As a rule, I hate business books. They typically come in only two varieties: overly simplistic feel good exercises that should be illustrated with cartoons; or heavily theoretical tomes written by and for people who have never been inside a real business.
But there are exceptions. Some of the best, most original, most useful business thinking comes from Dr. Jeff Pfeffer of Stanford University. With his colleague Robert Sutton, he has published a new book that ties into my belief in rigorously using metrics to run your business. It is called : Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths, and Total Nonsense: Profiting from Evidence-Based Management. You can find out more about it here: The Myths Of Management
I first encountered Dr. Pfeffer about ten years ago when I was recruiting speakers for a private conference for top folks in the technology industry. Although no one had specifically asked for “management” advice, we invited Jeff Pfeffer because he was a really smart guy. And each year he blew away all of the other speakers on audience ratings. Why? Because he had common sense answers to the tough questions including “How do I keep the best people?” and “How do I get a handle on my business?”
Even if you don’t get around to reading the whole book, I’d strongly suggest that you take a look at this article from Harvard Business School’s Working Knowledge website. Pfeffer and Sutton address three harmful practices that they (and I) see in businesses today: casual benchmarking; doing what seems to have worked in the past; and following deeply help yet unexamined ideologies.
What I love about Pfeffer’s work is that he can look at the everyday life of business and yet still come up with insights that cause you to slap your head and say “wow”.