All sources of this blog with a short, subjective review.

There are so many books on management and digitalization out there – so here is my take on the books I deem useful for anyone seeking light and direction for her or his organization.

The big picture: Economic/ Social/ Political view on Digitalization

  • Brynjolfsson, Erik, and McAffee, Andrew “The second machine age“, 2014. A book approaching Digitalization from an economic, social, political and historical perspective. Inspiring,  provoking bold speculation about the big picture of things to come
  • Gordon, Robert J. “The rise and fall of American growth: the US standard of living since the civil war“, 2016. The Antithesis to Brynjolfssons techno-optimists view. It is not a techno-pessimist view, though. Rather this is a view what might happen if digital is not reshaping the world as measured in GDP terms. Both books should be read, as literature on digitalization is always subject to hype, Gordons down to earth, data-driven view is much needed
  • Kurzweil, Ray “The Singularity is near: When humans ascend biology“, 2006. I stumbled upon this rather futuristic-seeming book while reading Salim Ismael’s “Exponential Organizations” and wanted to know more about the concept of abundance and where this all might lead to. It’s a prediction, but not an unfounded one esp. since it’s a prediction made in 2006 wich looks now, in 2016 even more valid than before. Recommended

Digitalization at its core

  • Tse, Edward “Chinas Disruptors: How Alibaba, Xiaomi, Tencent and other companies are changing the rules of business“, 2015. A bit of a cross-over between China and Digitalization, this book describes Chinese companies and their leading actors in a concise, well-informed manner. The immense dynamics and the degree of sophistication of Chinese Companies are something western managers need to understand, as these are or will be the competitors or partners at their doorstep soon. “Leading edge” is not limited to western companies anymore.
  • Westerman, George; Bonnet, Didier; MacAffee, Andy “Leading digital: Turning Technology into transformation”, 2014. The authors more or less follow the classical way transformation has been described own other books before: Get a vision, define a strategy and implement it while focussing on cultural change. Too many case studies which, to my taste, are a bit too shallow. But still a good book and relatively easy read.
  • Sutton, Robert I. and Rao, Hugo: “Scaling up excellence“, 2014. Growth is so dear to so many executives, but only a few know the art of scaling. Basically, if you try to scale suboptimal practices, you end up with suboptimal outcomes and sometimes bankruptcy. In a Digitalization context, this is a strong read, because of after all experimentation, getting things to scale quickly is the essence of gaining profits.
  • Kotter, John: “Accelerate: Building agility for a faster moving world”, 2014. Kotter promotes establishing an informal network beside the classical organizational hierarchy and run these two “operating systems” at the same time in on organization. He approaches at this conclusion as a result of his long lasting work on change management. I think even the analogy to operating systems running at the same time on the same system, integrated is deeply flawed and – besides – reveals a total lack of understanding of IT. I do not think this model is useful, but at last Kotter still, recognizes the need to change and that something needs to be done to accelerate transformation and sustain change.
  • Pfeffer, Jeffery: “Leadership BS: Fixing workplaces and Careers one truth at a time“, 2015. A critical book looking a the empirical evidence of commonly taught knowledge of leadership. Basically, all the messages about leadership are just sermons delivered by preachers: Inspiration yes, Insight none. A realistic book, excellent, fact-based, empirical. By confronting the facts about the current state of leadership, digitalization may succeed. Triple-A read for your personal career and well-being, too.
