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:
1.1. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
4.1. 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
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.
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.
7.1. 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
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.
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.
I regularly listen to podcasts. If I’m travelling between clients, I’ll usually be listening to a stream of podcasts. Even when taking a shower or eating breakfast, I can have a podcast playing in the background.
I used to listen to a lot of podcasts as I drove between client sites. The podcast format was ideal for the time behind the wheel and expand my thinking for the few hours that I was on the road. So I had a variety of subjects and presenters. Over time, I’ve narrowed the list down to :
1. Podcasts with a focus on sales
I’m not from a sales background, although I have worked on bid teams, and pre and post sales teams. Yet I fully believe that a significant part of a consultant’s job, especially those such involved in innovation, business architecture, business analysis and change management, is to sell the ideas to stakeholders. I don’t think of this as used-car dealer selling, but more ethical selling. More akin to Rob Jolles’ concept that selling is helping a potential client to arrive a decision quicker than they would have without your involvement, even if they decide not to purchase from you. I’ve seen numerous good ideas fail because the consultant didn’t spend enough effort on selling to the stakeholders. So I include 3 sales podcasts in my list.
1.1 The Salesman Podcast
Will Barron’s daily interview podcast, largely focussed on B2B sales. Although the guests are international, there’s often a UK perspective which isn’t present in many other podcasts. You do hear a number of guests that are doing the podcast circuit, but you definitely get a B2B sales focus and usually a different angle to what you may hear on other podcasts.
The Sales Podcast with Wes Schaeffer. These are shorter episodes but with a slower, more considered approach. I find the content in this more cerebral than in the Salesman Podcast. More importantly, this has a wider focus, not restricted to B2B sales.
These are usually short sessions with a few common themes across the podcasts. The Podcast series is hosted by Donald C Kelly, with short 5 minutes episodes, mixed with more in-depth interview episodes. The mix is refreshing and motivational. The only problem I have is keeping up with them so invariably I miss a few.
This is the only pure innovation podcast that’s remained in my list. I introduced it to my list as I found that the rest of the podcasts had a skewed bias and I still wanted to keep up-to-date with innovation within larger corporations. I like that the interviews are with the people who are introducing innovation within larger organisations, rather than just the standard series of podcast guests appearing on other podcasts.
Not purely about innovation, but about investment, specifically venture capital. This ties together the themes for me of innovation and startups. It’s short (designed to be short enough for a commute) and full of information with a high calibre of guests. In listening to it, I gain further insight into the world of less-mature organisations and advice given to them.
This was the first podcast I listened to, well actually I’d heard about Jocko Willink and listened to his interview of Steve Austin’s podcast (so that was the first one), but Jocko is the first host that made me click ‘subscribe’.
Jocko Willink is an ex-Navy Seal commander, now martial arts gym owner, public speaker, author, business consultant and seller of tea. His episodes typically include him reading excerpts from military books (usually military history and first-hand writing where possible), commenting on them and then a question and answer slot at the end. More commonly the Q&A is appearing in a following episode. These are long episodes, easily over an hour.
I continue to listen to these because I agree with 80-90% of his business perspective and I find that he has a clear insight into how to resolve problems. Often that takes the form of reframing the problem from the original question. It’s a similar approach to what I take and it’s good to hear someone from a massively different background doing similar.
In this bite-sized article, I’ll introduce the idea of a basic process map.
Let’s get some background about process mapping first.
What is a process map?
A process map is a tool. It is not an end in its own right. They are often used in software development lifecycle or within Business Process Re-engineering (BPR). If the methodology you’re working in states that one is required, you’re not writing a map just to fulfill that aim, but because the creators of that methodology realised that a process map would be a useful tool to have.
I see a process as one component of a process description, not necessarily the only component. That’s worth remembering.
What are the purposes of a process map?
I have at least four aims when I’m process mapping:
To describe a process in pictorial form
To provide a quick way of understanding how the main steps in a process fit together
To provide documentation for agreeing what happens in a process
To provide documentation for what could happen in a process, e.g. process improvement
There are other aims depending on the need, e.g. for collaborative working, facilitating workshops. Whatever the discrete aims are, they all boil down to communication.
What are the components of a process map?
Every process has at least one process step, at least one starting point and at least one ending point. The process step is an action that is performed by an actor (either a person, a system or an organisation).
Our initial basic process will have the following:
one starting point
two process steps
one end point
connectors showing the direction of flow
For the process map here starts at Process Start, continues to Process Step 1. Once that is complete, continue to Process Step 2. Once that is complete, continue to Process End and the process is terminated.
To put that into context, imagine a simplified process for buying a book in a bookstore.
The customer wants to buy a book, so process start (Buy a Book), customer Chooses a Book, then Customer Pays for Book. Once that’s complete, the Book is bought. I’ve simplified it so we can discuss it in more detail later on.
Your software may have different notation for process start/initiators, process ends/terminators and process steps (often just called processes). That’s ok. As long as you can tell the difference between them.
That’s the very basics covered. I’ll go into more detail about processes, process steps, decision points and common pitfalls in the following articles in the series.
I’ve written before about the elements involved in a process map. In this series of articles, I want to start at the basics and explain what a process map should contain. I’ve seen a fair few methodologies come and go. Fortunately, methodology seems to be settling down with a few interesting branches appearing. I’ve also seen and used a lot of different process mapping tools at different levels, some more like CASE tools, some more like business process management tools, some just diagramming tools.
The aims of this series
I want to work with better-written process descriptions. I want to pass on best-practice as I’ve seen it after working with a lot of process and business analysts. I’ll discuss why following the methodology is not enough on its own, nor is just creating process maps on their own.
I am not writing against any software lifecycle methodologies, any project frameworks nor am I saying one tool is better than another (although I may touch on that). What I will provide are tips for improving the process analyses that you create regardless of which tool, methodology or framework.
Why am I writing this series?
As part of my BPR activities, I’ve received a lot of process descriptions that are not detailed enough, not internally consistent, not wide enough in scope, have gaps in them…in short, not good enough. It doesn’t matter to me who did the analysis, what counts is that someone (maybe the same person) is going to have to do more work to get it up to scratch.
If the work isn’t improved, then it causes problems further down the line. Some examples of the problems caused:
increase in customer complaints because agents can’t handle their questions
having to hire in more people as process gaps are identified
having longer queuing times because the the time taken to complete the process was underestimated, based on too simple a view of the process.
delay to process implementation while the correct level of detail is captured
stakeholder conflict as the invalid process maps highlight distrust between the operational teams and the process improvement teams
I’d prefer it if the process descriptions were defined properly in the first place. So please, distribute this.
All of the changes facing every organisation require skilled personnel, either increasing a team’s knowledge in the tools and techniques used for change or by mentoring analysts, providing guidance and supervision.
Training packages can be developed in the following:
Each training package is bespoke, specifically tailored to the client’s needs.
Mentoring is a longer engagement than training, designed to offer support to your staff in their profession. For those involved in the change profession (change analysts, business analysts, business process analysts), we can provide a mentoring service; either with regular drop-ins or remote via email or onto your organisation’s existing discussion forums. This service should be considered as supplementary to the standard employee mentoring and welfare within your own organisation.
It is ideal for SME (Small-to-Medium Sized Enterprises) with one or two business analysts, but who do not have sufficient need or resources to accommodate a wider analysis function. This service provides mentoring by a senior analyst, reducing what could otherwise be an costly commitment for a small organisation and providing experience from a number of industry sectors.