The Books We Recommend During the Little Engine Ventures General Manager Training

Following a recent blog post, a subscriber said “it’s nice to see what you are reading, but what do you recommend?” And, then, “How do you put the learnings into action?”

At first this is a huge request because we’ve drawn from so many books, each having influenced us in subtle ways. However, the question sparked an immediate idea –I could publish a blog post of the books we recommend during our General Manager Training course. And, then, I could provide a brief overview of the key elements we draw from each, and present them in a coherent whole. Perhaps this might help other small business owners and investors; and that would serve the purpose of this blog well.

Understand Kanban : A business is about throughput.

  1. The Machine That Changed the World: The Story of Lean Production– Toyota’s Secret Weapon in the Global Car Wars Paperback – March 13, 2007 by James P. Womack
  2. The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement – 30th Anniversary Edition Paperback – June 1, 2012 by Eliyahu M Goldratt
  3. Managing for Results: Economic Tasks and Risk-Taking Decisions by Peter F. Drucker
  4. Introduce the purpose of management — get results. Introduce the idea of one Key Performance Indicator (“KPI”) to rule the business. This operating unit is how teammates know how they did and what to expect in the days ahead. Introduce the idea of “Health Stats” as the supporting data that explain the KPI. Understand Kanban and defining the Herbie, then dial back upstream pace to the one limiting factor’s drumbeat.

Understand Communication: A business is a gathering of people around an idea.

  1. The SPEED of Trust: The One Thing That Changes Everything Paperback – February 5, 2008 by Stephen M .R. Covey
  2. Managing Pressure for Peak Performance: The Positive Approach to Stress Hardcover – July 30, 1994 by Stephen Williams
  3. Introduce the idea of internal congruence between what we Think, Say and Do. Communication is how our actions and words interact with others. Look at the whole person as a person. The team is a gathering of individuals. Use the KPI near the beginning of business meetings to focus the team.

Roll up, Cascade & Balance

  1. Who Hardcover – September 30, 2008 by Geoff Smart
  2. Measure What Matters: How Google, Bono, and the Gates Foundation Rock the World with OKRs Hardcover – April 24, 2018 by John Doerr
  3. Operational Excellence Handbook: A Must Have for Those Embarking On a Journey of Transformation and Continuous Improvement Paperback – June 2, 2015 by Rod Baxter
  4. Scaling Up: How a Few Companies Make It…and Why the Rest Don’t (Rockefeller Habits 2.0 Revised Edition) Paperback – October 21, 2014 by Verne Harnish
  5. Individual performance aggregates to the team. Meetings are heartbeat. Faster change? More meetings. Scorecard individuals to set and measure expectations. Use OKRs to manage change initiatives, calibrating for the individual quarterly. Use 1:1’s to measure backwards basic performance and OKRs. Help individuals climb at their individual rate of change. Use documented Swimlane Processes to connect written, individual Procedures. Balance pressure within the individual and across the team, always drawing from the backlog, focusing on maximizing throughput.

Attract and Develop Customers and Teammates

  1. The Effective Manager: Completely Revised and Updated by Mark Horstman
  2. Topgrading, 3rd Edition: The Proven Hiring and Promoting Method That Turbocharges Company Performance by Bradford D. Smart
  3. Building a StoryBrand: Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen by Donald Miller
  4. First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently by Marcus Buckingham
  5. The Ultimate Question 2.0 (Revised and Expanded Edition): How Net Promoter Companies Thrive in a Customer-Driven World by Fred Reichheld and Rob Markey
  6. The Gap and the Gain: The High Achievers’ Guide to Happiness, Confidence, and Success by Dan Sullivan
  7. Introduce the idea of the customer as the hero, we are the guide. Same is true with staffing. Recruit, interview and onboard systematically. This will setup a team of A-Players. Use surveys like NPS, eNPS and Gallup’s Q12 to get information flow bottom up. Document to delegate.

In summary, a business is a gathering of people around an idea. It’s the manager’s responsibility to get results from the team. The manager must organize the individual’s procedures into coherent processes that involve multiple people so that specialization can occur. Expectations must be set, trained, and reviewed regularly. Then, the manager must customize each development plan for each unique person, weighing their total life pressure with current coping mechanisms and historical performance. This must also be weighed against the budget for the company as a whole and the target roles –grouping of procedures– that are justifiable. Inviting feedback from the frontline in a systematic way will help leaders organize priorities for the team as a whole.

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