  • Laloux, Frederic: “Reinventing Organizations: A Guide to Creating Organizations Inspired by the Next Stage of Human Consciousness“, 2014. What a title! Sounds like science fiction for MBA’s. It is a learned, interdisciplinary book combining psychology, sociology, history and philosophy. It is way too mystic and grandiose for all but a few business leaders to read or take seriously. But its grand scale, the learned author, and the interesting case studies are thought to provoke. Combine this book with Kotter (see above) and Humble et al (see above) and Pfeffer (see above) and interesting similarities can be derived. These books really support each other.
  • Stanley A. McChrystal, David Silverman, Tantum Collins, Chris Fussell: “Team of Teams – New rules of engagement for a complex world“, 2015. Highly Readable, broad in scope and entertaining as well as insightful read is written with by authors who have been part of the immense transformational challenge facing the US forces during 2003 to 2010.
  • Schmidt, Erik and Rosenberg, Jonathan: “How Google works“, 2014. Explains the way management works inside Google Corp. Written by a celebrity CEO, so it is biased and politically correct. Nevertheless, there are few places where management has conducted large-scale experiments on management over years. Great and humble ideas.
  • Bock, Laszlo: “Work rules! Insights from inside Google that will transform the way you live and will lead“, 2016. Written from an HR perspective, this book goes into greater detail than the one by Schmidt and Rosenberg. As Mr. Bock is HR (he would not call it that way) director at google, it smacks of political correctness, so much that it is subject to bashing in a witty critic by the guardian. Still, it is a great book – there are so few first-hand accounts by people who tried new forms of organizations successfully, at large scale and over years.
  • Varian, Hal, and Shapiro, Carl: “Information Rules: A Strategic Guide to the Network economy“, 1998. Hal Varian, a writer of standard economic textbooks for undergraduate economists turned chief economist at Google, applied standard economic analysis to the very special good “information” in 1998. He came up with many of the fundamental forces that drive the digital economy to this date. Sober and visionary.
  • Thiel, Peter, and Masters, Blake: “Zero to One: Notes on Startups or how to build the future“, 2014. The Pay Pal founder (he shares that title with the likes of Elon Musk) central thesis is that globalization is a commodity skill – the main skill required of a company is to build new products. Although a pretty new book, his insights are already part of the mainstream thinking of Silicon Valley. A clear mind with radical thoughts on technology.
  • Gigerenzer, Gerd: “Risk Savvy: How to make good decisions“, 2015. A strong case for relying on simple rules instead of cumbersome statistical calculations in complex, uncertain situations. A good, inspiring advice to Managers, too. On top of that: If you ever want to understand the famous “Three doors problems” with Bayes Theorem, read it.
  • Humble, Jeff et al: “The DevOps Handbook: How to create World-Class Agility, Reliability, and Security in World Class Organizations“, 2016. A very unwieldy, Nerdy named book, that only technology people will read. Which is a shame, as the potential multi-million investments that are needed to really turn any company into a technology driven company, will be hard to sell if the makers of the decision do not understand the importance of blending development and operations. But this book really helps to build a pitch to those “ignorants”.
  • Keese, Christoph: “Silicon Germany“, 2016. An excellent book in the German language about how Germany should approach the digital revolution. A good blueprint for every other company except the US, too.

Classical Works on Business Transformation and/or  Information Technology – before the word digitalization has been invented but still relevant

