Evan's book reviews
Business agility edition
I read a lot - not all of it related to agile or business management, but enough. Below are some of the important books that have shaped my thinking (and writing). Not all of them a great (as you can see from my ranking), but they all contain some interesting ideas. This group of reviews will focus on those books that relate to business agility.
Out of the Crisis by W. Edwards Deming
Deming, and his book Out of the Crisis, is part of what has driven my passion for Agile Business Management. While this book is over 30 years old and predates the “Agile” movement, many of the concepts and recommendations that Deming makes align to the values & principles of the agile manifesto.
A call to action. Although written in the context of American manufacturing, Out of the Crisis was a call to action for companies to address systemic problems in the way that western management operated. Where the emphasis on short-term profits, lack of forward planning, use of performance evaluation, inconsistency of management and management by numbers reduced the capability of companies to adapt, innovate and remain successful in the long-term.
Do these seem familiar? 30 years on, and these “diseases”, as Deming called them, are still prevalent in many of the organisations I work with. To be successful, Deming says, managers must “learn how to change”, “innovate … products and services for the future” and “have an unshakable commitment to quality and productivity”. By treating an organisation as a system, sustainable business growth can be driven through the successful management of interactions between business functions, investment in innovation and strong staff engagement.
My final thoughts; this is a great book and has remained relevant throughout the last 3 decades. Sadly I believe it will remain relevant for decades to come. If you’re after an interesting read, I’d highly recommend it.
The New Economics for Industry, Government, Education by W. Edwards Deming
This should be required reading for any business leader.
While this book is about 30 years old, it is as relevant today as it was in the 80’s. Too many managers and business leaders do not correctly understand the impact of waste and how to manage it. Although written in the context of American manufacturing, this is a call to action for all companies to address systemic problems in the way that western management operates.
Although, make sure you read Out of the Crisis first.
The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement by Eliyahu M. Goldratt
The theory of constraints is such a simple idea that you wonder why it wasn’t codified earlier. Regardless, “The Goal” is a great read and by portraying the ideas in a story format is a wonderful change from the traditional textbook style. However, that is also my main criticism; in that it takes nearly 400 pages to describe, what is ultimately, a very simple idea. Still I’d definitely recommend that it should be on everyone’s bookshelf.
Bonus non-Agile Review: The Checklist Manifesto: How To Get Things Right by Atul Gawande
You may think that 200 pages on the history and value of the checklist would be boring. You’d be wrong. This is one of the most engrossing and interesting book on business practices that I’ve ever read. It’s even surprising at times. e.g. I had no idea that something as simple and obvious as a checklist was actually a fairly modern invention. Definitely read this one.
Bonus non-Agile Review: Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything by Steven D. Levitt
I know I’m late to this book, but I’m glad I read it. Elegant in its simplicity.