Where Do I Learn? – Part 2 – Books

Strategy, Architecture & Problem-Solving

Where Do I Learn? – Part 2 – Books


If I’m driving, I’m listening to podcasts. If I’m travelling by train, then I’m reading.

I typically read books that don’t directly relate to my profession, but those that I hope will change my approach to how I work with clients.

For every client I go to, I end up mentoring business analysts, business architects, programme manager, project managers and other change programme staff. So I’ve kept a list of references (not just books) on Evernote and I tailor it to the person I’m mentoring at that time.

Here’s the list of books that I recommend:

1. Lean

Production Line

Production Line

1.1. Womack and Jones: Lean Thinking: Banish Waste and Create Wealth in Your Corporation

This is the book I recommend to anyone trying to understand lean for changing services and organisations. However, once you understand, you’ll start applying it to other areas of your life. There’s a lot of argument in the field about whether this is really Lean, TPS or some other methodology. At this stage, if it’s your first introduction to field, this is a great book to start with. You won’t be an expert by the end of it, but at least you’ll understand more and be able to understand some of the differences in the arguments.

1.2. Womack and Jones: Lean Solutions: How Companies and Customers Can Create Value and Wealth Together

The 3rd book in the series by Womack and Jones. Most useful for service industries and how to value the time of the customer more. Sometimes this is the book that makes the reader sit up and go “I get it now”, especially if they’re working in health or social care.

1.3. Womack, Jones and Roos: The Machine That Changed the World

The first book in the series. It’s the book that introduced the term Lean to the world (although the term had been in minor use before that). It’s useful if you’re interested in the history and how automobile manufacture has changed. If reading, get a later edition due the updates. The world has moved on since it was written, so usually I’d say it’s only worth reading if you’re interested in the subject and want to read about the case studies. But there’s an element of learning about some of the issues faced by companies as they implement lean for the first time.

2. Lean – More Advanced



2.1. David Mann: Creating a Lean Culture: Tools to Sustain Lean Conversion

This book is useful since it covers a lot of ground that is missing from the Womack and Jones books; mainly that there has to be a culture to make it happen and foster the long-term improvement. So David focusses on the role of the manager and what they need to do.

2.2. The Lean Toolbox for Service Systems

Probably the driest book in this list, it’s worth persevering with. There are some gems of ideas in there. I tend to offer it more as a reference to analysts to pick and choose from, rather than read the whole book. Note that I don’t pay that much attention to the process part of the book; but the principles are still sound in that we should choose different methods and tools at different levels of granularity and purpose.

2.3 Michael L. George: The Lean Six Sigma Pocket Toolbook

Nicely summed up by it’s streamline: “A Quick Reference Guide to 70 Tools for Improving Quality and Speed”. It’s a small book with each tool described, how to use and when to use it. Useful to have at arms-length when checking which calculations should be used, especially if you’re not conducting them every day.

2.4. Toyota Kata – Mike Rother


One of my favourite books in this list. This includes tales and case studies highlighting the real root of TPS, in terms of how mentoring and problem solving are achieved and how they are intertwined. This is a necessary complement if you’ve started out with Womack and Jones.

2.5. Lean Enterprise – Jez Humble, Joanne Molesky & Barry O’Reilly


An interesting book that takes learning from Toyota Kata + Cost of Delay + agile and continual improvement on an enterprise scale. It provides a way for structuring your business from a prioritisation, problem solving and personal development perspective. I’d suggest starting with Toyota Kata first and then reading this one.

3. Influence and Sales

3.1 Robert Cialdini: Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion

Out of all the books I recommend to anyone I’m mentoring, this is usually at the top of the list. Partly so that we can talk about the same concepts and understand how we’re being influenced (and how we can influence others). It doesn’t matter if you don’t use it at work, you’ll find a use for it when buying your next car, watching how supermarket designers manipulate your thinking, etc. Even in the RNLI station/shop in Blackpool, I noticed 3 of the principles being used on one display stand.

3.2. Robert Jolles – Customer Centered Selling

This is easily the best book on selling that I’ve ever read. He describes a process, and while we’re all human and don’t follow always follow processes, it’s really useful to know what’s expected at what stage and what’s missing if you’ve jumped straight in.
There are a few editions of this; all out of print, but some are more available than others. And check eBay and Amazon used.

3.3. Chris Voss – Never Split the Difference

Chris’ book is close to the top of my list for books to recommend to business architects and business analysts. There’s little point doing a great job from your professional domain if you can’t influence others to accept your way of thinking. That’s not to say that you should manipulate others, instead it’s to give your work a fair chance of being heard and an opportunity to be adopted.

3.4. Roger Fisher: Getting to Yes: Negotiating an agreement without giving in

Based on the Harvard model of negotiation, including Best Alternative to Negotiated Agreement. It concentrates on creating the framework first before discussing points. So agree how you’re going to agree before you start talking the specifics of the deals.

3.5. Dan Roam: Back of the Napkin: Solving problems and selling ideas with pictures

Can’t draw, have difficulty communicating ideas? Then have a look at this book for understanding the simplest type of diagram to draw for any situation. It’s here on this list because many of the pivotal moments when you’re describing your ideas can be accelerated by use of the appropriate diagram. Pay particular attention to the SQVID.

