The best organizational change books

5 authors have picked their favorite books about organizational change and why they recommend each book.

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Humanocracy

By Gary Hamel, Michele Zanini,

Book cover of Humanocracy: Creating Organizations as Amazing as the People Inside Them

This book does a very nice job highlighting the costs of traditional bureaucracy and shows that bureaucracy costs the economy trillions of dollars. The authors then review how to create an organization where people feel empowered to accomplish all that they can. By fulling engaging the hearts, minds, and actions of people, organizations are more successful over time.


Who am I?

Dave Ulrich is the Rensis Likert Professor at the Ross School of Business and a partner at the RBL Group, a consulting firm focused on helping organizations and leaders deliver value. He has published over 200 articles and book chapters and over 30 books. The organizations where we live, work, play, and worship affect every part of our lives. Organizations turn individual competencies into collective capabilities, isolated events into sustained patterns, and personal values into collective values. In short, organizations matter in our lives. By adapting their answer to “what is an organization,” leaders, employees, customers, and investors will be better able to improve their organization's experiences.


I co-authored...

Reinventing the Organization: How Companies Can Deliver Radically Greater Value in Fast-Changing Markets

By Dave Ulrich, Arthur Yeung,

Book cover of Reinventing the Organization: How Companies Can Deliver Radically Greater Value in Fast-Changing Markets

What is my book about?

In today’s changing world, your company needs to manage information, be agile, focus on customers, and discover innovation.  The new organization form (Market Oriented Ecosystem … MOE) draws on numerous models: agile, networked, holacracy, and remarkable cases including Tencent, Alibaba, Google, Facebook to distill 6 principles for creating an organization that delivers employee, strategy, customer, and financial results.  This work is a roadmap for the new organization journey.

Playing to Win

By A.G. Lafley, Roger L. Martin,

Book cover of Playing to Win: How Strategy Really Works

My own early experiences with strategy were pretty uninspiring – slow, incremental, and almost entirely analytical. But the framework that Roger and AG lay out in Playing to Win changed it all for me. It’s practical. It’s understandable. And it is aimed at not just understanding the world as it is, but at imaging a world that might be different… and forging a real strategy to bring that new world to life. The book is based on the approach to strategy Roger honed in his career as a management disclosure and that AG practiced as CEO at Procter & Gamble. Full disclosure, I helped them as they were writing the book – and honestly think it is the best book on strategy of the past 30 years.


Who am I?

I am a writer, teacher, and partner at IDEO, the global design and innovation firm. Before IDEO, I spent more than a decade teaching university undergrads and MBAs to create better choices, in their work and their lives. Now, I work with business leaders to help them do the same thing, at the intersection of design and strategy. I believe that one key to getting to those better choices is the ability to understand, reflect on and, yes, even improve our own way of thinking and engaging with the world. The books on this list have shifted my own understanding of the world and how I think. I hope they inspire and challenge you as well. 


I wrote...

Creating Great Choices: A Leader's Guide to Integrative Thinking

By Jennifer Riel, Roger L. Martin,

Book cover of Creating Great Choices: A Leader's Guide to Integrative Thinking

What is my book about?

When it comes to our hardest choices, it can seem as though making trade-offs is inevitable. But what about those crucial times when accepting the obvious trade-off just isn't good enough? What do we do when the choices in front of us don't get us what we need? In those cases, rather than choosing the least worst option, we can use the models in front of us to create a new and superior answer. This is integrative thinking.

Creating Great Choices is a field guide to integrative thinking. The book includes fresh stories of successful integrative thinkers that will demystify the process of creative problem solving, as well as practical tools and exercises to help readers engage with the ideas. 

Only the Paranoid Survive

By Andrew S. Grove,

Book cover of Only the Paranoid Survive: How to Exploit the Crisis Points That Challenge Every Company

This book is a guide to surviving an existential crisis – what Grove calls a Strategic Inflection Point – when your business is subjected to one or more of six external forces, which, if powerful enough, could destroy the business.  Some of them are obvious – competitors, regulators, customers, vendors – but others more esoteric, like “the possibility your business could be done a different way”, what today we would call being disrupted.  I read it in 2015, when the company I run, FINCA International, was facing five of these six forces, each of which clobbered us with a 10x force compared to the first three decades of our existence, when competition was weak and most external forces enabled our success. How does a CEO respond to this challenge?  Grove’s answer is summarized in the title: remain in a permanent state of dread, which to outsiders might appear on the…


Who am I?

