Tagline from The Management Narrative Podcast
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A thorough understanding of management as it is practiced today requires an understanding of the ideas that shaped it; and while reading a summary of past management thought is better than no exposure at all, summaries simply cannot replace an immersion into the original texts that first brought forth these thoughts. That is why we think the below list is so important and why we are offering it to you. The below books are generally regarded as having had a significant impact on the practice of contemporary management, with more than half of them appearing on the 2001 Academy of Management list of the 25 "Most Influential Management Books of the 20th Century."
Unless they are a comprehensive text that covers multiple management eras, the below books are listed in ascending order to align with the era in which they were published or of which they cover.
After Browsing this list, please be sure to check out the even more extensive list of modern, must-read management and leadership books, also located on this Management Works website.
The Genesis of Modern Management: A Study of the Industrial Revolution in Great Britain is considered one of the definitive sources on how the need for contemporary management practices emerged during the British Industrial Revolution.
In this informative and highly influential academic work, the authors tell the 230+ history of contemporary management thought and practice. Beginning with the British and American Industrial Revolutions and ending with an analysis of present day approaches and a discussion of what the future may hold, The Evolution of Management Thought takes the reader through the various developmental stages of management as a systematic, transferrable practice and its emergence as one of the most transformative human endeavors of the modern era.
From one of the foremost researchers and authors of American management and business history, The Visible Hand tells the story of how the institution of management emerged in the United States during the American Industrial Revolution and beyond and how its impact has been significant and far-reaching. If you want to begin to understand why businesses operate the way they do today, this book is a must-read.
We also recommend these additional books by Chandler: Strategy and Structure: Chapters in the History of the Industrial Enterprise and Inventing the Electronic Century: The Epic Story of the Consumer Electronics and Computer Industries.
This book marked the beginning of not only the highly influential Scientific Management era , but also, in many ways, the beginning of management in general as a systematic and transferrable practice. It has made numerous lists as the, or one of the, most influential management books ever published and its principles have become so woven into the fabric of management that they have never ceased to influence. If you want to understand why we work and manage the way we do today, we highly recommend this read from the past.
Before he took a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court, Louis Brandeis was a progressive reformer and a supporter of Frederick Winslow Taylor's Scientific Management. Indeed, it was Brandeis that coined the term "Scientific Management" (Taylor preferred "Task Management"). Brandeis' contributions to Scientific Management went beyond mere coining of terms, however. In his presentation of Scientific Management, he emphasized the benefit of its practice for the everyday worker in a way that Taylor had/could not. This book is a collection of speeches in which he used real-life examples to convey the benefit of Taylor's methods for the common worker.
In this book that would not be appreciated until several decades after its original French language publication, Henri Fayol introduced the fourteen Principles and four functions of Management, which remain to this day an integral part of accepted management practice. Whereas Taylor's The Principles of Scientific Management takes a micro approach to management--i.e. analyzing it at the operations level--Fayol takes a macro approach, discussing and analyzing management practice at all levels of the organization.
The book that introduced the notion of bureaucracy to the world and how it is, according to Weber, the "ideal" form for organizations. We cannot overstate how influential and prescient Weber's theory and understanding of Bureaucracy have been. For those of us who have spent years working and managing within highly bureaucratic organizations, Weber's book at times felt like a neighbor peeking into your backyard.
Discusses the famous Hawthorne experiments, which would eventually help give rise to the human relations theory of management. A must read for anyone wishing to understand the early foundations for the "people-focused" management school of thought that still dominates much of current management studies and practices.
Management and the Worker relates the details surrounding the now famous Hawthorne Studies, from which the movement toward more “people-centered” management first gained traction. Although recent years have seen criticism directed toward the research methods used in the studies, the impact and even many of the conclusions resulting from it are both compelling and difficult to dispute.
One of the first books to address organizations as they ‘really are’ and how they ‘really operate’, as opposed to the theoretical and prescriptive assumptions that were prevalent at the time. Upon publication, Barnard’s text was hailed as a major contribution to the study of organizational management, a descriptor that still holds true today.
Praised by Bill Gates and other prominent business leaders, Sloan’s account of his years with General Motors—where he would eventually become both chairman and CEO—is considered a management classic that is just as relevant today as it was when it was published almost sixty years ago.
The authors of this seminal text highlight the successes of many of the key black business leaders and influencers of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in tapping into the cooperative black American culture. Notable figures include: Maggie Walker, Annie Turnbro-Malone, Charles Clinton Spaulding, Alonzo Herndon, and John Merrick.
One of the first women contributors to management thought, Mary Parker Follett was an early advocate of employee empowerment and an early and vocal critic of micromanaging.
