Years ago, I researched and compiled a list of business management classics. These titles were selected because they introduced new, groundbreaking ideas and practices that were influential in moving the discipline forward. Ultimately, they play an important part in the history of business management thought leadership.
The Achieving Society (1961). David C. McClelland. This book identifies achievement motivation as an important psychological foundation for economic development.
Administrative Behavior: A Study of Decision-Making Processes in Administrative Organizations (1947). Herbert A. Simon. A “ground-breaking” work in which Simon applied his pioneering theory of human choice to administrative decision-making.
A Behavioral Theory of the Firm (1963). Richard M. Cyert and James G. March. This is a classic work in organizational theory, and it is one of the most significant contributions to improving the theory of the firm.
Competitive Strategy: Techniques for Analyzing Industries and Competitors (1980). Michael E. Porter. This highly influential book has transformed the theory and practice in the field of business strategy. Introduced is the famous Five Forces framework.
The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization (1990). Peter M. Senge. Senge’s “path-breaking” book draws on science, spiritual wisdom, psychology, and the cutting edge of management thought to show how businesses can overcome their “learning disabilities” and beat the odds of failure.
The Forest Ranger: A Study in Administrative Behavior (1960). Herbert Kaufman. This landmark case study details how, in a large dispersed organization, like the Forest Service, top managers are able to shape the behavior of field officers into a coherent, unified program.
The Functions of the Executive (1938). Chester I. Bernard. Mr. Bernard’s thinking on the importance of communication is still relevant to modern management.
The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement (1993). Eliyahu M Goldratt. This business book, disguised as a novel, is about a manager that discovers a revolutionary new way to do business. Mr. Goldratt explains the technique of optimized production technology.
How to Win Friends and Influence People (1936). Dale Carnegie. This book is based on courses in public speaking that had been taught by Dale Carnegie and was designed to help professional people do better in business by helping them make social contacts and improve their speaking skills.
The Human Problems of an Industrial Civilization (1933). Elton Mayo. Here Mayo discusses the Hawthorne experiments, which shows the important link between workforce morale and organizational performance.
The Human Side of Enterprise (1960). Douglas M. McGregor. McGregor’s revolutionary Theory Y – which contends that individuals are self-motivated and self-directed – and Theory X – in which employees must be commanded and controlled – has been widely taught in business schools for over four decades.
In Search of Excellence: Lessons from America’s Best-Run Companies (1982). Tom Peters and Robert Waterman. Based on a study of forty-three of America’s best-run companies, In Search of Excellence describes eight basic principles of management that made these organizations successful.
In the Shadow of Organization (1981). Robert B. Denhardt. This book deals with the dilemma of individual autonomy in an organizational society.
Industrial Organization: Theory and Practice (1965). Joan Woodward. This book was a major contribution to the development of contingency theory and our understanding of the relationship between technology and organizations.
Management and the Worker (1939). Fritz J. Roethlisberger and William J. Dickson. This is the official account of the famous experiments carried out at the Hawthorne Works of the Eastern Electric Company in Chicago. The results of these experiments greatly influenced the Human Resources movement.
The Management of Innovation (1961). Tom Burns and George M. Stalker. This influential book on organization theory addresses the relationship between an organization and its market and the technological environment.
Motivation and Personality (1954). Abraham H. Maslow. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs contributed to the research of motivation and the emergence of human relations as a discipline.
My Years with General Motors (1964). Alfred P. Sloan. This personal memoir describes the strategies Mr. Sloan used to build GM into what at that time was the world’s largest and most successful industrial company.
The One Minute Manager (1981). Kenneth Blanchard and Spencer Johnson. An easy read, this book simplifies rules that can guarantee increased productivity, profits, and job satisfaction.
Organization and Environment: Managing Differentiation and Integration (1967). Paul R. Lawrence and Jay W. Lorsch. The authors, in a retrospective review, state that this book’s enduring contribution is the “contingency idea that organizations function most effectively when tailored and designed to mesh with their chosen environments.”
Organizations (1958). James G. march and Herbert A. Simon. Written by two of the world’s most important contributors to the field, Organizations has become a classic work in organization theory.
Organizations in Action: Social Science Bases of Administrative Theory (1967). James D. Thompson. Organizations in Action is a classic multidisciplinary study of the behavior of complex organizations as entities.
Out of the Crisis (1986). W. Edwards Deming (1986). Deming is regarded as the leading figure on quality. Here he offers a theory of management based on his 14 Points for Management.
The Practice of Management (1954). Peter F. Drucker. Mr. Drucker is widely considered to be the father of modern management. The Practice of Management created the discipline of modern management practices.
The Principles of Scientific Management (1911). Frederick W. Taylor. Many consider this the most influential book on management ever published. This classic, controversial at times, of decision theory and managerial technique has helped administrators eliminate inefficiency since 1911.
Reengineering the Corporation: A Manifesto for Business Revolution (1993). Michael Hammer. The reengineering revolution hit hard in the 1990s, and this was the “must read” book by the leading reengineering guru.
Strategy and Structure: Chapters in the History of American Enterprise (1962). Alfred D. Chandler. This book shows how the seventy largest corporations in America have dealt with a single economic problem: the effective administration of an expanding business.