Recommended Reading – Winter 2014

Hello, winter!  Snowflakes are dancing on the air and covering the land in a wardrobe of white.  A touch of arctic air is pinching our noses and cheeks.  Time to get comfortable and pick up a good book. Here are some of the personal favourites we’ve selected from the various “best books in 2014” lists published recently on 800ceo read’s blog:

Drawing upon a six-year research project at the Stanford University Graduate School of Business, James C. Collins and Jerry I. Porras took eighteen truly exceptional and long-lasting companies and studied each in direct comparison to one of its top competitors. They examined the companies from their very beginnings to the present day — as start-ups, as mid-size companies, and as large corporations. Throughout, the authors asked: “What makes the truly exceptional companies different from the comparison companies and what were the common practices these enduringly great companies followed throughout their history?” Filled with hundreds of specific examples and organized into a coherent framework of practical concepts that can be applied by managers and entrepreneurs at all levels, Built to Last provides a master blueprint for building organizations that will prosper long into the 21st century and beyond.

Obviously, there are lots of things that matter now. But in a world of fractured certainties and battered trust, some things matter more than others. While the challenges facing organizations are limitless; leadership bandwidth isn’t. That’s why you have to be clear about what really matters now. What are the fundamental, make-or-break issues that will determine whether your organization thrives or dives in the years ahead? Hamel identifies five issues are that are paramount: values, innovation, adaptability, passion and ideology. In doing so he presents an essential agenda for leaders everywhere who are eager to…move from defense to offense, reverse the tide of commoditization, defeat bureaucracy, astonish their customers, foster extraordinary contribution, capture the moral high ground, outrun change, build a company that’s truly fit for the future. Concise and to the point, “What Matters Now” will inspire you to rethink your business, your company and how you lead.

A guide for protecting your wealth in an age of turbulent business cycles. In “Prosperity in the Age of Decline”, Brian and Alan Beaulieu offer an informed, meticulously-researched look at the future and the coming Great Depression.

Surprisingly, most companies fail not because demand is low or conditions are difficult, but simply because they don’t know how to manage, nurture, or even maintain their own growth and success. At each developmental stage, they become vulnerable to chaos, no matter how strong or expert their leaders. Most leaders feel a sense of isolation, assuming they have to know it all and end up making critical mistakes. Dando calls these critical mistakes the 12 Warning Signs of Success, and he helps leaders across industries identify, anticipate, and avoid them on the way from startup to Fortune 500. Maybe you’ve hired the wrong person, have too many direct reports, or say yes to everything; you might believe your own hype, incentivize failure, or lose track of your core values. Dando, known in leadership circles as the Company Whisperer, encountered all the same challenges as a C-level executive in a high-growth billion-dollar business, and he knows that these moments of truth determine whether the leader and the company become a strong, mature, and sustainable organization, or drift toward an uncertain future.

If you’re aiming to innovate, failure along the way is a given. But can you fail “better”? Whether you’re rolling out a new product from a city-view office or rolling up your sleeves to deliver a social service in the field, learning why and how to embrace failure can help you do better, faster. Smart leaders, entrepreneurs, and change agents design their innovation projects with a key idea in mind: “ensure that every failure is maximally useful. In “Fail Better”, Anjali Sastry and Kara Penn show how to create the conditions, culture, and habits to systematically, ruthlessly, and quickly figure out what works, in three steps:
1. Launch every innovation project with the right groundwork
2. Build and refine ideas and products through iterative action
3. Identify and embed the learning
You may be a “Fortune” 500 manager, scrappy start-up innovator, social impact visionary, or simply leading your own small project. If you aim to break through without breaking the bank–or ruining your reputation—“Fail Better” is for you.

An insider’s look at how a successful leadership pipeline can make or break a company Starting out at GE, where he headed up the company’s leadership institute and revamped the leadership pipeline under Jack Welch, Noel Tichy has served as a trusted advisor on management succession to such leading companies as Royal Dutch Shell, Nokia, Intel, Ford, Mercedes-Benz, Merck and Caterpillar. Now Tichy draws on decades of hands-on experience working with CEOs and boards to provide a framework for building a smart, effective transition pipeline, whether for a multi-billion dollar conglomerate, a family business, a small start-up, or a non-profit. Through revealing case studies like Hewlett Packard, IBM, Yahoo, P&G, Intel, and J.C. Penney, he examines why some companies fail and others succeed in training and sustaining the next generation of senior leaders. He highlights the common mistakes that can generate embarrassing headlines and may even call an organization’s survival into question, and reveals the best practices of those who got it right. Tichy also positions leadership talent development and succession where they belong: at the top of every leader’s agenda.

The market for business knowledge is booming as companies looking to improve their performance pour millions of dollars into training programmes, consultants, and executive education. Why then, are there so many gaps between what firms know they should do and what they actual do? This volume confronts the challenge of turning knowledge about how to improve performance into actions that produce measurable results. The authors identify the causes of this gap and explain how to close it.

According to a study published in “Chief Executive Magazine,” the most valued skill in leaders today is strategic thinking. However, more than half of all companies say that strategic thinking is the skill their senior leaders most need to improve. “Elevate” provides leaders with a framework and toolkit for developing “advanced” strategic thinking capabilities. Unlike the majority of books that focus on strategy from a corporate perspective, “Elevate” gives the individual executive practical tools and techniques to help them become a truly strategic leader. The new framework that will enable leaders to finally integrate both strategy and innovation into a strategic
approach that drives their profitable growth is the Three Disciplines of “Advanced” Strategic Thinking:
1. Coalesce: Fusing together insights to create an innovative business model.
2. Compete: Creating a system of strategy to achieve competitive advantage.
3. Champion: Leading others to think and act strategically to execute strategy.
Every leader desperately wants to be strategic – their career depends on it. “Elevate” provides the roadmap to reach the strategic leadership summit.

“Escape Velocity” offers a pragmatic plan to engage the most critical challenge that established enterprises face in the twenty-first-century economy: how to move beyond past success and drive next-generation growth from new lines of business.
As he worked with senior management teams, Moore repeatedly found that executives were trapped by short-term performance-based compensation schemes. The result was critical decision-makers overweighting their legacy commitments, an embarrassingly low success rate in new-product launches, and a widespread failure to sustain any kind of next-generation business at scale.
In “Escape Velocity”, Moore presents a cogent strategy for generating future growth within an established enterprise. Organized around a hierarchy of powers: category power, company power, market power, offer power, and execution power, this insightful work shows how each level of power can be orchestrated to achieve overall success.

In this work, noted consultant Erika Andersen helps the reader approach business and life strategically, explaining why it is important, what’s involved in doing it, and how to do it. 

For a full listing of best books in 2014, please visit http://800ceoread.com/

 

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Jim Stewart is the founding Partner at ProfitPATH. He has been working with business owners for over 16 years to increase profits and improve the value of their companies. LinkedIn

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Tags: business books, change, competitors, Jim Stewart, Leadership, Planning, Process, ProfitPATH, Strategy Development, Strategy Execution, succession

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