Time introduced its list this way: "There's never a shortage of new books about how to be more effective in business. Most of them are forgettable, but here are 25 that changed the way we think about management — from the iconic 'How to Win Friends and Influence People,' which was written in 1936, to groundbreaking tomes like 'Guerilla Marketing' and quick reads like the 'The One Minute Manager'."
In looking over the list, the team of MAHCC reviewers observed that none of these 25 books were published in the 1940s, 1950s or 1970s. It is easy to understand this dearth in outstanding business management authorship in the first two of those decades. In the 1940s America was totally invested in prosecuting World War II and during the 1950s, as a victorious world power and an economic, military and industrial behemoth, the focus had shifted from production of armament to the manufacturing of domestic products, which had been long delayed by wartime demands. Moreover, the rest of the of the industrialized world had been devastated by war. What remains a mystery, however, is why the decade of the 1970s did not produce at least a couple of books widely recognized as creating a paradigm shift or as helping us rethink how businesses in terms of quality and productivity was being, or should have been, managed.
The "golden age" appears to have been the period between 1980 and 1999 when 19 of the 25 (76%) "most influential books" were published. Among them was "Out of the Crisis" published by W. Edwards Deming in 1982. Deming (1900-1993) was an American statistician, professor, author, lecturer and consultant who, until age 82, was virtually unknown in corporate America despite the fact that he had revitalized post-World-War-II Japanese Industry. In fact, his first American client was the Ford Motor Company in 1982.
The authors of the 25 books who made this elite list have had a pervasive influence throughout the world. For example, Dr. Spencer Johnson, the only one with two books on this list, has had his work published in 47 languages and with combined sales of 46 million copies worldwide. Also, both books are the shortest at about 100 pages each.
There are many other outstanding business management books that did not make Time's list. But in our minds one thing is for sure—whether you are the owner of a small business, a middle-manager in a mid-sized company, or the CEO of a multinational company, these 25 books should comprise the core of your business library. Obviously, technological innovations (automation, robotics, wireless communications and social media), global trade, consumer expectations, government regulations, etc. will continue to create new opportunities and challenges. But one thing will remain true: Your business will grow as long as you are adaptable, consistent and focused on quality, productivity, customer service and, ultimately, on profits. These 25 books contain many lessons that, if truly learned, are more valuable than what you may be able to glean from expensive executive MBA programs.
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1. The Age of Unreason (1989), by Charles Handy
Handy's 1989 book made a powerful case for what might then have been called, without irony, outside-the-box business thinking. Handy, then a visiting professor at the London Business School, described dramatic social changes going on in everyday life and in the workplace. New technologies and the decrease of full-time positions, among other transformations, requires abandoning the established rules and experimenting with new ways of working with one another. Handy's book only grew in stature in the decades after its publication as the rise of the Internet, ubiquitous communication, increased outsourcing, and the explosion of social media proved his vision to be amazingly prescient. (By Megan Gibson, August 9, 2011)
2. Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies (1994), by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras
This landmark survey of 18 "visionary" companies attempts to suss out what made successful behemoths like Disney, 3M, and Sony stand out. Stanford business professor Jerry Porras and Good to Great author Jim Collins found that, contrary to popular belief, the companies that blow competitors out of the water aren't so much driven by sexy leaders or staunch focus. Instead, what they have in common is strong corporate culture. In other words, hire bright people and allow them to thrive. Seems like common sense, but in the late 90s the book raised eyebrows. (By Roya Wolverson, August 9, 2011)
3. Competing for the Future (1996), by Gary Hamel and C.K. Prahalad
Stating that their book "provides would-be revolutionaries with the tools and concepts they need to challenge the protectors of the past," Hamel and Prahalad argued for a much broader conception of business strategy — a redefinition that has since solidified into a received truth. They show that strategic planning must happen all the time, not just during discreet breaks from a company's regular business; that it must be emotional, meaningful, and purpose-driven, not just analytical; and that this impulse must be nurtured throughout an organization, not just among strategists and consultants. Among the key teachings is that executives need to actively nurture their company's "core competencies" to anticipate — and not merely adapt to — industry changes. (By Scott Medintz, August 9, 2011)
4. Competitive Strategy: Techniques for Analyzing Industries and Competitors (1980), by Michael E. Porter
For three decades, Michael Porter's Competitive Strategy has been the starting point for managers wanting to maximize profitability within a competitive marketplace. The Harvard Business School professor's five basic competitive forces, which condense and simplify the complexity of industry competition, are as relevant today as they were in 1980. With step-by-step tools to help managers select new industries to enter, forecast how industries evolve, and recognize "market signals" from competitors, Porter breaks down the three generic competitive factors — cost, differentiation and focus — that are vital for helping managers conduct industry and competitor analysis. (By Josh Sanburn, August 9, 2011)
5. Emotional Intelligence (1995), by Daniel Goleman
What factors are at play, asks the author, "when people of high IQ flounder and those of modest IQ do surprisingly well?" Those qualities, such as self-control, persistence and motivation, are known as emotional intelligence or EQ. Without them, writes Goleman, careers are often unnecessarily dashed on the rocks. There is hope, though: "Temperament is not destiny," he writes. The author explains how a higher EQ can be developed through psychological education. The compelling ideas the author introduces have since become a means of assessing and nurturing an employee's behavior and management skills. (By Andrea Sachs, August 9, 2011)
6. The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Business Don't Work and What to Do about It(1985), by Michael E. Gerber
Gerber's small business management guide is often called an underground success, but its passionate following has grown far beyond the usual definition of a cult. The "E-Myth," or entrepreneurial myth, of the title refers to the common — and usually disastrous — assumption that a person who excels at the technical or operational work of a business will naturally succeed at running such a business. Gerber dispels the myth by showing that, in addition to being a technician, a successful business owner must be an effective manager (who excels at systematizing the company's profitable work) and entrepreneur (who has a vision for the company's future). (By Scott Medintz, August 9, 2011)
7. The Essential Drucker (2001), by Peter Drucker
Over a career that spanned nearly 60 years before he died in 2005 at age 95, Peter Drucker single-handedly invented the field of management theory. For most of the last half of the 20th century, he was the superstar CEO's go-to guru, counseling everyone from Alfred Sloan to Andy Grove. And not in the fuzzy-headed, inspirational, bromide-spouting guru sense you see today. Drucker had no time for discussing who moved your cheese, and his insights were distinctive for being simultaneously crystalline yet deeply contrarian — and, frequently, a generation ahead of their time. Just one example: He was talking about the rise and importance of "knowledge workers" in the 1970s, when the phrase was a good two decades from common parlance. With 30 books to choose from, it's probably best to start with The Essential Drucker, a potent 26-piece collection selected by Drucker himself in 2001 as a comprehensive representation of his life's work. (By Jim Frederick, August 9, 2011)
8. The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization (1990), by Peter Senge
Many a management manual is built around case studies and data analysis. But the epiphany that grew into this book came to Peter Senge one morning while meditating. Senge, who founded the Center for Organizational Learning at MIT's Sloan School of Management, developed five essential disciplines of a true "learning organization," which is one that continually improves (and stays competitive) by helping its members learn. The first four disciplines focus on developing individual focus, building a shared vision, and communicating as a team. But the heart of the book is the Fifth Discipline, called "systems thinking," which involves analyzing the organization's complex system of relationships and removing obstacles to true learning. (By Nate Rawlings, August 9, 2011)