3.5. Joe Navarro – What Every BODY is Saying: An Ex-FBI Agent’s Guide to Speed-Reading People

The best book I’ve read on non-verbal communication and body language. There’s a simple theme running throughout the book; you can’t tell what someone is thinking, but you can tell if there’s a disconnect between their non-verbal communication and their communication.

4. Education

4.1. Josh Kaufman: The Personal MBA: A World-Class Business Education in a Single Volume

I’m often mentoring change professionals who, while they may be great at their chosen profession, don’t understand accounting practices or how decisions are made. So I direct them to these two books. This is the shorter one; quicker to read and digest.

4.2. Steven Silbiger: The 10-day MBA: A step-by-step guide to mastering the skills taught in top business schools

The second of the two general business books I recommend. This has more detail than the Personal MBA but also may require guidance due to the complexity.

5. Entrepreneurship/Innovation



5.1. Eric Ries: The Lean Startup: How constant innovation creates radically successful business

I find that this book can change the reader’s approach to large-scale programmes. It makes them think more about incremental change based experiments. I also find that I still have to remind mentees about the purpose of experiments, i.e. to validate learning. But if they’ve read the book, it’s absorbed easier with that gentle nudge.

5.2. The Startup Owner’s Manual: The Step-by-Step Guide for Building a Great Company – Steve Blank and Bob Dorf

Kindle is usually significantly cheaper than the paperback/hardback.
The Startup Owner’s Manual deserves more fame than it has. It’s unfortunate that it’s been somewhat eclipsed by the Lean Startup, since it has significantly more usable material in it. That hightlights the differences; the Lean Startup is a book that promotes the culture and activities, whereas the Startup Owner’s Manual is a guide to the activities that you have to follow. Admittedly, it can be a bit daunting to read at first, since it comes across more as a reference guide that you can dip in and out of. This is the book to read to understand the concept of Customer Development.

5.3. The Lean Entrepreneur: How Visionaries Create Products, Innovate with New Ventures, and Disrupt Markets

If I know you’re an entrepreneur or a startup founder, then I recommend this book above all else. It takes the learnings from a lot of other sources and puts them into one practical book. So expect to see references to the Lean Startup, Customer Development and Business Model Canvas as well as tables that you use to record and plan your own progress.
Pay attention to the reverse planning process; it’s important to know where you want to get to and then work back from there.

5.4. Business Model Generation: A Handbook for Visionaries, Game Changers, and Challengers

Alex Osterwalder has started a movement and initiated a number of more domain-specific spinoffs. If you have a problem you can probably find a canvas for it now. This is the book that brought canvases to us, taking a simplistic view of business architecture and making it accessible to all.

5.5. The Mom Test – Rob Fitzpatrick

A short book, but it doesn’t miss anything out. If you’re conducting user/customer interviews, you should read this book first. Ideal for users researchers in service design/design thinking and for startup founders. Don’t be fooled into believing what your customers say; they have other motives, so it takes a different approach to obtain the information you require.

6. Business Strategy



6.1. Richard Rumelt – Good Strategy/Bad Strategy: The difference and why it matters

This includes so many case studies regarding how to set strategy. It’s a fascinating read. Main point to take away is that a good strategy includes 3 parts:
  1. An analysis of the current situation
  2. A vision of the future
  3. A plan to achieve that vision

6.2. Michael E. Gerber: E-myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It

At the other end of the scale from Good Strategy/Bad Strategy, Michael discusses small business strategy by using a small bakery as a example throughout the book. It does focus on franchising as a solution in the second half. It’s a useful book for small business owners, helping them think about the processes and systems they need to have in place.

7. Change



7.1. Richard Wiseman – 59 Seconds: Think a little, change a lot

Change yourself in less than a minute. That’s the main concept behind the book. Richard takes us through a journey, referencing many studies across the last few decades and how we can learn from them to influence our own lives.

7.2. Richard Wiseman – Rip It Up: Forget positive thinking, it’s time for positive action

The follow-up to 59 seconds. It’s actually the more practical book out of the two, but it makes sense to read 59 seconds first.

8. Facilitation



8.1.Understanding Facilitation – Christine Hogan


Christine covers a lot of ground in this book. She educates about the history of facilitation, different forms of it and how it has progressed. This is a must-read for facilitators.

8.2. Practical Facilitation – Christine Hogan


In the second book I recommend from Christine Hogan, she introduces tools and techniques for facilitating. This is a good read and worth keeping to hand as a reference guide when you’re starting out in your facilitation experience.

8.3. Sue Knight : NLP At Work

I wondered whether to include this since I don’t actually believe in NLP. There just wasn’t enough scientific evidence at the time I looked into it to prove it worked. However there have been times with facilitators who have had difficulties with some of their customers that I’ve recommended certain parts of this book. Critically, the concept of reframing has helped numerous analysts continue working with customers rather than going home stressed at the end of the day. It’s helped them realise where the problem could lie and, more importantly, that it doesn’t lie with any of the people.

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