Evan's book reviews

Some great business agility books

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.

Reinventing Organisations by Frederik Laloux


This is the book I wish I had written. If you’re looking for some great case studies and a very seductive description of the future of agile organisations - look no further. It’s a comprehensive examination of fluid & agile organisational structures intertwined with case studies of organisations that have adopted them. If you read this book, you’ll start to think of organisations as organic ecosystems rather than machines. I particularly like the elegance of the organisation classification model, though Laloux acknowledges the complexity and that organisations may exist within multiple classifications at the same time.

It’s not perfect by any means - it doesn’t really delve into some of the structural problems that some of these organisational models face and there’s an overly spiritual language for my liking, but these are minor quibbles.

Wirearchy by The Wirearchy Community


If you’re interested in the formation of social networks (either organic or structural) within organisations, this is a great book. I particularly found the chapter showing the step-by-step visualisation of a traditional heirachy to a network organisation - http://wirearchy.com/wirearchy-the-ebook/

Essence of Tameflow by Steve Tendon


This booklet is a novel examination of the necessary business structures and engagement model for the modern enterprise. TameFlow is a very simple explanation (although using rather flowery language) of aligning individuals to common goals across 4 flows (operational, financial, informational and psychological). What’s missing from the book is the extraordinary evidence to back up some of the extraordinary claims case studies and more depth on how to align the flows would be helpful for the introductory reader.

Principles of Scientific Management by Frederick Winslow Taylor


In 1911, Frederick Winslow Taylor published the “Principles of Scientific Management” which outlined ways in which worker productivity could be increased. By studying labour intensive, repetitive, activities in detail, for example loading iron from steel mills into a rail car, each individual action could be simplified - improving productivity and reducing error. Even fatigue was an attribute to be improved (by recommending rest breaks for labourers to recover) in order to improve productivity. Compared to previous ways of working, Scientific Management required a higher manager to worker ratio - and, by today’s standards would be considered micro-management. Worth reading if you’re a student of history, but not really otherwise.

An essay upon projects by Daniel Defoe


In 1697, Daniel Defoe (of Robinson Crusoe fame) wrote a series of essays on the topic of projects. This is a truly fascinating read, and provides great insights into how these grand projects (be they nation-building or war machines) were funded. Defoe was highly critical of the “projectors” - what we would call investors - but recognised that many projects had left a positive legacy on the world.

-Evan, Singapore

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