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25 best business books: 16-20

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All week we’ll take a look at the best business books ever published.

Today’s theme is “business strategy.”

I welcome your thoughts on my selections and if you feel like I left any deserving books off the list, please leave a comment below or send me an email at [email protected]

Five teams20. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable (Jossey-Bass; April 2002)

By Patrick Lencioni

Background: Why do some organizations fail to reach their potential? What are the roadblocks that hinder teams from being successful? Author Lencioni identifies five key reasons: Absence of trust, fear of conflict, lack of commitment, avoidance of accountability and inattention to results. Through his story, which is told in a parable format, Lencioni delivers a vocabulary that team leaders can adopt when talking with team members. In addition, he offers a clear model to implement this new communication strategy.

Takeaway: Lencioni shows how teams fail to function as a team and what an insightful leader can do to remove “individuals” and restore teamwork.

Quote:  “For all the attention that it has received over the years from scholars, coaches, teachers and the media, teamwork is as elusive as it has ever been within most organizations.”

Up next: Out of the Crisis

deming out of chaos19. Out of the Crisis  (Massachusetts Inst Technology (February 2, 1982)

By W. Edwards Deming

Background: There was a certain point in the business vernacular when you couldn’t have a conversation about the economic production without mentioning Total Quality Management. Somewhere in a landfill in Alabama is a paper I wrote on the topic. We’re probably all better off that it is reduced to mottled nothingness among the refuse. But TQM is another topic. Deming is credited with introducing quality measurement techniques to Japanese manufacturers in the 1960s and his book, Out of the Chaos, brought those methods to American companies.

Takeaway: By focusing on a cycle of continuous improvement in management and manufacturing cycles, Deming, created a blueprint of “quality management strategies” that would be adopted by companies over the next several decades.

Quote:  “Failure of management to plan for the future and to foresee problems has brought about waste of manpower, of materials, and of machine-time, all of which raise the manufacturer’s cost and price that the purchaser must pay.”

Up next: Built to Last

built to last18.  Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies (HarperBusiness; (November, 2004)

By Jim Collins and Jerry Porras

Background: “What’s special about ‘visionary’ companies–the Disneys, Wal-Marts, and Mercks, companies at the very top of their game that have demonstrated longevity and great brand image?” That is the thesis of this instant business classic, a premise where the authors compared 18 visionary companies versus a control group of average companies.

Takeaway: Business philosophy has many myths. Chief among those is the myth that visionary companies “start with a great product and are pushed into the future by charismatic leaders.” Based on their research, the authors say that having a master plan and flexibility are much more important to the best companies.

Quote:  “Some climbers do indeed die while trying to climb Mount Everest, but only those who fully try to climb Mount Everest (whatever the risk) do in fact ever reach the summit.”

Up next: The Fifth Discipline


fifth discipline17. The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization (Crown Business, 1990; revised edition, 2005)

By Peter Senge

Background: In Senge’s theory, the organizations that move forward are the “learning organizations.” In Senge’s world, the learning organizations are “ones in which new and expansive patterns of thinking are nurtured, collective aspiration is set free, and people are continually learning how to create results they truly desire.” He makes his thesis by studying companies such as BP, Intel and Ford and organizations like Oxfam and The World Bank.

Takeaway: To become a learning organization, Senge claims that five disciplines must be mastered at all levels of the organization: Personal mastery; Shared vision; Mental models; Team learning; and Systems thinking.

Quote:  “Organizations work the way they do because of how we work, how we think and interact; the changes required ahead are not only in our organizations but in ourselves as well.”

Up next: Blue Ocean Strategy

blue ocean16. Blue Ocean Strategy: How To Create Uncontested Market Space And Make The Competition Irrelevant (Harvard Business Review Press; February, 2005)

By Renee Mauborgne and W. Chan Kim

Background: In this groundbreaking work, Mauborgne and Kim went against just about every belief held sacred in business circles. Instead of bogging down in the highly competitive “red oceans,” those overcrowded with competitors, the authors argue that companies should look for “untapped market space” and the “opportunity for highly profitable growth.” They say that too many companies spend too much time focusing on new ways to “cut costs and grow revenue by taking away market share from the competition.”

Takeaway: When looking at business opportunities, focus on “value innovation that focuses on utility, price, and cost positions, to create and capture new demand and to focus on the big picture, not the numbers.” 

Quote:  “Red oceans will always matter and will always be a fact of business life. But with supply exceeding demand in more industries, competing for a share in contracting markets, while necessary, will not be sufficient to sustain high performance.”

If you’re looking for More best business books.


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