Rupert Scofield is the President & CEO of a global financial services empire spanning 20 countries of Latin America, Africa, Eurasia and the Middle East, serving millions of the world’s poorest families, especially women. Scofield has spent the better part of his life dodging revolutions, earthquakes and assassins in the Third World, and once ran for his life from a mob in Mogadishu, Somalia.


I wrote...

Default to Bold: Anatomy of a Turnaround

By Rupert Scofield,

Book cover of Default to Bold:  Anatomy of a Turnaround

What is my book about?

Default to Bold is a guide to surviving and thriving, in business and life, during moments of crisis. While logic would tell you the best response is to keep a low profile, it is the counter-intuitive response of defaulting to bold that works best, throwing your enemies off-balance and reminding your allies why they trusted you in the first place.

Over the past three decades, Rupert Scofield built a billion-dollar microfinance empire in some of the most difficult markets on earth. Against all odds, he delivered 80 straight quarters of profits, becoming in the process a “living legend” in the microfinance and social enterprise spaces. Suddenly, a global crisis in Emerging Markets, triggered by collapsing oil and other commodity prices devalues currencies worldwide and plunges FINCA into losses. The six minority investors, including the IFC (World Bank) and five other self-described “social investors” screamed for Scofield’s resignation. Also arrayed against FINCA are over 40 lenders, including the investors, who collectively have lent $800 million dollars to FINCA and are now clamoring for their money back. How the author and his colleagues prevail against these enormous odds is a testimony to the power of a bold strategy.

The Agility Factor

By Christopher G. Worley, Edward E. Lawler, Thomas D. Williams

Book cover of The Agility Factor: Building Adaptable Organizations for Superior Performance

Ed Lawler has a lifetime of melding academic theory and organization practice. In this research based book, he and his colleagues not only recognize that agility matters, but they do research to validate processes that create organization agility. Agility is one of the emerging capabilities for a successful organization in today’s changing world. Anything El Lawler works is well thought out, researched, and usable.


Who am I?

Dave Ulrich is the Rensis Likert Professor at the Ross School of Business and a partner at the RBL Group, a consulting firm focused on helping organizations and leaders deliver value. He has published over 200 articles and book chapters and over 30 books. The organizations where we live, work, play, and worship affect every part of our lives. Organizations turn individual competencies into collective capabilities, isolated events into sustained patterns, and personal values into collective values. In short, organizations matter in our lives. By adapting their answer to “what is an organization,” leaders, employees, customers, and investors will be better able to improve their organization's experiences.


I co-authored...

Reinventing the Organization: How Companies Can Deliver Radically Greater Value in Fast-Changing Markets

By Dave Ulrich, Arthur Yeung,

Book cover of Reinventing the Organization: How Companies Can Deliver Radically Greater Value in Fast-Changing Markets

What is my book about?

In today’s changing world, your company needs to manage information, be agile, focus on customers, and discover innovation.  The new organization form (Market Oriented Ecosystem … MOE) draws on numerous models: agile, networked, holacracy, and remarkable cases including Tencent, Alibaba, Google, Facebook to distill 6 principles for creating an organization that delivers employee, strategy, customer, and financial results.  This work is a roadmap for the new organization journey.

Good to Great

By Jim Collins,

Book cover of Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap...and Others Don't

This classic book focuses on the core issue of how great companies achieve long-term sustained performance. It is a sequel to the author’s earlier book, Built to Last. Good to Great is based on research that compares a defined set of ‘great companies” (including Coca-Cola, Intel, General Electric, and Merck) with a comparison set of so-called “good companies” companies that failed to make the leap to greatness. Although General Electric subsequently fell from grace and now is in revitalization, the analysis and sample of companies selected as examples of greatness are reasonable and the overall analysis generally valid.

The book makes a contribution by identifying some of the “dos” and “don’t’s” for companies desiring to achieve greatness or what we have termed “business champions.” The book also provides some constructs (including some from Built to Last) to assist the journey from good to great, including the notion of…


Who am I?