  • Collins, Jim: “Good to great:  Why some companies make the leap and others don’t“, 2001. A classic which influenced nearly all business leaders, including Jeff Bezos and Eric Schmidt. What makes this book so positively unique is its reliance on comprehensive quantitative measurement of excellence, giving it academic rigor while still being an easy read. Its predictions have been followed up 10 years and found to hold truth, i.e. the companies classified as excellent beat the index in the long term.
  • Gouillart, Francis J. and Kelly, James N.: “Transforming the Organization“, 1995. A classic work on business transformation which shaped not just my approach to business transformation, but for a whole lot of consultants. The book attempts to provide a holistic theory of business transformation, combining classical Literature as Hammer/Champy’s “Reengineering the corporation” or  Thomas davenports “Business Process Innovation”. It does that nicely and old style, i.e. a lot of texts, few infographics but a lot of case studies. Nearly forgotten, as this is not a very spectacular book, but too solid to forget.
  • Kempis, Rolf and Ringbeck, Jürgen “Do IT smart: Seven rules for superior information technology performance“, 1998. One of the first book to look at IT effectiveness on business results on an empirical basis, while still remaining hand on. Written by business people, a good read for anyone, no matter if the reader has a technical or business background. It’s old by now and some applications of IT are outdated, still a clear and concise read.
  • Hamer, Michael, and Champy, James: “Reengineering the Corporation“, 1990 (revised edition 1995). From the Inventors of the term Business Process Reengineering. The idea has been a great one, but the book is rather shallow and follows the case study line of thinking: “Look, these great companies did it. They surely can’t be wrong.”
  • Yourdon, Edward: “Death March“, 2003. Want to know why so many major transformation programs fail in today’s cooperations? This classic as vivid examples and lists reasons. All of those will sound familiar for those who spend some years in today’s major corporations
  • Fredmund Malik, Jutta Scherer: “Strategy: Navigating the complexity of the New World“, 2013. An interesting, albeit a bit clumsily written view from a long-standing proponent of a system – and cybernetic theory and leadership. Malik gives wise, broad guidelines about what is needed now, that the world is more unstable.
  • Cummings, Thomas G., and Worley, Christopher G.: “Organization Development and Change“, 10th edition, 2013. A textbook. Developing organizations, improving and preparing them for a new challenge is a skill. Immense knowledge has been accumulated since Frederick Winslow Taylors days. This 800 page, information dense academic textbook, provides all the basic knowledge in this field. All other books listed in this directory of the source on this page, stand on its shoulders, knowingly or not.
  • Héon, Francois et al: “The essential Mary Parker Follet: Ideas we need today“, 2014. Mary Parker Follet lived from 1868 to 1933. A personal consultant to president Theodore Roosevelt, she was instrumental in shaping the “New deal”. Her work on organizational theory is still valid and astonishingly advanced: The value of differences, group organization, the process of integration – incredibly accurate observations. Autonomy focused new work forms are no new management fads – they have been around for 100 years by now.
  • Schein, Edgar H.:”Humble Inquiry: The gentle Art of asking instead of telling“, 2013. Mr. Schein, on the leading organizational psychologists, is quoted so often in so many books, esp. on digitalization, that I could not help but read at least his latest book.  The silver bullet in conversations: Listening and transformative questions. Read it!
  • Langer, Ellen J.:”Mindfulness“, 25th-anniversary edition, 2014. Quoted so often in other books this book seems to be a must read for all silicon valley folks and leadership enthusiasts. Simple messages, high impact, academic work – essential.
  • Goulston, Mark: “Just Listen: Discover the secret to getting through to absolutely anyone“, 2015. I do not like the second half of the title – too bombastic. I picture this book as a practical extension to Ellen Langers “Mindfulness”. Anyone wanting to move an organization, in need to convince and build bridges will benefit from Mr. Goulstons advise.

A bit off topic but too good to miss for guys really interested in organization and management:

  • Acemoglu, D. and Robinson, J.A “Why nations fail: the origins of power, prosperity, and poverty“, 2012. Besides Korea, China and Singapore, why haven’t more countries joined the league of developed nations. Why are most companies still as far behind as 100 years before? MIT’s Acemoglu and Robinson point toward defunct political systems. Big history, strong theory with a huge contemporary impact. The full lecture notes
  • Brand, H.W. “The Man who saved the union: Ulysses Grant in War and peace“, 2012. A remarkable biography of a remarkable war and peacetime leader. To see a failed drunkard, seemingly failed men of 40 years,  becoming America’s war winning general and peacetime president is fascinating and tells a story about people in general (pun intended).

Bloggers on Digital and Business Transformation

  • Steve Blank: “Steve Blank Podcast“: A long time Silicon Valley shares his strong opinions about digitalisation, entrepreneurship and the lean startup movement. I was particularly impressed by his post Why Tim Cook is Steve Balmer… But Steve moves beyond the enterprise sector and deploys his thinking on governmental, political and humanitarian crisis fields, too. Enlightening.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s