It is no secret that life-long learning and gaining knowledge and skills is the most direct path to business success. So if you’re a leader looking for new information on management topics or perhaps need just some motivation for action, we have great book recommendations for you! Vasily Savin, a member of Workland and leader of the Talech team, shares his picks from the management and leadership section that will add to your skills!
The golden trio of management books
Every freshly minted manager is likely to be swamped by the amount of existing knowledge within management science. For this article, I have picked several books that formed my foundation as a manager.
Turn the Ship Around
When this book was published, it quickly became a huge hit and an instant bestseller. In the nutshell, this book is about how the author, then a submarine captain, was assigned to the objectively worst submarine in the Pacific fleet and turned it into a capable war machine and the best performing submarine in the fleet in just 2-3 years.
He achieved this huge feat by dramatically rethinking the traditional leadership model to a more empowering and responsible leader-leader one, where people are given both authority to perform and held responsible for their actions.
The core tenets of the book are establishing a crystal clear mission and purpose that his crew can rally behind, providing technical competence to his subordinates and training them to make decisions instead of waiting for him as a captain to provide all the answers.
When the team integrates all three aspects, there is nothing that can stop such a team from achieving greatness in anything they do.
I read this book at least 3-4 times. The first time I read it, it felt like just a fun story, but then with each following reading, I discovered details and practices that I can apply to my teams to set them on the path of excellence.
The Art of Action
It is almost a cliché to bash management and glamorize leadership. Hardly a day passes without at least one such article not being published on Linkedin.
Yet after reading this book, you will learn the three core pillars of leading effectively.
Leadership is about caring, guiding and training people under your command.
Management is about responsible husbandry of limited resources allocated to your unit or department.
The final pillar is mission command or strategic direction. A skill to formulate an overarching strategic goal for the organization that enables followers to make correct decisions on the ground every day.
High Output Management
This book was written by a long-time Intel CEO Andy Grove. He succinctly summarises in this book what are the duties and daily responsibilities of a successful manager. While not the original of Management by Objective (MBO) (This honor belongs to a prolific Peter Drucker), Andy provides practical advice that lays foundation for the modern practice of Objectives and Key Results (OKRs)
This is not as easy ready as the previous two books. Be prepared to read a chapter and then set it aside for a few days to fully digest its ideas.
Ideally this is a book that you want to read and discuss with other fellow managers to glean the nuggets of its wisdom.
Process Improvement books
The second instalment of great management books to read. In the first part, we focused on the foundational knowledge that is essential for managers. Today I will cover two other books that go deeper into how to implement continuous improvement in your organization and build a powerful unifying corporate culture.
Eliyahu Goldratt is one of the most influential thinkers in the manufacturing world, standing beside such giants as Henry Ford and Taiichi Ohno. His first business novel “The Goal” sold 7 million copies and was translated into 32 languages.
Through the story of struggling plant manager Alex, Goldratt teaches his system of continuous improvement and 5 focusing steps. This system is applicable to any business process, even when there is no budget or time for major equipment upgrades or process revamping.
The core tenet of the book is locating and optimizing the bottleneck of the system. According to the author, there can be only one bottleneck at a time. While somewhat counterintuitive, this concept is extremely powerful, as it allows the laser-like focus of managerial attention to the most pressing matter, instead of being scattered all over the place.
Great Boss, Dead Boss
Those of you fellow readers who worked for a large corporation are most probably familiar with the typical corporate culture exercise:
a) bring a lot of managers to a fancy off-site;
b) create a list of cliché hollow words and phrases that are then passed as corporate values;
c) order some swag and posters, if you are really lucky – get some cultural training to instill said values to rank and file employees;
d) no visible change in the behaviour of managers or employees.
This book offers something totally different. A business novel is written in a similar manner to “The Goal”. A wonderful story that takes you on a journey of building a new corporate culture based on our deep cultural instincts and traditions. A reader is shown how they can be harnessed for the benefit of the whole organization.
In this book, you will learn why so many big organizations are so vastly ineffective and what to do about it. Hint: it is because of ongoing intertribal (inter-departmental) warfare within.
Also, you will learn how to keep winning even when you reach the pinnacle of the competition and seems like there is no more mountain to climb.
You can also watch my Agile Tour talk based on this book here.