Leadership

Five business books every IT manager should read


1. First, Break All the Rules: What the World's Greatest Managers Do Differently, by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman

What I like most about this book is that it's not a pundit tooting his own horn about how smart he is and how you should do things just like he does. It is a research study of over 80,000 managers, and it reveals the common threads that many of the world's best managers share. There are lots of great insights in there.

2. Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies, by James Collins and Jerry Porras

Here is another book that is based on research and not just narrow experiences and opinions. This one shows how companies like 3M, Disney, and Sony have been able to go beyond a single instance of success and create organizations that repeat the development of successful products over and over again.

3. The One Minute Manager, by Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson

If you manage people, you simply need to read this classic. It's short and simple, but it does a nice job of summing up the frame of mind that a manager needs in order to be effective and respected. It's getting a little long in the tooth, and it's a tad sexist, but it's still probably the best book to start for a new manager.

4. The Daily Drucker: 366 Days of Insight and Motivation for Getting the Right Things Done, by Peter Drucker

Of all the so-called experts who write about management, I think Peter Drucker is by far the best. There's not even a close second. This is a nice compilation of Drucker's writing, and since it is divided up into one excerpt per day, it's an easy way to digest a lot of great insights about management and leadership. This one also includes some a few nice insights about technology.

5. Raving Fans: A Revolutionary Approach to Customer Service, by Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles

This one is written as a fable and it's a little corny (okay, it's very corny), but the underlying principles are spot on. If you go the extra mile to treat your customers right, you will turn them into "Ravings Fans" and take a big step toward ensuring your success. Let's face it, IT departments aren't typically known for treating their customers (users) very well, so this type of approach can have a big impact in IT.

What business books do you recommend? Join the discussion.

About

Jason Hiner is Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He writes about the people, products, and ideas changing how we live and work in the 21st century. He's co-author of the upcoming book, Follow the Geeks (bit.ly/ftgeeks).

43 comments
Stelian
Stelian

I just read "One minute manager" following the recommendation of this article. I hate being negative but I just HAVE to say that this was the biggest waste of my time and money in quite a while. What exactly qualifies this bunch of utter common sense advice that any smart secondary school student should know as a ???business books every IT manager should read??????

TheGooch1
TheGooch1

How about books for Sports Team managers? I mean adult non-professional league sports.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I always have to ask that when I see a list of "# books that you must read to be a great manager" It seems there's always some new buzword book on management theories. These may be great books on leadership mind you but I still have to start scheptically before jumping in with both feet. I'd also add Musashi's Book of Five Rings too the list. The english translation of the actual book is a little obscure for those not raised in budism and bushido but there was a great "book of five rings in plain english" written a few years back. (this post would be more meaningful if I had the BIN handy of course)

IT Generalist
IT Generalist

Great managers aren't born, they read books.

Billy Newsome
Billy Newsome

There is alot of good information here. I believe that anyone in any profession should have a what I like to refer to as a 'reference library'. Those are books, articles, pamphlets and any additional reading material that is important enough to keep in mind and practice during your professional life time, and even beyond. I'd also like to responed to; (Posted: 06/15/2007 @ 04:04 PM (PDT) (edited 06/15/2007 @ 05:08 PM (PDT)) iHaveNoGlue.ahemClue@... Job Role: Web / Multimedia Developer)), who wonders how manager's that are manager would need books to tell them how to be(come) managers? My answer to that question is one simple word; TOOLS

Gary.Cooper
Gary.Cooper

What about PMBoK? I would suggest a watered-down version, because the PMBoK can be rather dry and boring. Try the Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge. While I agree to my fellow professionals that a good manager needs to know what his troops do, but we do need books. We use them as refrence materials. I always refer to a book when writing code.

