Insightful Management Books


Management Books

“The conventional definition of management is getting work done through people, but real management is developing people through work.” —  Agha Hasan Abedi

I finished my new list of insightful Management Books.   It’s a collection of my favorite and noteworthy management books.

Insightful Management Books for the Real-World

One of the things that makes this book list unique is that I find out about great management books from people that are getting results.   It’s not just my wisdom – it’s the collective wisdom of my network.

I ask my colleagues at Microsoft, what management books made a difference for them, and I ask people outside of Microsoft, from freelancers to Entrepreneurs to CxOs (CxO is simply short-hand for CEO, CTO, CIO, etc.)  I then test these books out based on their recommendations, and I continue to expand my library.

Battle-Tested Management Books for Getting Results

Another thing that makes the list unique is that it’s “battle-tested.”  In other words, these are books that I use in the trenches to get results.  While many books have good theories and ideas, I’m a fan of turning insight into action and getting real results on the job.

One thing I have learned though, is that the burden is usually on the reader to translate the ideas into action.  As a reader, I accept that responsibility, and I “own” my results by deliberately turning the books I read into actionable insights.  I try to go the extra mile by sharing the insights I learn with both the people I mentor, but also scale it out to a larger audience, here on my blog.

Mapping Out the Most Effective Management Books

There are more books than we’ll ever read in a life time, so part of what I try to accomplish is map out the best of the best.   Best is always relative though, so I optimize towards “effective.”

Additionally, I try to find the most effective books, based on scenarios.  For example, if you’re starting a new job, The First 90 Days is golden.  If you need to figure out how to share vision and create a strategy for execution, Flawless Execution is a great start.  If you need to shift to fully engage and empower your workforce, Zengage is the place to start.

Note that I originally included brief scenario descriptions for each book, but I cut that it in favor of keeping the list as lean as possible.  I’ll solve this problem eventually, such as maybe adding a scenario map, but for now, I’m more concerned about sharing a lean list of the books I draw from for insight and action on the job.

Call to Action

  1. Explore my list of insightful management books.
  2. Tell me what books I need to know about.
  3. Tell me *why* I need to know about them.

It’s a living library of management books.  I’m regularly expanding my library and I regularly recommend books to people, not just at Microsoft, but I regularly interact with fellow lifelong learners beyond Microsoft too.


  1. J.D. – I was extremely surprised to see QBQ on your list. John Miller actually attends my church – we live in the same neighborhood! Wow, small world. I attended one of his leadership meetings – it was so enlightening, simple and applicable. I have his other two titles as well.

    I have your book on my amazon list. As soon as I had one or two more to my list, it’ll be order!

  2. @ Fred — Drucker is the man. When I think of leadership, I think Maxwell. When I think management, I think Drucker.

    @ Jk — It is a small world and all paths lead to the same town. Whenever I think of QBR, I also think of Action Inquiry. I find that making things actionable, increases accountability, simplifies complexity (if it’s not actionable, let it go), and creates momentum. The key to the right actions, is asking the right questions.

    Your list might fill up fast, I have a few more book lists on the way 😉

  3. Still working on Agile results, so I am not ready to start a new group of books, but am happy to know that these are here. My results are agile, but I am a slow poke… I have a new puppy! and am going to take the week off between Christmas and New Years – sort of like a vacation with lots of company (well they are just landing here between cross country ski runs – lots of cooking ahead)

    Thank you for your good comments on my blog – they are greatly appreciated.

    Thank you for your good work and words

  4. Hi JD … great list as usual and I’d love to read them all – but for now .. no way! Glad yours is on there and I’ve read a few of them .. the Malcolm Gladwell ones I’d like to get sometime ..

    These are so useful .. and will be to refer others to them .. thanks – Hilary

  5. Thank you for compiling a list of management books. I have read a couple but not nearly enough. It’s great that you’ve interviewed your colleagues. You’ve got a great list that I can refer to.

  6. @ Patricia — I’ll keep my book lists handy on the sidebar to make them easy to find. Congrats on your puppy! It sounds like you’ve got some great quality time coming up.

    @ Hilary — Thank you. I know a lot of people are trying to get ahead these days, so I figure these lists can help be the short-cut. Gladwell has a unique approach and he’s always insightful.

    @ Evan — Innovator’s Solution is a classic. I think the key take away was that innovation is way more predictable than we thought, which I think is true of a lot of things, once we know how they work. I also liked how the authors echoed the outsourcing practices we used on our team with great success.

  7. @ Evelyn — Thank you. I’m surrounded by smarties so I’m always trying to learn as much from them as I can, as fast as I can.

  8. What a full list. Did you really read all these books? 😉

    There are so many that I like. The one that stands out is The Toyota Way. So many great lessons. They are very practical too. It’s a wonder that manufacturing companies took so long to implement their ideas.

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