From SOS to WOW! by Margaret A. Johnson - Book Review by Teresa Jurgens-Kowal

27 Nov 2019 12:00 PM | Annmarie Uliano (Administrator)

A person posing for a picture Description automatically generated

From SOS to WOW!: Your Personal Coaching Adventure by Margaret A. Johnson, PE, MBA
SWOW Publishing (2016). 317 pages.
US$21.95 (soft cover). ISBN: 978-0-9981295-1-8

As engineers and engineering managers we are rewarded daily with challenging work.  We have the opportunity to influence people, communities, and economies through science and technology.  Our work changes lives by making products available to people and by improving processes to be more sustainable and environmentally friendly.

Yet we can get so caught up in our work that we fail to work on ourselves.  We can get stuck in a rut and before you know it, dreams have become hopes of the past.  Margaret Johnson’s book, From SOS to WOW,” helps engineers and engineering managers to take concrete steps to move from being stuck in the “Same Old Stuff” (SOS) to “Well on the Way” (WOW).

The subtitle of “From SOS to WOW is “Your Personal Coaching Adventure.  To really make a difference in your personal or professional life, you should dedicate time to completing the many exercises and thought experiments included in Margaret’s book.  The layout is especially clever, giving the reader space to write, journal, and consider plans to move from the current state to a promotion or other goal in life.

After an Introduction, Chapters 1 and 2 describe how managers can increase their self-awareness to recognize what might be holding them back from their next step.  Exercises in Chapters 1 and 2 are centered around a gap analysis to determine where you are today and where you want to be. Many of these tools have origins in strategy development for organizations seeking growth.

Chapters 3 and 4 discuss motivation and goal setting, both topics also having roots in innovation and strategic alignment.  In particular, Johnson discusses fear as a barrier to change. We can apply some of the tools from this section of the book beyond personal growth to help our engineering teams recognize when fear is holding them back from creative growth within organizational processes.

Chapters 6 through 10 offer a series of stories and exercises designed for action planning.  For example, Chapter 6 discusses the myth of multitasking and the benefits of focused work. We can increase efficiency and productivity by checking email and social media less frequently.  (See a related book review on Deep Work by Cal Newport.)

I especially enjoyed Chapter 7 on busting assumptions.  Margaret’s in-person keynote presentations bring home the point that our assumptions can limit our capabilities and creativity.  The chapter further provides exercises to investigate which assumptions hold back personal and professional growth.  

Finally, Chapters 11 and 12 teach that no journey of improvement ends.  As engineers and engineering managers, we know that quality is a result of continuous improvement.  We also know that setbacks and failures are part of the trouble-shooting process to improve operations.  We should expect the same as we continuously improve our personal and professional lives.

From SOS to WOW” is folksy and easy to read.  You can hear Margaret’s voice in your head as you skim the words on the pages.  Although the book is short, you don’t want to skimp on investing time and energy in completing the exercises in the chapters.  You should start the book with a specific challenge in mind from a work team or professional growth goal (e.g. I want a promotion) and be diligent to create an action plan.

About the Author

Teresa Jurgens-Kowal, PE, CPEM, PMP®, NPDP, is a passionate lifelong learner. She enjoys helping individuals and companies improve their innovation programs and loves scrapbooking. You can learn more about Teresa and her new Innovation MasterMind group by connecting on LinkedIn.

Proud Corporate Members of ASEM Include



Lawrence Livermore

National Lab


Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software