bill
bill

More summer reading ... While I agree that managers need to get into the trenches with their employees, there is always time to read. I take e-books with me to lunch, or on planes. Life is learning, never stop learning

iHaveNoGlue.ahemClue
iHaveNoGlue.ahemClue

Books are not going to do a thing for a manager. What makes a great manager is listening and being attentative to your employess and what happens on the ground. Encouraging development of employees and stimulating innovative business ideas, along with recognition and incentives ensures a healthy work environment. Being couped up in office and reading books is really missing out on valuable time to hit the ground, so to speak, and see what is actually going on with employees and their daily workflow and business needs. To put it simply, I personally think that every manager should spend one day a week doing the exact same thing as his/her employees, to stay in the realm of reality and not the managerial cloud #9. iHaveNoGlue.ahemClue

jasonhiner
jasonhiner

Managing a department or a team in business is a lot like coaching team sports. In terms of books for coaching adults, the best I can recommend is Phil Jackson's Sacred Hoops because Jackson understands that coaching adults is very different than the kind of paternalistic approach that is often used when coaching kids.

jasonhiner
jasonhiner

is definitely worth reading. That's definitely worth

ChrisEvans
ChrisEvans

That a reply questioning the 'faddy' nature of a book list should then go on to quote the Book of the Five Rings :) I can just see all those execs on the roof with their samurai swords finding their centres as we speak - 10:30 - sushi break :) It is however a great book and combined with Sun Tsu's The Art of War, may be two of the greatest non management, management books you will ever read.

Mihnea D. Mironescu
Mihnea D. Mironescu

Your advice of getting out of the office and keeping in touch with the business, the people and the reality in general is a good piece of advice. But minimizing the importance of learning and of continuously improving yourself is not a smart idea IMHO. It's an imperative in the IT arena, and in the fast changing business climate we're all facing today. I would say this is the surest way of keeping yourself afloat and employable if nothing more. Of course that limiting yourself to reading books and never trying to apply what your have learned will not get you anywhere. I believe in the quality of learning and in the percentage of useful, real-life knowledge one can get from books (magazines, internet, etc.) and not in avoiding them completely. Agreed, there are intuitive people out there who need less formal training or book reading than others. They seem to just know how to manage their teams, how to engage their people and how to handle their assignments. But how far do you really think that lack of learning and knowledge will eventually get them? How creative or innovative do you think they can get if they don?t expose themselves and the persons around them to new things, new experiences, new ideas? How much value do you think they can eventually bring to their businesses? I won't bet my bottom dollar on such a person. Would you?

jasonhiner
jasonhiner

But in order to become a better manager and improve your knowledge and skills, you need to introduce yourself to new ideas and approaches. That's what reading books like these can do. I'm not suggesting that managers coop themselves up in their offices and read all the time. In fact, most of my reading happens in airports, on planes, and lying in bed in the evenings. Reading can never replace your interactions with your team members, but it can improve those interactions. That's just my 2 cents. Jason

sfessey
sfessey

Of course reading books is going to do something for a manager - it is going to give them knowledge, ideas, different viewpoints. It can be a building block to a better manager. Whilst I agree with your sentiment about staying in touch with reality I think devoting 20% of their time to it is too large a proportion. Think what added value they can bring to that time on the front line if they come with ideas, with tried and tested methodologies about how to approach some aspect of the work. That is what a book can do for a manager

IT Generalist
IT Generalist

I haven't read the whole book but so far I liked what I have read. If you are looking for ways to measure your IT investments values than this book should help. Today, nearly half of all capital investement is information technology related-and yet, decision-makers still find themselves asking the most fundamental questions: Does technology really add value? If so, when? What's the best way to quantify and maximize technology ROI? This book should help in discovering where technology can add the greatest value; when to adopt new technologies; how to coordinate process and technology.

Mihnea D. Mironescu
Mihnea D. Mironescu

One of the best books I read and which I recommend most warmly is Peopleware: Productive Projects and Teams by DeMarco and Lister (ISBN: 978-0932633439). This book is filled with practical knowledge, tips and ideas any manager could use in his or her organization. It's especially valuable for managers leading knowledge workers, creative people who need special working conditions and the right attitude from their manager to thrive. Definitely a must read for IT managers at all levels.

dirkfeather
dirkfeather

It's Your Ship: Management Techniques from the Best Damn Ship in the Navy By Michael Abrashoff It's a great read and shows you how to think "outside the box".

