I know that I don’t know everything, and I do enjoy reading. Some for pleasure, both fiction and non-fiction, but I also like to read books that can help me in my business. For me, these can be the stories of other CEO’s and their tricks of the trade, or they can be by more academics and researchers on trends and best practices. I have a pretty good bookshelf, but in case anyone has similar interests and wants to benefit from my library, here are 16 of my all-time favorites going back 30 years or so, in chronological order. Each one has impacted me in some way.
In Search of Excellence – Tom Peters and Bob Waterman, 1982
The first of its genre, and groundbreaking in its studies of best practices. A great distillation of these, with research behind them, into simple management concepts we all can get. For example, this is where “stick to your knitting” and “close to your customer” were popularized. Great lessons for today here.
World Class Manufacturing – Richard Schonberger, 1986.
The first book I read on the concepts of lean manufacturing, and it was very exciting to me as I was getting into manufacturing management. Waste elimination, cycle time reductions, combining operations, 5 S, set up reductions, etc. Good stuff, and he was an early lean pioneer. I gave this out to all our manufacturing management staff at the time.
Thriving on Chaos – Tom Peters, 1987.
I am not a huge Tom Peters fan today, as I just think he shouts too much. But at the time, this book encouraged me, and our management team, to experiment with new business models – skill-based pay, flattening org structures, self-managed teams, and more. Our senior management team had a “book club” monthly on the implications of Peters’ writings in this book, and it helped us be more innovative.
The Goal – Eliyahu Goldratt, 1992.
This is an all-time classic on the principles of lean, and it is told in a light, humorous, and engaging manner of a story. And you can’t help but absorb the basic tenets. An easy read, hard to put down. I still recall the lessons of “Herbie”!
Built to Last – Jim Collins and Jerry Porras, 1994.
Similar approach to In Search of Excellence, but with better and deeper insights. Think “Cult-Like Cultures” and “Big Hairy Audacious Goals”. This book was read by our entire management team, and engendered lots of fruitful discussions.
Competing for the Future – Gary Hamel and C.K. Prahalad, 1994.
The best strategy book I had ever read at the time, and it is still very relevant. These authors got me (and us) to think very hard about value propositions and what core competencies we needed to execute our strategy.
The Discipline of Market Leaders – Michael Treacy and Fred Wiersema, 1996.
This is about how to choose your customers, narrow your focus, and dominate your market. It applies very much today as it did in 1996. We used this in our Strategic Planning at the time to debate and refine our value proposition and business model, and I still refer to their concepts today.
The Lexus and the Olive Tree – Tom Friedman, 2000.
Though not strictly a business book, Friedman writes very effectively on deep subjects, and this clarion call on the impact of globalization is as good a book as I have read on the subject – and very thought-provoking.
Good to Great – Jim Collins, 2001.
Simply one of the best ever. Must read, very motivating.
Profit from the Core – Chris Zook, 2001.
A very influential strategy book on my thinking. Zook insists, from well-done research, that value and competitive advantage are best found in leveraging a well-defined core business. I spread this one around too at one of our strategy workshops.
Winning – Jack Welch, 2005.
I love Welch, and this is classic him – direct, candid, and inspiring. Our management team all read this, and it helped us with candor in communications, strategy formulation, people evaluation, and more. Great advice from one of the great CEO’s of all time.
Blue Ocean Strategy – Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne, 2005.
Along the line of Competing for the Future, a very good treatise on how to create new market space and create new rules. Includes a very good methodology for how to go about this. Again inspired me to think out of the box.
Managing for the Long Run – Danny Miller and Isabelle Breton-Miller, 2005.
2005 was a good year! I just read this recently however, and it’s the best book I have seen on family businesses, strategy, values, and competitive advantage. Really helped me think through how to leverage what we have.
Made to Stick – Jim Heath and Dan Heath, 2007.
This may not have hit the best-seller list like some of these others, but it’s the best little book on the art of communication and persuasion that I have ever read. I learned how to tell a story that “sticks”.
The Game Changer – A.G. Lafley and Ram Charan, 2008.
Innovation is the name of the game today, and this is just a great book on the subject. Lafley was the CEO of Proctor and Gamble, one of the best modern innovators of today, and he and Charan share many specifics on how to embed innovation in culture and practices. Another book club selection for our management? Yep.
Steve Jobs – Walter Isaacson, 2011.
I have read lots of business biographies, but this was the most fascinating, and full of implications for all of us. Courage, vision, insistence on excellence, and more. Well written.
Cheers, and happy reading!
Tim Hussey, President & CEO