Our Top 5 General Management picks
The best way to understand the dramatic transformation of unknown books into bestsellers, or the rise of teenage smoking, or the phenomena of word of mouth or any number of the other mysterious changes that mark everyday life,” writes Malcolm Gladwell, “is to think of them as epidemics. Ideas and products and messages and behaviors spread just like viruses do.” Although anyone familiar with the theory of memetics will recognize this concept, Gladwell’s The Tipping Point has quite a few interesting twists on the subject.
For example, Paul Revere was able to galvanize the forces of resistance so effectively in part because he was what Gladwell calls a “Connector”: he knew just about everybody, particularly the revolutionary leaders in each of the towns that he rode through. But Revere “wasn’t just the man with the biggest Rolodex in colonial Boston,” he was also a “Maven” who gathered extensive information about the British. He knew what was going on and he knew exactly whom to tell. The phenomenon continues to this day–think of how often you’ve received information in an e-mail message that had been forwarded at least half a dozen times before reaching you.
Gladwell develops these and other concepts (such as the “stickiness” of ideas or the effect of population size on information dispersal) through simple, clear explanations and entertainingly illustrative anecdotes, such as comparing the pedagogical methods of Sesame Street and Blue’s Clues, or explaining why it would be even easier to play Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon with the actor Rod Steiger. Although some readers may find the transitional passages between chapters hold their hands a little too tightly, and Gladwell’s closing invocation of the possibilities of social engineering sketchy, even chilling, The Tipping Point is one of the most effective books on science for a general audience in ages. It seems inevitable that “tipping point,” like “future shock” or “chaos theory,” will soon become one of those ideas that everybody knows–or at least knows by name.
Five years ago, Jim Collins asked the question, “Can a good company become a great company and if so, how?” In Good to Great Collins, the author of Built to Last, concludes that it is possible, but finds there are no silver bullets. Collins and his team of researchers began their quest by sorting through a list of 1,435 companies, looking for those that made substantial improvements in their performance over time. They finally settled on 11–including Fannie Mae, Gillette, Walgreens, and Wells Fargo–and discovered common traits that challenged many of the conventional notions of corporate success. Making the transition from good to great doesn’t require a high-profile CEO, the latest technology, innovative change management, or even a fine-tuned business strategy. At the heart of those rare and truly great companies was a corporate culture that rigorously found and promoted disciplined people to think and act in a disciplined manner. Peppered with dozens of stories and examples from the great and not so great, the book offers a well-reasoned road map to excellence that any organization would do well to consider. Like Built to Last, Good to Great is one of those books that managers and CEOs will be reading and rereading for years to come.
Winning in business today is not about being number one–it’s about who “gets to the future first,” write management consultants Gary Hamel and C.K. Prahalad. In Competing for the Future, they urge companies to create their own futures, envision new markets, and reinvent themselves.
Hamel and Prahalad caution that complacent managers who get too comfortable in doing things the way they’ve always done will see their companies fall behind. For instance, the authors consider the battle between IBM and Apple in the 1970s. Entrenched as the leading mainframe-computer maker, IBM failed to see the potential market for personal computers. That left the door wide open for Apple, which envisioned a computer for every man, woman, and child. The authors write, “At worst, laggards follow the path of greatest familiarity. Challengers, on the other hand, follow the path of greatest opportunity, wherever it leads.” They argue that business leaders need to be more than “maintenance engineers,” worrying only about budget cutting, streamlining, re-engineering, and other old tactics. Definitely not for dilettantes, Competing for the Future is for managers who are serious getting their companies in front.
Economics is not widely considered to be one of the sexier sciences. The annual Nobel Prize winner in that field never receives as much publicity as his or her compatriots in peace, literature, or physics. But if such slights are based on the notion that economics is dull, or that economists are concerned only with finance itself, Steven D. Levitt will change some minds. In Freakonomics (written with Stephen J. Dubner), Levitt argues that many apparent mysteries of everyday life don’t need to be so mysterious: they could be illuminated and made even more fascinating by asking the right questions and drawing connections. For example, Levitt traces the drop in violent crime rates to a drop in violent criminals and, digging further, to the Roe v. Wade decision that preempted the existence of some people who would be born to poverty and hardship. Elsewhere, by analyzing data gathered from inner-city Chicago drug-dealing gangs, Levitt outlines a corporate structure much like McDonald’s, where the top bosses make great money while scores of underlings make something below minimum wage. And in a section that may alarm or relieve worried parents, Levitt argues that parenting methods don’t really matter much and that a backyard swimming pool is much more dangerous than a gun. These enlightening chapters are separated by effusive passages from Dubner’s 2003 profile of Levitt in The New York Times Magazine, which led to the book being written. In a book filled with bold logic, such back-patting veers Freakonomics, however briefly, away from what Levitt actually has to say. Although maybe there’s a good economic reason for that too, and we’re just not getting it yet.
Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman expose the fallacies of standard management thinking in First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently. In seven chapters, the two consultants for the Gallup Organization debunk some dearly held notions about management, such as “treat people as you like to be treated”; “people are capable of almost anything”; and “a manager’s role is diminishing in today’s economy.” “Great managers are revolutionaries,” the authors write. “This book will take you inside the minds of these managers to explain why they have toppled conventional wisdom and reveal the new truths they have forged in its place.”
The authors have culled their observations from more than 80,000 interviews conducted by Gallup during the past 25 years. Quoting leaders such as basketball coach Phil Jackson, Buckingham and Coffman outline “four keys” to becoming an excellent manager: Finding the right fit for employees, focusing on strengths of employees, defining the right results, and selecting staff for talent–not just knowledge and skills. First, Break All the Rules offers specific techniques for helping people perform better on the job. For instance, the authors show ways to structure a trial period for a new worker and how to create a pay plan that rewards people for their expertise instead of how fast they climb the company ladder. “The point is to focus people toward performance,” they write. “The manager is, and should be, totally responsible for this.” Written in plain English and well organized, this book tells you exactly how to improve as a supervisor. —Dan Ring
Our Top 5 Learning and HR picks
Delivering Results collects some of the best articles from the Harvard Business Review and creates a resource that addresses the need for HR to re-invent itself as a strategic player capable of generating organizational capabilities. With an introduction from Dave Ulrich, author of the bestselling Human Resource Champions, this collection examines the new skills, roles, and purpose that HR must cultivate if it is to add value. The goal of this timely Harvard Business Review book is to define a new era in management, one in which HR is no longer considered a bureaucratic department devoted to staffing, policy, and compensation, but is looked to as a partner in shaping and directing strategic outcomes.
The contributions in provide an enlightening look at issues such as change, strategic unity, innovation, and intellectual capital, revealing how HR must take a leadership role in contributing to these initiatives. The articles are organized around four categories-Delivering Core Capabilities, Creating Strategic Clarity, Making Change Happen, and Creating Intellectual Capital-to help HR professionals answer questions such as: * How do we fight and win the war for talent? * How do we create value? * How do we profitably grow our business? * How do we facilitate both individual and organizational learning? For the work of HR to directly contribute to employee, customer, and shareholder value, it must guide the development of organizational capabilities that turn strategy into action. Delivering Results reveals the power of HR strategies to influence not just individual, but company performance, offering actionable strategies that yield results from the factory line to the boardroom.
(21 People Management Practices Your Company Must Implement (Or Avoid) to Maximize Shareholder Value)
Global human resources consulting firm Watson Wyatt has conducted a large body of research on 25 human capital management practices showing, for the first time, how these practices can raise or lower the stock price of a company and by how much. This research, cited in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and Forbes, is the foundation of the Human Capital Edge, and brings a new level of financial measurement-based precision to the too-often fuzzy world of management books.
You’ll find everything you need to know about training evaluation, summed up into manageable morsels. Each issue in this collection focuses on a specific element involved with training evaluation, allowing you to build your skill level from a basic understanding of evaluation to an exact expectation. Starting with the fundamentals, you’ll make your way through all the levels of evaluation, including return on investment, how to collect data, and conduct testing to achieve those all important learning results.
This one-stop reference source covers – Essentials for Evaluation – Level 1 Evaluation: Reaction and Planned Action – Level 2 Evaluation: Learning – Level 3 Evaluation: Application – Level 4 Evaluation: Business Results – Level 5 Evaluation: Return-on-Investment – Evaluating Technical Training: A Functional Approach – How to collect Data – Testing for Learning Outcomes – Surveys from Start to Finish
This much acclaimed text has been fully updated to incorporate the latest advances in the field. As leading authorities on adult education and training, Elwood Holton and Dick Swanson have revised this edition building on the work of the late Malcolm Knolwes.
Keeping to the practical format of the last edition, this book is divided into three parts. The first part contains the classic chapters that describe the roots and principles of andragogy, including a new chapter, which presents Knowles program planning model. The second part focuses on the advancements in adult learning with each chapter fully revised updated, incorporating a major expansion of Androgogy in Practice. The last part of the book will contain an updated selection of topical readings that advance the theory and will include the HRD style inventory developed by Dr. Knowles.
This new edition is essential reading for adult learning practitioners and students and HRD professionals. It provides a theoretical framework for understanding the adult learning issues both in the teaching and workplace environments.. It incorporates Knowles’ classic theories on adult learning alongside the latest advances in the field. Essential reading for a wide audience of practitioners and students in the field of adult learning and human resource development.
The “Kirkpatrick Model” for evaluating training programs is the most widely used approach in the corporate, government, and academic worlds. First developed in 1959, it focuses on four key areas: reaction, learning, behavior, and results. Evaluating Training Programs provides a comprehensive guide to Kirkpatrick’s four-level model, along with detailed case studies that show how the approach is used successfully in a wide range of programs and institutions. The third edition revises and updates existing material and includes new strategies for managing change effectively.