Big Ole Jack
Big Ole Jack

Excellent reading for any hardass manager that treats people like crap.

munro.ross
munro.ross

I have really enjoyed reading Elyahu Goldratt's work on the Theory of Constraints. Start with the bestselling "The Goal" a bit dated, but a quick read that is a novelization of the theory in action. Then move on to the lectures in "Beyond the Goal", which is best absorbed in audio format. Goldratt's enthusiasm and skill as a lecturer really come alive on tape. "First Break all the Rules" was one of the best reads of my career. I realized that the reason I had such happy employees in unhappy companies was that I exhibited many of the talents listed. I now work harder on following my path, and changing the culture around me. It also makes an important distinction between management and leadership that I think many companies miss. Spending a couple of hours of with Spencer Johnson and Ken Blanchard with "One Minute" of "Moved Cheese" has been memorable as well.

thejendra
thejendra

Folks, Apart from serious books you should also read some business humor books. Every IT and business manager should develop a sense of humor to survive and reduce stress. So read my business humor books :-) CORPORATE WARDROBE - The Cotton and Woolen Business Humor series. Available on www.ebookomatic.com Author

Locrian_Lyric
Locrian_Lyric

great book, it pushes creativity, and even pushes for bad ideas to be tried. (and explains why). I'd reccomend it to anyone.

Locrian_Lyric
Locrian_Lyric

great book, it pushes creativity, and even pushes for bad ideas to be tried. (and explains why). I'd reccomend it to anyone.

stuart.cohen
stuart.cohen

Books are a must and I agree with most of the titles that have been mentioned so far. I would like to humbly add the following titles (in no particular order). The 8th Habit - Stephen Covey Principle Centered Leadership - Stephen Covey Leading at a Higher Level - Ken Blanchard Winning With People - John Maxwell Exceeding Customer Expectations - Kirk Kazanjian Almost anything written by Stephen Covey, Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson. Furthermore, I have found audiobooks to be an even bigger tool when I commute for 30 minutes or more. There have been times where I got to my destination and didn't get out of the car until I finished listening to a section of a CD or tape. Finally, to get the most bang for your buck, after reading the book, discuss it with others.

keithc
keithc

I liked this book, but in the grand tradition started by In Search of Excellence, there is a lot of what is, at best, post hoc ergo proctor hoc reasoning or, at worst, (and I hope this isn't the case) choosing data to support a hypothesis. For any of these theories about what makes successful companies to stand up, they would have to be subjected to a double-blind type of test. Give the researchers anonymous info on companies at the time they started (or shortly after) and let them predict which succeeded. The data would have to be sanitised to the extent that it is impossible to identify the company. The hypothesis is only sustainable if the predictions are significantly better than chance. Of course, that would never happen, because it takes time and may disprove pet theories that sell better made into a book.

JamesRL
JamesRL

Seven Habits of highly effective people. This doesn't only impact managers, but I humbly think every manager should read it. Who moved my cheese. A book on dealing with change. Its a parable, again, useful for everyone, but managers in particular. First things first. Time management. James

stephen.pountney
stephen.pountney

I have found these books to be excellent. 1. The Mythical Man Month: Essays on Software Enginering - F Brooks It consists of a series of essays discussing the use of manpower in major projects. It is based on the authors experiences whilst managing the development of the OS/360 operating system for IBM. The second 2 are not necessarliy IT related, but can be applied to any management style as they both relate to quality: 2. Quality is Free - P Cross This book states that getting something right first time is cheaper than doing something poorly and fixing it later. A tenet I wish some of my guys could relate too. 3. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values - R Pirsig During a motorcycle trip accross the US, the author writes about the concept of quality through a series of philosophical discussions with his son (and himself). Sorry if these are a bit heavy for an afternoons read, but they are worth the effort.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I open my mouth and then throw another book title into the mix. What can I say some books pop up tomorrow and are forgotten in a quarter, other books appeared a long time ago and remain applicable. Funny you should mention haragiri though; there have been business leaders take failure poorly in matters of honor.

