Many of us are looking forward to the holidays, or more specifically the week after Christmas, to catch up projects and perhaps do a little reading. The booksellers know this, and right about now they start to bombard us with suggestions. More often than not these "suggestions" are books that aren’t selling well, and they’re trying to clear out some inventory before the end of the year.
For the last couple years I’ve subscribed to Soundview’s Executive Books Summaries, which sends me a three page PDF and an audio MP3 summary of two or three "executive books" each month. I’ve found this is an effective way to weed out the 95% garbage from the 5% that have something meaningful, and the 3 pages is usually sufficient to explain what little meaningful information is in that remaining 5%. Very occasionally I will buy the full book. Soundview recently sent me a ballot to vote for the "Best Business Book of 2006"… and I was in a quandary as all six were rather useless in my view. But for kicks, here they are:
- The 360 Degree Leader by Maxwell
- Confidence by Kanter
- Dealing with Darwin by Moore
- The New American Workplace by O’Toole
- Satisfaction by Denove
- The Search by Battelle
- Silos, Politics and Turf Wars by Lencioni
- The Speed of Trust by Covey
It’s not that they are necessarily bad books. They simply regurgitate the obvious and don’t challenge you to think differently. Unless you have the management prowess of Bill Lumbergh in Office Space, great movie that is unfortunately all too real. If you haven’t seen it, pick up a copy to get a dose of reality after reading a Jack Welch (the turkey) book, or at least to see Jennifer Aniston in her first real role. Paraphrasing Bill in a post titled The Tao of Santa Claus,
To be a leader, a manager should master Accountability Leadership, Collaborative Leadership and Contagious Leadership. He should get his or her arms around the Tao of Leadership and learn how to Lead From the Front and know Leadership That Works. There is Zen Leadership, Spiritual, Ethical, Inspirational and Moral Leadership. There is a 5th Wave of Leadership to master, along with Thought Leadership, Facilitative Leadership, Systematic Leadership and, most important, I would imagine, Grown Up Leadership. 4 E’s, 5 Personalities, 6 Priorities, 7 Zones, 8 Keys, 9 Lessons, 10 Common Sense Lessons (apparently the 9 Lessons defy common sense), 21 Principles, 50 Basic Laws, 124 Actions and 180 Ways.
But there is one book I read a couple months ago that is a bit different. It challenges common beliefs and perceptions, including a couple that I was pretty convinced of. Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths and Total Nonsense: Profiting from Evidence-Based Management by Pfeffer and Sutton. In many respects it is very similar to this blog… it forces you to confront supposed great ideas with the facts that contradict their presumed success, and in the process they debunk many modern management practices.
Just a few of the myths that are debunked: financial incentives drive good performance, the first to market is more successful, forced ranking improves organizations by weeding out non-performers, layoffs cut costs, life and work should be separate, great leaders make great companies, change or die, strategy is destiny, mergers are a good idea… you get the picture. The authors then present nine principles for judging business ideas, which Kent Blumberg discusses on his blog.
We’ve often talked about many of those same myths from a lean perspective. Some of them are common sense, but the difference between this book and most of the others is that the data and case studies will probably surprise you, and perhaps make you look at your job just a little differently.