Seven amazing business books: Part 2

In my post yesterday, I started my personal list of seven amazing books that I’m betting you’ve probably never read. I offer the list, despite the Steve Jobs-ian claim that no one reads books anymore. With the recent release in February 2010 of Pew Research Center project’s findings, citing the 50% drop in blogging among teens and young adults in just three years, there is certainly evidence out there supporting Jobs’ position.

But, we forge ahead – in the spirit of “great ideas win out,” regardless of the medium – and present the next three in the list of seven. Remember, these are in the order of newer to older. Enjoy.

Managing at the Speed of Change, by Daryl Conner (Villard Books, 1994) – In 2008, I became a big fan of the model described in Influencer, by Kerry Patterson, Joe Grenny, and the VitalSmarts team (McGraw-Hill, 2007). It is the freshest work done in the broad field of change management that I’ve seen in quite some time.

But, until Influencer came along, my opinion is that Conner’s Speed of Change was one of the great, overlooked books on change management. I still ascribe to the resilience model that he promotes, valuing certain key attributes – positive, proactive, flexible, focused, and organized – as the ingredients that make for the ideal, resilient team member.

Corporate Culture and Performance, by John P. Kotter (The Free Press, 1992) – Through the ups and downs of business cycles since the days of President Jimmy Carter, I have found myself in a position of needing to persuade everyone from first-time CEOs to spreadsheet-obsessive CFOs, time and again, about the value of committing to targeted, meaningful culture-building programs in the company’s budget. If you have found yourself in the same position, look no further. This book is “Exhibit A” in the case of why spending on forming and reinforcing corporate culture pays big dividends.

I cite Page 11 (in my copy of the book): “Corporate culture can have a significant impact on a firm’s long-term economic performance. We found that firms with cultures that emphasized all the key managerial constituencies (customers, stockholders, and employees) and leadership from managers at all levels out performed firms that did not have those cultural traits by a huge margin.

Over an eleven-year period [NOTE: I added the bullet points, to make for easier reading]:

  • the former increased revenues by an average of 682 percent, versus 166 percent for the latter;
  • expanded their work forces by 282 percent, versus 36 percent;
  • grew their stock prices by 901 percent, versus 74 percent; and,
  • improved their net incomes by 756 percent, versus 1 percent!” [NOTE: I also added the exclamation point]

I’ll bet that I have faxed that paragraph, e-mailed those words, or shoved that page of the book in front of people at least once a year on average. And every time, even if the budget gets cut somewhat (although sometimes it goes up!), management’s commitment is renewed.

Capitalism and Socialism, A Theological Inquiry, edited by Michael Novak (American Enterprise Institute, 1979) – This book changed my life. In it are essays by American Enterprise Institute fellows like Irving Kristol, Seymour Martin Lipset, Peter Berger, Michael Novak, Muhammad Abdul-Rauf, Ben Wattenburg, and Penn Kemble. Essay titles range from “The Spiritual Roots of Capitalism and Socialism” to “The Islamic Doctrine of Economics and Contemporary Economic Thought.” Just read it. Whether you agree with it or not, the book deals with God and Mammon like none I’ve ever read.

Tomorrow, the last of my seven amazing business books. Let me hear your favorite unknowns!