Two topics remain consistently popular on our little LT site… Agile Workplaces and the Luna MBA. Just as we encourage all our clients and friends to keep reading and learning so we do ourselves and so we present some new reccomended additions to the MBA… If you’ve finished the current list then consider this extra credit for your degree.
Adapt: Why Success Always Starts with Failure – Tim Hardford
A remarkable, if slightly repetitive set of stories showing us the unpredictable path to true innovation. He starts with the story of Palchinsky at the turn of the 20th century who may have just invented Agile approaches analysing the Russian ecconomy even before the ship building yards of the first world war; Of course he was exiled to Siberia for his efforts. He also explores our aversion to variation and experimentation – the tendency for governments and corporate bosses to love large and grandiose projects instead. As Hardford points out the proliferation of iPhone and Android apps has hidden the uncomfortable truth which is innovation is harder, slower and costlier than ever before. All the easy problems have already been solved. I’ll leave you with a quote from the book to inspire you to buy and read it.
‘Return on investment is simply not a useful way of thinking about new ideas and new technologies. It is impossible to estimate a percentage return on blue-sky research, and it is delusional even to try. Most new technologies fail completely. Most original ideas turnout either to be not original after all, or original for the very good reason that they are useless. And when a original idea does work, the returns can be too high to be sensibly measured.’
Dealers of Lightning: Xerox PARC and the Dawn of the Computer Age – Michael A Hiltzik
I recently wrote about one story from this book, but there is so much more there. It is quite hard to imagine a world without so many of the things invented at the PARC labs. So often we talk about wanting innovation in our organisation, but I think without really appreciating the investment, genius and insanity it really takes. Don’t even talk about building an innovation lab in your organisation until you’ve read and appreciated these stories. Personally my pick of this list – but I’m a nerd at heart.
The Essential Deming: Leadership Principles from the Father of Quality
Deming like Fredrick Taylor was obsessed with measurement and statistics, but also the more human side of leadership. He wrote hundreds of articles, gave speeches and wrote many books over his life – often repeating himself or retelling the same experiences different ways. This book brings together and rationalises a life time of work by probably the most significant thinker in our field to one book which is quite readable, though insulting if you run a transitional command and control system of work.
So Jeff Liker wrote about the 14 management principles from Toyota in the Toyota Way (a book we have previously recommended) – It is excellent, but to be honest hard to read and hard to digest at times. Then Nigel and I had the chance to read a TPS manual from the source – A beautiful and small book – Japanese on one page, english on the next. It distills the system down into a much simpler 4 themes – unfortunately money can’t buy you a copy of this once mythical book. John Shook has now written the Kaizen Express – a guide to understanding the TPS, which both bears a strong resemblance to the real TPS manual as well as providing a bit more context and explanation rather than being a reference manual for those already deeply immersed in the system day to day.
Managing to Learn: Using the A3 Management Process to Solve Problems, Gain Agreement, Mentor and Lead
John Shook backs it up with a double billing in this update. Imagine for a moment you didn’t want to or can’t actually embrace the fundamentals of Agile and Lean at a philosophical level for your project or organisation but still wanted things to be less awful, there are a bunch of techniques which can really help any group. Visual management, stand ups and retrospectives will help the most waterfall of projects. In the same boat using A3’s as your method of reporting or business case process rather than 400 slide powerpoint decks or heavy documents which nobody reads anyway is a great improvement for any organisation. Of course they have extra potency in an adaptive and learning culture. Great book, practical examples, even some nice folded up cheat sheets in the back… There is even an awesome cheat guide for the iPhone – but we will only tell you about that once you’ve read the book first.
How Brands Grow: What Marketers Don’t Know – Byron Sharp
Being scientists at heart we loved this book. Sharp questions the basic assumptions and wisdom which has been driving your marketing department’s strategy for decades, putting it under the lens of data and experimentation rather than following conventional best practice from text books, HBR articles and folk law. Assumptions like customer retention being cheaper than acquisition, our consumers being a distinct (and special) kind of person and mass marketing being dead all don’t hold up to scrutiny. I’m not sure yet how some of the lessons in the book apply to small companies or very niche markets; but if you are in business in any large segment then this book is a must read for everyone in marketing, product and strategy.
Forty Years of Teams: Tim Lister
Ok, ok – So it’s not a book – I tweeted a link to this video of Tim Lister (author of PeopleWare) and it’s really not one to miss. It’s wonderful, humbling and inspiring all at once.
As always our personal book WIP queues are too long, but please do keep telling us what you’re reading and what we need to read too.