Have you ever thought about the types of ‘management books’ out there?
I wrote a post a bit back on three ‘depths of transformation’:
- ‘On the surface’;
- ‘Under the skin’; and
- ‘In the DNA’.
If you walked into the ‘management’ section of a large book shop, examined the selection on offer and then categorised them according to depth of transformation…
…I guess1 that you’d find books in something like the following 100:10:1 ratio:
100 ‘On the surface’ self-help style books filled with loads of methods and tools. The book shop shelves buckle under the weight of these – they are very easily written…by almost anyone! (I’m looking at half a dozen such books on my own shelf right now).
Many (most? …all?) ‘Lean Six Sigma’ books sit here.
10 ‘Under the skin’ books on principles. Much harder to write because they need a very sound basis from which to build…but they don’t really tackle the management system and, importantly, how (and how not) to intervene2.
‘Lean Thinking’ by Womack and Jones is, to me, a classic example.
‘The Goal’ by Goldratt probably sits about here too.
1 ‘In the DNA’ book on management’s thinking and behaviours. This is where the true value resides. These are the gems, where the management system is truly opened up for what it is.
Here’s a random list of (what I consider to be) some3 classic ‘In the DNA’ books4:
– Deming: ‘The New Economics’
– ‘Ackoff’s Best: His classic writings on management’
– Seddon: ‘Freedom from Command and Control’
– Rother: ‘Toyota Kata’; and
– Womack: ‘Gemba Walks’ – a retrospective look at the ‘Lean’ thing in a humble attempt to move from ‘Under the skin’ to ‘In the DNA’.
What ‘In the DNA’ books do you have on your shelf?
1. Guessing: I realise that I am falling foul of my own criticism – that of expressing an opinion, rather than dealing with facts…and I suppose that I could carry out the exercise in question…but, in this instance, I’m okay with a playful guess 🙂
2. How to intervene: Sure, these book ‘tell you what to do’…but that’s different to making successful interventions!
For the avoidance of doubt, I think that ‘Lean Thinking’ and ‘The Goal’ are both useful books…but (as with most ‘under the skin’ type books) they are so easily abused by management stuck in their ‘command and control’ comfort bubble, mapping what they read onto their current world views (rather than changing them).
3. In the DNA books: I’ve limited my list to a handful. Also, most of the authors I’ve chosen have written more than one book that I see as fitting into this category.
4. Peter Scholtes: I’d note that ‘The Leaders Handbook’ is an interesting mix of all three depths…but most definitely based within the DNA.