Inspiring Reads For 2021: Improving Your Organisation

31 January

Posted by Andy Cooper

You may think you have very little influence on the improvement of your organisation. But there is enough evidence in the books I read last year to show that inspiring positive action can really make a difference, no matter how large the organisation is. In some cases, you may only influence a small part of the organisation; however, positive change is something we can all influence, and you just never know how far you can go until you try. In addition to some of the books I've shared on improving yourself and improving your leadership skills, these are the books that inspired me to try and affect positive change in my organisation. 


1. The Joy of Work: 30 Ways to Fix Your Work Culture and Fall in Love with Your Job Again by Bruce Daisley

I have been listening and following Daisley for a few years since I heard him speak on a podcast. He has his own excellent podcast, newsletter and website based on creating a better workplace culture. I was interested in reading his book and the 30 ideas that he tested and tried as the head of Twitter for Europe. Daisley is a true sceptic, so dear to my heart and only adopts ideas that have a sound basis and are supported by science and evidence. This makes them safe to adopt. This book is well worth a read for ideas on how to improve your own joy for work, and in doing so, will improve it for others too. 


2. The Phoenix Project: A Novel about IT, DevOps, and Helping Your Business Win by Gene Kim

This was another book that many people I respect had recommended, so I decided it was time I finally read it. It is a great book, and I highly recommend it to all of us in IT-related jobs that have suffered through years of the traditional way of building and running IT systems as an inspiring and approachable path to the new way through the principles and practices of aligned business and IT.


3. Humanocracy: Creating Organisations as Amazing as the People Inside Them by Gary Hamel and Michele Zanini

When I saw that Amy C. Edmondson had posted a review saying that "Humanocracy is the most important management book I had read in a very long time", I knew this had to be special. She was not wrong. Wow! This is a powerful and frankly searing indictment to the bureaucracy we see in many organisations and the human and capital costs it creates. Hamel and Zanini unpack a series of principles, case studies and practices that anyone can apply to create teams and organisations that are inspired as the people who work for them. As a bonus, you can also get access to a free four-hour video course that unpacks this in more detail. I love that they have created a course and a movement called "Hack My Org".


4. Sooner Safer Happier: Antipatterns and Patterns for Business Agility by Jonathan Smart

I've only recently finished reading this, and as expected, it was worthwhile. Smart outlines a ton of patterns and anti-patterns for transformation based on many years of experience, especially from his time at Barclays, a large and very traditional organisation. A key point that Smart emphasises but is lost in many transformations is to focus it on what people really care about which he explains is "better value, sooner, safer and happier". The book explains how to achieve this and avoid the traps that many organisations fall into in their journey to agility.  


5. Demand-Side Sales 101: Stop Selling and Help Your Customers Make Progress by Bob Moesta

This book may seem odd alongside the others, and for that, I make no apologies. Most of us have roles where selling or influence has some importance, and for everyone else, you have no business without sales or influence. This book is compelling because it takes the ‘Jobs to Be Done’ theory made famous by the late and great Clayton M. Christensen and applies it to selling. The premise is that you're not selling, but rather helping people to buy and make progress in their lives. When you look at it this way, it supports what I think is the real mission for many of us in sales-related roles: to help others make progress and better hear, see, and learn what they need. Highly recommended to all in sales, therefore everyone.



Now for the honourable mentions: Other books that I've previously read that are good for “hacking your org” are, The Startup Way by Eric Ries, Brave New Work by Aaron Dignan, Alive at Work by Daniel M. Cable, Strategic Doing by Edward Morrison, Right to Left by Mike Burrows, Great at Work by Morten T. Hansen.

I read, listened, and watched quite a bit last year. In fact, I've binged on books, podcasts, and new knowledge. I have learned a lot, applied quite a bit, and grown. I've also come to learn and experience the Dunning-Kruger effect, and I am hopeful that by continuing my quest, I'll fulfil the wisdom of Aristotle, "The more you know, the more you know you don't know."

If you have not read any of these, never fear. At the risk of being an advice monster, I suggest starting with Tiny Habits first and make it a habit to read more. That was one of mine, and as you can see, it worked pretty well.

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