TheGooch1
TheGooch1

While there are general management principles, there is no such thing as one-size-fits-all. Do you manager remote employees the same as local ones? Do you manage an Agile development team the same as a waterfall development team? How about on-call versus no on-call? Salaried versus hourly? Tier 1 versus Tier 3? There are many many variables, and it would be a good idea to read about how others have handled them to give you ideas and solid principles for managing people in these situations. I haven't managed people in quite a long time, but these are basic ideas. Btw, my manager uses the delegate everything (including his own work ) to subordinates. No need to keep track of what your people are doing, if senior management asks for this info, just pass the question down to your subordinates, compile their answers, and then forward it back up the chain. Sigh, after 3 years of knowingly doing someone else's work, you'd think I would have left.

iHaveNoGlue.ahemClue
iHaveNoGlue.ahemClue

this is where i have a problem with this blog post and comments in general... if you're a manager and you're reading books about being a manager, getting ideas, etc., then how did any of you become one? Either you went to college and learned a thing or two about business management, or you learned it in workforce (or both). In any case you should know some basic things about being a manager: - employees are your livelihood and vice-versa. The better employees perform the better off the manager is, and vice-versa. It's a symbiotic relationship, if you treat your employees with disrespect, look down on them, ignore their contributions and not acknowledge them; you can't expect anything good in return. Your employees are you and you are your employees. - BE PROFESSIONAL. Do not favor one employee over another one just b/c you personally like them for whatever reason. Do not start little "cool folks" clubs by hanging out with select people at work. You have to be even-handed when it comes to your employees, your equals and higher-ups. Work is work and personal relationships start once you step out the company door for the day. And they end once you come in. - don't be a slacker. Don't dump your work on others. It's bad for business and bad for work environment (ahem, turnover rate anyone?). Besides, the better business is doing the better your paycheck, 401K, stock will be doing. Make sure work is evenly spread among the employees and that no slacking off is happening on your or their end. Working makes the time go by a lot faster. Besides, that's why it is called work. - reward people based on their performance not personalities or personal relationships you might have developed at work. Don't promote someone just b/c you have a few beers with at the bar after work, or you both like the same sport and talk about it all the time and they are just a cool person. It is dishonest, unethical and down-right a double-slap on employee's morale, dedication, performance, etc., etc., etc. - take constructive criticism in stride. No one knows everything and anything, so don't pretend. Just b/c someone is a manager doesn't mean their employees shouldn't be allowed to say it when manager is wrong about something. You might have an idea but your employee might have even better one. It doesn't matter as long as it makes you and the employee look good and of course deliver on those ideas. - don't rule by fear or Iron Fist. It's not your country with your regime running it. Besides, USSR fell down long time ago and it's 2007. Think of it as a democracy. You're the president and employees are the congress. You lead but they deliver the law (in this case work and revenue). So don't get a complex b/c you can be impeached or given a vote of no confidence. - be open to change, suggestions, new ideas, new concepts, industries; everything and anything. Business is supposed to be flexible and accomodating when it comes to the business plan. Don't be afraid of change, speaking up and encouraging communication, instead embrace it and learn about the newly minted change. Don't be entrenched in the 1600s. With technologies businesses are moving at a break-neck speed and that is just the reality of today. - business ideas (or any ideas) are not found in books, magazines, television or anywhere else. They are found in people and employees. Yes, you can get a spark for an idea once in a while by reading something but that is a waste of time b/c it is unpredictable brain behavior. And business cannot wait while some manager is somewhere thinking hard in his/her office/home/vacation by her/himself about how to solve a problem or come up with a new patent. If you do then you should think about getting a job at a think tank since they get paid to think only. In business you have to think, execute, deliver and have a life, so there is not that much time to read such material. Don't get me wrong, reading books like these can help but then again every company is different and so are people. They all have a mind of their own. And what you think might be good or might work, may not seem as such to a guy/girl next to you. So you do have to take that into consideration when reading these books b/c every company has its own culture which moves the wheels. What works at Yahoo doesn't necessarily work at google. YOU HAVE TO ENGAGE WITH YOUR EMPLOYEES AND BE RECEPTIVE TO THEIR IDEAS ABOUT HOW TO IMPROVE PROCESSES, REVENUE, ETC. MOST OF THE TIME AND MOST OF THE MANAGERS JUST IGNORE THEIR EMPLOYEE' IDEAS AND THOUGHTS OR SIMPLY STEAL THEM. HAVE MEETINGS ONCE IN A WHILE AND ASK EMPLOYEES WHAT IS NOT BEING DONE RIGHT AND WHAT CAN BE IMPROVED, WHAT WORKS GREAT AND WHAT JUST SIMPLY DOES NOT MAKE SENSE. Ideas would be born or present there, not in your book. TO PUT IT SIMPLY BE THE MANAGER YOU WOULD WANT YOUR MANAGER TO BE. Books that managers should be reading are the ones to stay up to date on their company's industry or learn about new ones that can be applied to the current or new business model. In any case manger should be out there exploring what is wrong with the current business and workflow (and there is something wrong in any company, at any time), what new can be introduced and make sure productivity is up to par.