I'm Professor Emeritus at UCLA and have also been on the faculty of Columbia University and The University of Michigan, where I received my PhD degree. I founded Management Systems Consulting, which works with entrepreneurial firms in the US and globally to scale up, in 1978. I've served on the board of a firm (99 Cents Only Stores) that scaled up and was a NYSE listed firm. I've advised CEOs who have created global champion firms and been recognized as leaders in their space. I've authored or co-authored several books including Creating Family Business Champions; Corporate Culture: The Ultimate Strategic Advantage; Changing the Game; and Leading Strategic Change.


I wrote...

Growing Pains: Building Sustainably Successful Organizations

By Eric G. Flamholtz, Yvonne Randle,

Book cover of Growing Pains: Building Sustainably Successful Organizations

What is my book about?

This book is about managing the stages of growth successfully from a start-up to a sustainably successful organization and/or even becoming a global champion or recognized leader in your space like Starbucks, which was one of the author’s clients during its early years from 1994-97. The book provides a framework and template to create a road map for organizational development and a set of methodologies to help scale up and become a sustainably successful organization and/or even become a global champion. It presents a framework of the key stages of organizational growth and identifies the set of variables that must be managed as well as their relative importance at each stage. The book provides advice for the CEO and founder of entrepreneurial companies undergoing the process of scaling up.

Reimagining Capitalism in a World on Fire

By Rebecca Henderson,

Book cover of Reimagining Capitalism in a World on Fire

If we want to reimagine capitalism as a system that does not destroy the planet and destabilize society, this must be enabled by corporations changing the way that they operate. Henderson’s Reimagining Capitalism gives us some principles for thinking about how to do this. A long-time innovation scholar, Henderson draws on her knowledge about how to succeed at organizational change to propose a more purpose-driven model of corporate action. Using numerous case studies of companies that have (partially) succeeded and those that have failed, she animates a number of principles for change. To start, such a model will require new metrics for social and environmental impact. This would involve more collaborative engagement amongst stakeholders to grow the economic pie and amongst companies to self-regulate in a more sustainable manner.

Particularly refreshing, at the end of the book, Henderson connects the macro conversation about economic and corporate change with a discussion…


Who am I?

Sarah Kaplan is Distinguished Professor and Director of the Institute for Gender and the Economy at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management. She is the author of the bestseller Creative Destruction: Why Companies That Are Built to Last Underperform the Market—And How to Successfully Transform Them and The 360º Corporation: From Stakeholder Trade-offs to Transformation, both address the challenges of innovation and organizational change in society. She frequently speaks and appears in the media on topics related to achieving a more inclusive economy and corporate governance reform. Formerly a professor at the Wharton School and a consultant at McKinsey & Company, she earned her PhD at MIT’s Sloan School of Management.


I wrote...

The 360° Corporation: From Stakeholder Trade-Offs to Transformation

By Sarah Kaplan,

Book cover of The 360° Corporation: From Stakeholder Trade-Offs to Transformation

What is my book about?

Companies are increasingly facing intense pressures to address stakeholder demands from every direction: consumers want socially responsible products; employees want meaningful work; investors now screen on environmental, social, and governance criteria; “clicktivists” create social media storms over company missteps. CEOs now realize that their companies must be social as well as commercial actors, but stakeholder pressures often create trade-offs with demands to deliver financial performance to shareholders. How can companies respond while avoiding simple “greenwashing” or “pinkwashing”?

In The 360° Corporation, I argue that the shared-value mindset may actually get in the way of progress and I show—in practical steps—how trade-offs, rather than being confusing or problematic, can actually be the source of organizational resilience and transformation. 

Unlearn

By Barry O’Reilly,

Book cover of Unlearn: Let Go of Past Success to Achieve Extraordinary Results

We can only learn new things if we unlearn old things. The only way we get better is through reexamining our old ways of working and discarding those that are irrelevant. In a series of fun, well-written case studies and discussions Barry makes it clear how this approach to thinking, personal and product development redefines success in any field.


Who am I?