This work by Herbert A. Simon has been cited as one of the most influential texts on the practice of administration, being referred to by the Noble Committee as “epoch-making.” Administrative Behavior is directly applicable to ‘real-world’ managers and administrators who are faced with the practical challenges of operating within complex organizations.
This text is a classic study of small group interactions and their impact on larger units and has impacted several fields of study, with management included in that mix.
Maslow on Management is a compilation of many of Abraham Maslow’s thoughts on management and human motivation. But do not purchase this book if you are looking for simple, cohesive, by-the-numbers answers; Maslow’s ideas are presented here in a beautifully disjointed but effective style and are as much about generating additional conjecture as they are about providing answers.
In this seminal text, Herzberg shed light on the previously ignored correlation between worker satisfaction and the job itself, rather than automatically equating satisfaction with factors external to the job (such as interpersonal relationships and compensation).
Management scholars and practitioners have credited this Peter F. Drucker signature text with establishing the basic tenets for modern management practice. Written in a straight-forward style and comprehensive in scope, The Practice of Management is arguably as relevant today as when it was first published.
Considered by many scholars as one of the early authoritative texts on organization theory and organizational behavior, Organizations is an important read for managers at all levels. Still widely referenced, we at Management Works consider it one of the truly indispensable foundational management texts.
Another classic and influential management text that is as relevant today as when it was first published. In New Patterns, Likert makes an indelible contribution to the Human Relations theory of management and to the never-ending endeavor of determining exactly what constitutes effective people management.
In this under-appreciated but important book, Stewart introduces her framework for how managers relate to, and work within, the boundaries of their jobs. Stewart posits that managers make choices about their jobs and that these choices are: (1) what aspects of the job the manager chooses to emphasize in terms of time, effort and commitment of resources; (2) how and what tasks are delegated; and (3) how the manager handles his/her job boundaries.
In Men Who Manage, Melville Dalton presents an ethnographic study of how managers interact with their environment, their employees, their peers, and their superiors and how those interactions produce particular effects and outcomes. Not only is this an important read, but also a rare look into the often-esoteric world of management and those who practice it.
In Strategy and Structure, Chandler relays the methods and strategies used by seventy large American companies to successfully address the administration needs of a growing enterprise. He also examines the emergence of a decentralized corporate structure through case studies of DuPont, General Motors, Standard Oil, and Sears Roebuck.
The author examines the correlation between external influences such as technology, competition, and economic factors and an organization’s administrative and organizational development and design. Organizations and Environment continues to be an important read for managers and administrators.
Prior to Organizations in Action, the study of the behavior of organizations as entities with self-agency focused on the individuals that comprised the organization. In this text, however, the author uses a multidisciplinary approach to explain the behavior of organizations and argues that all organizations are forced to face and overcome uncertainty.
As the figure most associated with Total Quality Management, Demming addresses establishing a competitive advantage through quality-focused processes.
In How Institutions Think, Mary Douglas uses previously established sociological theory to examine the correlation between institutions and the thoughts and perceptions of individuals. While this text is one that is often overlooked in discussions of general management, it is, in our opinion, an undeniably important contribution to organizational and sociological theory and, thus, and an equably important read for organizational managers.
In this informative work, the inventor of the Toyota Production System (TPS) and Lean practices discusses how Lean and TPS can be used to increase the effectiveness of any production operations.
In his signature work, Bennis taps into his extensive teaching and advisory experience to provide invaluable insights into the qualities and characteristics associated with effective leadership. This is inarguably a book that is as relevant today as it was when Bennis first released it.
In this first-of-its-kind book, the authors discuss how to convert an individual’s or organization’s knowledge about how to achieve objectives into actionable results. Through various forms of communication and problem-solving methods, managers can serve as a catalyst for action.
This award-winning study of a large U.S. tech company makes a case for how an organization’s efforts to overtly shape its culture can have negative impacts on its members. Ground-breaking upon its release, this is a must-read for managers and leaders at all levels.
This book is a major contributor to explaining how organizations can better align their business objectives with their information technology infrastructure. Definitely a book for our time.
In Managers not MBAs, Mintzberg once again makes the case for why current “management” education is poorly equipped to produce effective managers. According to Mintzberg, the problem is not only what is taught—which, he argues, is definitely a problem—but also how and when it is taught.
No one states the case for management as an experientially learned practice, as opposed to a didactically-taught profession, quite as emphatically and plainly as does Henry Mintzberg. In Simply Managing, Mintzberg once again makes a strong case for changing our approaches to educating and developing managers, while also presenting a model of managing that we think, in all of its relative complexity, goes further than most of the other available models in depicting exactly what it is--and where, when, and for whom--managers do.
In this thought-provoking text, the authors challenge the existing narrative around the history of the development of modern, contemporary management theory and practices.
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