jasonhiner
jasonhiner

Who Moved My Cheese nearly made the list. In fact, one of my editors chided me this morning for not including it. :-)

jasonhiner
jasonhiner

I never really thought of it in relation to management, but I could see a few useful insights there. I wasn't familiar with the other two you mentioned, so thanks for sharing them.

IT Generalist
IT Generalist

Great leaders share great characteristics and that is what I meant by "common sense". Maybe I should have pharased what I was trying to say a bit differently so I will go ahead and edit my orignal post. I agree that not every one thinks the same but it doesn't hurt to recongnize one's good quality and try to learn from it.

terryd64
terryd64

Common sense is not so common. Voltaire Common Sense is relative to ones life experience, training and education. I have never EVER meant anyone who's definition of common sense is the same exactly as mine. I reject your reality and substitute my own. Adam Savage

IT Generalist
IT Generalist

Great managers aren't born, they read books...

LocoLobo
LocoLobo

I agree with much you have to say but have to disagree with you about reading. "business ideas (or any ideas) are not found in books, magazines, television or anywhere else. They are found in people and employees." Books are merely ideas written by People. Don't tune out someone elses words simply because they are written and not face to face. Sometimes that non business related conversation can spark an idea that is business related. At least that happens for me. And the written word is just a one way conversation. Although I do argue with the authors at least in my own mind. That's how you really learn is by Thinking! Just my 2 cents

JamesRL
JamesRL

It is a big mistake for anyone, manager or not, to think they have learned all they need to know for thier job and that they can coast. Always be learning. And if you are a manager that especially includes you as you set an example for the rest. I don't disgaree on the relationship between managers and employees - Though managers can't always change the world, good managers make employees better. A good manager is judged on how his/her employees are developing. Don't dump your work on others - sorry thats wrong. Effective managers delegate. The trick is you should delegate than just grunt work. Delegating management like tasks to employees is development for employees- make sure you do some of both. There are appropriate and inaappropriate wasy to criticize your manager. In a team meeting or in front of their boss is wrong and should not be tolerated. If you want to tell the boss he is wrong, do it one on one or shut up. I'm sorry a business is NOT a democracy. I have many policies which come down from on high which Ihave no say in and that I cannot change. I have to enforce them, its my job. Don't take it personally. I do think that the collective whole of a department should be considered in any decision, and that you can't make decisions in a vaccum. But managers cannot hold votes on most issues. And sometimes you just have to make a decision instead of waiting and studying and hoping to bring everyone onside. My boss tells me to make decisions, if I do it with the rigth spirit and intentions and with the best information at the time, he will support me, even if it works out badly. I will agree that if the manager doesn't have the confidence of the team, its impossible to function. Business ideas can come from everywhere and anywhere, including books. If you say your company is unique and nothing outside applies, you will be making a huge mistake. Successful companies learn from companies like them and from radically different companies. Being flexible and open to change is key. Books should not be adopted as mantras, but can be learned from. Good managers will take input from their employees. Good employees will understand that their manager can't always change the world or company policy. James

The Ref
The Ref

Does this mean developers don't need to read books on development practices? Your points are valid, but I would be loathe to ever suggest people stop reading books no matter what profession they are in.

JamesRL
JamesRL

Every one of us has to learn to survive, accept and thrive in a changing environment. I've had many teams who were entrenched in habits and mindsets and this book helped them, and some of my supervisors come to grips with the constant state of change. James

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