management as a tool for allowing not just C-suite executives, but project managers but the employees who actually have to manage and mitigate risks. This elision allows Hubbard to even more stridently dismiss all low-fidelity techniques out of hand. (Make no mistake - scoring approaches and their efficacy do need hard scrutiny. Unfortunately, Hubbard does not provide it, he simply shouts for others to perform it.)
In summary - if you have read "How to Measure Anything", you have read 90% of what Hubbard has to say, and probably enjoyed reading it more than you will by engaging in this book. If you have an agenda to promote probabilistic risk management within your organization, to the detriment of other approaches, this book will provide you ample rhetoric, as well as theory, but not actual evidence, or ROI documentation, and very little in the way of tangible implementation tools or techniques to go forward. It is an opportunity missed.(less)
Readers will find little new in "The Man Who Ran the Moon", although its focus on an often-overlooked but central figure in the Apollo program - NASA...moreReaders will find little new in "The Man Who Ran the Moon", although its focus on an often-overlooked but central figure in the Apollo program - NASA Administrator James Webb - is a welcome supplement to the popular histories of the era. Webb's views on the organization and management of the newborn agency are almost as interesting as his political dealings through the 1960s. The complex interplay between aerospace contractors and the Federal government is also given more exposure than conventional in popular texts.
A quick and easy read, "The Man Who Ran the Moon" is a worthwhile diversion for anyone interested in the history of NASA as an organization or the Apollo program itself, as well as public administration in general and Cold War-era beliefs about technocracies and their role in society.(less)
Sagdeev's autobiography is a warm, enjoyable and surprising window into the history of Soviet science, and indirectly of the Soviet Union itself. View...moreSagdeev's autobiography is a warm, enjoyable and surprising window into the history of Soviet science, and indirectly of the Soviet Union itself. Viewing this history from the perspective of a scientist provides an accessibility to the material, and Sagdeev's dry humor keeps it alive.
Most interesting were the chapters on the Soviet (scientific) space program, whose "issues" are remarkably similar to those of the US civil space program, both past and present. Whether in the interplay between aerospace industry and national space policy (and programs), competition between human and robotic spaceflight, the role of civil space in international diplomacy, the crushing micromanagement of programs by bureaucracies at the top, the development of large programs before the identification of mission requirements, or the nepotistic promotion of technological "miracle cures" which lack technical credibility or community endorsement to senior officials, Sagdeev's Soviet civil space program will sound hauntingly familiar to those familiar with the U.S. program.
Sagdeev's balancing act as "forward and alternative thinker", yet not full blown Sakharov dissident, also provides a unique vantage into exactly how far the Soviet system could be challenged from within.
The only weakness of this book is that it draws to a somewhat hurried conclusion which disrupts an otherwise strong and fairly linear narrative through most decades of the 20th century. The final chapters cover interesting material but lose focus and flow, regrettable as they cover critical periods in the 1980s as the Soviet Union drew to a close.
Overall, I found this book to be a surprising and welcome "find" which should be of interest to for either scientifically or historically minded readers.(less)
Well researched, maybe not as well written. The story is told well and with depth, although there are some minor irritations such as overuse of not-so...moreWell researched, maybe not as well written. The story is told well and with depth, although there are some minor irritations such as overuse of not-so-subtle foreshadowing of the "crises" throughout the first half of the book. Burrough's book is not overly kind on the Russian or American astronaut corps, NASA's politicos (whether appointed or self-anointed), or either agency's version of MOD ... but nor is it likely unfair.
Overall, I'd say worth the read to catch up on an overlooked chapter in human space exploration.(less)
It took quite a while, but I finally finished This New Ocean. While not perfect, it was an enjoyable read. The book covers the period from the beginni...moreIt took quite a while, but I finally finished This New Ocean. While not perfect, it was an enjoyable read. The book covers the period from the beginning of rocketry through its date of publication (1999). Its major and significant strengths are that it includes a very good treatment of international efforts in space, not just U.S., and especially in the early years; and that it covers not just civil but defense and security space. These domains are not often found under one cover.
Structurally, This New Ocean spends about 1/3 "pre-Apollo", 1/3 covering the sixties, and 1/3 for everything thereafter. This is perhaps its greatest weakness: readers motivated enough to tackle a 600+ tome on the history of spaceflight have likely already read the Apollo-era story many times elsewhere; I found "the middle bit" the hardest to sustain interest through. Burrows redeems himself by giving an exceptionally enjoyable and thorough treatment of robotic scientific missions in the 70s and beyond, especially planetary.
As with many survey histories, TNO suffers a little by accelerating its pace and struggling to find coherent narratives around the decades leading up to its date of publication. Much of the 80s are spent discussing and criticizing SDI (no question where Burrows lands here); Challenger is covered but the subsequent evolution of EELVs is skimmed, and SEI, single stage to orbit / reusable launch vehicle initiatives barely mentioned ... the narrative switches almost exclusively to space station and robotic science for the nineties, capped by an excursion into the first wave of breathless / heady "commercial" space mania of the late nineties. All interesting, but gapped and a little disorganized, but then, so were the 90s as far as spaceflight was concerned.
Overall, I'd recommend this read, but ended up wishing Burrows had had the last 15 years under his belt to include as well. A good survey of spaceflight from the timeframe of about 1990-now has, I think, yet to be written.
Wow! This book is not only beautiful but really interesting. Far more than just a nostalgia coffee-table piece, the text is both interesting and thoug...moreWow! This book is not only beautiful but really interesting. Far more than just a nostalgia coffee-table piece, the text is both interesting and thought-provoking.
I found the best chapters / collections to be those on the human form, and on modern art influences. In these not only were the graphics themselves stunning, but the narrative added significant depth. I was a smidge less interested in the chapters that spent more time writing about technical details - the content seemed too deep for a non-aerospace reader, but "already known" for insiders.
A surprising side to this book was how many of the advertisements are focused on recruiting, reflecting the early space age ramp up. To this end the ad copy itself is often very interesting as well.
I gather the author is hard at work on another book. Can't wait!(less)