Date posted: 11/02/2021 5 min read

Prepare for a hard reset

Last year we stopped, but our 2021 reset doesn’t mean doing the same as we have always done. Use these CA Library resources to level up.

In Brief

  • In ‘Pursuing Excellence’ Brian Strobel looks at why you need to alter the way people think rather than how they act to become resilient.
  • Other titles examine how to confront threats to capitalism and how to chase repeat business.
  • All CA Library resources are free for CA ANZ members to borrow, excluding the costs of returning.

Reviews Paul Robinson

Capitalism at Risk: How business can lead

Capitalism at Risk: How business can leadBy Joseph L Bower, Herman B Leonard, Lynn S Paine (expanded edition), (Harvard Business Review Press), also an audiobook

First published during the fallout from the global financial crisis, Capitalism at Risk was the fruit of several years’ research by three Harvard Business School professors. They wanted to spark a conversation about how business could best confront potential threats to market capitalism.

Those threats included environmental degradation, a faltering financial system, inequality and populism, and pandemic disease. (It’s quite a list.) Inadequate responses to these threats would be a recipe for disaster.

The professors thought that putting these issues in focus would force business and government to cement market capitalism’s socio-political legitimacy and maintain global growth. But their plea largely fell on deaf ears. Fast-forward two decades and the situation is much worse.

Nationalism, populism and anti-globalism are on the rise, as are superpower trade tensions. Climate change is here and COVID-19 is putting health systems and economies under pressure. There’s also a yawning chasm between the haves and have-nots.

This expanded edition reviews recent developments and reiterates an even more urgent plea for business to step in, as governments alone cannot cope with the crisis. The private sector has a chance to drive positive change if business leaders use their skills to make a difference, argue the authors.

The evidence is overwhelming, the solution a no-brainer. If left unaddressed, these issues have the power to cause capitalism’s erosion and collapse from within or expose the system to external overthrow. We have been warned. Again.

Pursuing Excellence: A values-based, systems approach to help companies become more resilient

Pursuing Excellence: A values-based, systems approach to help companies become more resilient

By Brian Strobel (Routledge)

Last year was a rough one. Many businesses and enterprises went to the wall in the face of the double-tap shock delivered by the pandemic and economic crisis. One lesson that emerged is that companies must step up and establish a clear purpose, a strong set of core values and a plan to turn strategy into action. Unless they become more efficient and resilient, more enterprises will perish.

But leadership expert and former US Marine Corps officer Brian Strobel believes many of these transformation missions are doomed to fail because they’re focusing on the wrong objective. To achieve sustained improvement, he says, you must alter the way people think rather than how they act.

He asserts that over the past three decades, legacy hierarchical methods have over-emphasised a one-size-fits-all approach. Experiments with methods such as Six Sigma and Lean management have not moved performance beyond “average” and have themselves become learned behaviour.

Strobel says these rigid “top-down” habits must be “unlearned” and, instead, you should frame problems through a lens of “operational excellence”.

In Pursuing Excellence he delivers a user’s manual for organisational transformation. He uses best practice garnered from his 30 years of leading people in operational environments and emphasises values-based leadership, strategic and systems thinking and continuous improvement.

If stand-up scrums, passion projects and Six Sigma belts have failed to shift things at your organisation, Strobel’s approach could be worth a look.

Never Say Sell: How the world’s best consulting and professional services firms expand client relationships

Never Say Sell: How the world’s best consulting and professional services firms expand client relationshipsBy Tom McMakin and Jacob Parks (Wiley)

This business development guide is right on the money for accountants, whether you’re a sole practitioner or part of a team expanding key accounts.

Never Say Sell is a useful tool for anyone chasing repeat business. It brings together insights from influential “rainmakers” – the rock star service providers at firms such as EY, IBM and KPMG – on how they drive revenue from existing relationships.

In professional services firms, 80-90% of year-on-year revenue growth comes from extra work with existing clients. But in today’s competitive market, doing a good job for an existing client isn’t enough to guarantee they’ll use you again.

The secret, according to Tom McMakin and Jacob Parks, is to do enough to scale those individual engagements into lucrative long-term business relationships.

This book explores techniques and methods that leading professional service providers use to add value, cross-sell and keep the money flowing in. A useful read.

Also recommended

Time Smart: How to reclaim your time and live a happier life

Time Smart: How to reclaim your time and live a happier lifeBy Ashley Whillans (Harvard Business Review Press)

Time-poor people experience less joy and are less healthy and productive. Time Smart offers a playbook for taking back the time you lose to mindless tasks and unfulfilling chores and presents strategies to help shift to time-smart living and subsequent happiness.

Athena Rising: How and why men should mentor women

Athena Rising: How and why men should mentor womenBy W Brad Johnson and David G Smith (Harvard Business Review Press)

Psychology professor Brad Johnson and sociologist David Smith offer a straightforward manual for men to become quality mentors to women. It can help work cultures become more effective and egalitarian and retain top talent.

The Robotic Process Automation Handbook: A guide to implementing RPA systems

The Robotic Process Automation Handbook: A guide to implementing RPA systemsBy Tom Taulli (Apress)

How do businesses leverage robotic process automation (RPA) effectively to automate repetitive and rules-based processes? This ebook presents best practices and case studies to identify the core concepts of RPA and illustrates the substantial return on investment it can create.


Power Your Profits

By Susie Carder (Atria Books), audiobook

Profitability coach Susie Carder reveals new ways to run daily operations, manage business finances, account for sales and employ marketing systems that lead to predictable business growth.

Fix This Next: Make the vital change that will level up your business

By Mike Michalowicz (Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group), audiobook

Business writer Mike Michalowicz maintains the biggest problem entrepreneurs have is that they don’t know what their problem is. Fix This Next offers a simple system to move a business forward by identifying a hierarchy of needs and pinpointing exactly where to direct attention.


Excel Tips Weekly

(LinkedIn Learning) Run time: 3-10 minutes

Excited about Excel? This weekly tips-based course reveals new insights to make your job on the spreadsheet that much easier. Access to LinkedIn Learning is free with your CA ANZ membership.

Available from the CA Library

All resources featured are available for members to download from the library catalogue. Access to electronic resources – ebooks, audiobooks and online articles – and the library’s research service is free to members.

The CA Library also offers tools, templates and resources tailored to both public practitioners and members in the corporate sector.

Members can also use the CA Library to access EBSCO, an online journal database that includes accounting, business and management journals such as Harvard Business Review and Strategic Finance, and newspapers such as The Australian Financial Review.


Need help finding the right resources?

Email: [email protected]

Audiobooks at the CA Library: Check out the new CA Library audiobook offerings at

Read more:

Reset Resources

Resources you need to readjust, rebuild and reembark on the road to economic recovery.

Find out more

CA ANZ’s 2021 Policy Priorities

CA ANZ has updated its policy priorities for advocacy with input from our members to guide our approach for the year ahead

Read more