Thursday, March 17, 2011

12 Management Books That Changed How I think

Today I had an interesting discussion about difference between Leadership and Management.
So far the best way to describe it is : Managers do things right way and Leaders do the right things.
Management is relatively easy to define it is set of skills and principles that a person exhibits. In theory leadership is also a set of skills but it is hard to define and there is a continuum from management to leadership. However it is hard to precisely tell when management ended and leadership started.
For now all I can say is that "I know it when I see it".
Subject of management and leadership is confusing because it has three distinct and but related components

  • hard skills 
  • soft skills  
  • envisioning skills.

Like many others I have my theories which I will be blogging about from time to time.
To me it is pretty simple - If I am right, people will tell me which should feel good. But more importantly
people will tell me when I am wrong! and that is far more valuable!!

I am a avid reader and for last 20+ years I have been reading books on subjects related to management for one reason or other. I never aspired to be a great manager or anything like that but somehow I always extremely interested in three subjects :  Economic, Philosophy and Management !
Below are the 12 management books that changed the way I think you go... in no particular order...

12 management books from my personal library that changed how I think.
1.   First, Break All the Rules: What the World's Greatest Managers Do DifferentlyFirst, Break All the Rules: What the World's Greatest Managers Do Differently
Theme: The author introduces the concept of 12 central questions and 4 keys to handle them. The keys are Selecting for talent,define right outcomes,focus on strengths and finding the right fit.
First Encountered: 2001
Why I like it: In simplest terms it presents the issues in terms questions to which I as manager must find the answer in the framework of four keys.Instead of nebulous concepts it gives me blueprint for brainstorming. I find a lot of similarity between behavioral interviewing and the method author suggests.
How it changed my thinking:  Before this book I was clueless, I had read books about competency matrix but could never put them into the context of how to "actualize" that knowledge. 

2. Successful Manager's HandbookSuccessful Manager's Handbook

Theme: The book sees management as set of skills along multiple dimensions like administrative skills, communication skills, interpersonal skills, motivational skills and organizational knowledge etc. 
First Encountered: 2001 
Why I like it: Coupled with models like situational leadership and "Beginner-Proficient-Expert scale", the skills competence model is actually a great way to assess and develop skills. 
How it changed my thinking: Although people are more than sum of their parts, it is extremely helpful to have tool in hand that helps us understand various dimensions of management skills.   
Other related books I liked: Successful Executive's Handbook

Theme: This is an excellent book that explains barriers to communication, active listening skills. It also teaches assertive and conflict resolution skills
First Encountered: 2001
How it changed my thinking: For a techie guy like me bubbling with enthusiasm for technology and propensity to be a straight talker I do sometimes feel like I sometime talk more than listen. A book that every techie should read at least once because at the end of the day we do have to live with people. 
Many years earlier I had read book on body language and another one on emotional intelligence. I know this subject is important but frankly I am so involved in conversation when I talk I forget most of the stuff  or at least not consciously aware of any of it. 


Theme: The book catalogs 30 profit patterns and strategic moves that help follow migrating value. It is a great book for anyone interested in understanding strategic landscape.
First Encountered: 2000
How it changed my thinking: I was impressed with Design patterns book and knew about various business models out of hunch I searched for "profit patterns" and voila stumbled upon the greatest concept. After this book I read Value Migration: How to Think Several Moves Ahead of the Competition. I have deeper appreciation important competitive forces and the patterns in strategic landscape. Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make Competition Irrelevant seems to be the continuum of this concept. I also like Hypercompetition because it's new 7-s really are relevant in a hyper competitive area like Software.

Theme: This is a classic that is still true. It talks about how to compete in fast changing world. 
First Encountered: 2002
How it changed my thinking: To me it is the competency model for the organization managing various aspects of its existence. Couple it with Capability Maturity Model and you have a very powerful tool to direct you.

Theme: Very detailed introduction to project management. Little encyclopedic. 
First Encountered: 1999
How it changed my thinking:  It has to be the most important book I read for a long time. Very systematic approach touches every aspect of the project management. Some of the key concepts were matrix organization,  stake holder involvement and project risk management. Now little outdated but changed the way I saw things.  

Theme: Analysis of 18 visionary companies and understanding inherent cultural DNA that allowed them to succeed and last.
First Encountered: 2004
How it changed my thinking: After In search of excellence and thriving on chaos this is the latest book based on how company should think from inside out. It validated my conviction that it is the companies core competence and quintessential "unique" culture that makes company great.

Theme: This is a hardcore book on managing company finances.
First Encountered: 2004
How it changed my thinking:  Financial literacy is an absolute must for successful manager. It changed the way I talk about process, product and business because it forms an essential part of every economic decision. 

(Disclaimer - I have lost the copy of this book. And title sounds right but not sure if it is the same book)
Theme: Uses HDBI to describe four quadrants of cognitive thinking viz. analytical  thinking, procedural thinking, interpersonal thinking and intuitive thinking. The key was understanding how managing technical people is fundamentally a different beast. 
First Encountered: 1997
How it changed my thinking: First management book that I read in college which specifically talks about understanding technical people and their unique way of thinking. Obviously Software Engineering: A Practitioner's Approach coupled with this book was my idea of software engineering.

Theme: Various personality types are analyzed across 4 axes giving four temperaments. 
First Encountered: 2002
How it changed my thinking: I hope I am better able to set aside my prejudices and better understand and complement other people's talent.

Theme: Very systematic development of explaining effectiveness through 7 habits and universal principles. 
First Encountered: 1999
How it changed my thinking: The most lasting impact was the four quadrants of time management and idea of 30 methods of positive influence. I also liked his Principle-Centered Leadership.

Theme: This is a first book on negotiation. With the help of principles like separating people from the problem, focusing on interest rather than positions and insistence on objectivity it teaches to create mutually acceptable options and if not then the batna for yourself.
First Encountered: 2002
How it changed my thinking: In my mind the negotiation always had a negative connotation and conflict. If you approach problem with genuine and authentic intention to find mutually beneficial agreement then this book is perfect.  

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