Jeff has been a UX designer, team leader and product manager for over 20 years. His work in the field helped define some of the key practices product managers use today. Building a customer-centric practice is key to successful products and services and Jeff has demonstrated that not only in the products and companies he’s helped build but in the writing and thinking he’s contributed to the product managaement community.


I wrote...

Forever Employable: How to Stop Looking for Work and Let Your Next Job Find You

By Jeff Gothelf,

Book cover of Forever Employable: How to Stop Looking for Work and Let Your Next Job Find You

What is my book about?

After spending the first 10 years of his career climbing the corporate ladder, Jeff Gothelf decided to change his approach to staying employed. Instead of looking for jobs, they would find him. Jeff spent the next 15 years building his personal brand to become a recognized expert, consultant, author, and public speaker.

In this highly tactical, practical book, Jeff Gothelf shares the tips, tricks, techniques, and learnings that helped him become Forever Employable. Using the timeline from his own career and anecdotes, stories and case studies from other successful recognized experts Jeff provides a step-by-step guide to building a foundation based on your current expertise ensuring that no matter what happens in your industry you'll remain Forever Employable. 

Courageous Cultures

By Karin Hurt, David Dye,

Book cover of Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates

To live and work in a world of turmoil and change requires courage. Resilience is a life skill that can be learned—but it takes courage. In this book, Hurt and Dye come up with very practical but realistic ways to identify organizational practices that encourage or cut-off valuable conversations.

I’m in the field of communications and their advice is not only timely but timeless. I reach for their book when I went to coach someone who is overwhelmed by the workplace. It might be a manager trying to hold a team together, or individual contributors trying to determine if a role is right for them.  Hold this on your bookshelf. I guarantee you will use it for yourself—or for others.


Who am I?

For as long as I can remember, I have always wanted to make a difference—by helping others become wiser and/or happier. But how? Colleagues, clients, and friends tell me that I have a capacity for energy that is boundless. I resisted that statement. It sounded “fluffy”. How could I make a difference if I saw “energy” as being some flighty firefly? Then, when I went through 2 bouts of burnout, I realized that energy was the secret—the secret to resilience, the secret to growth and service. Reading, writing, and speaking fill me with the energy to grow, learn, laugh, and serve. I trust these books and my writing will bring the same to you.


I wrote...

Burnout to Breakthrough: Building Resilience to Refuel, Recharge, and Reclaim What Matters

By Eileen McDargh,

Book cover of Burnout to Breakthrough: Building Resilience to Refuel, Recharge, and Reclaim What Matters

What is my book about?

The World Health Organization had already listed Burnout as a global occupational hazard before the pandemic. From employees stressed to the breaking point to organizations battered by resignations and shrinking markets, this book offers solid advice and insight that is timely, relevant, and actionable. Because all leadership starts with self-leadership, you’ll find a clear road map to breaking free of personal and professional demands while being given a clear formula for building a life of your design.

At the same time, you’ll find a nuanced, broader perspective about a workplace that is “preheated” for overachievers. Leaders will be equipped with valuable questions and practices to help employees turn burnout into fired up. But make no mistake. You’ll find this a big-hearted book, written in a lively style with lots of relatable examples and immediately applicable advice.

Leading Change

By John P. Kotter,

Book cover of Leading Change

As we move to a world in which security is everyone’s job, we have to understand that’s a change in what we expect of people, and change is hard. This book is short and actionable and will help security pros understand the changes that need to happen. Unlike a lot of business books, it’s not full of platitudes or repetition. Even when we’re not actively leading change, understanding the challenges leaders face enables us to plan and participate better to achieve our goals.


Who am I?

Being able to understand and change reality through our knowledge and skill is literal magic. We’re building systems with so many exciting and unexpected properties that can be exploited and repurposed for both good and evil. I want to keep some of that magic and help people engineer – build great systems that make people’s lives better. I’ve been securing (and breaking) systems, from operating rooms to spaceships, from banks to self-driving cars for over 25 years. The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that if security is not infused from the start, we’re forced to rely on what ought to be our last lines of defense. This list helps you infuse security into your systems.


I wrote...

Threat Modeling: Designing for Security

By Adam Shostack,

Book cover of Threat Modeling: Designing for Security

What is my book about?

How to anticipate and address software threats before you’ve written a line of code. The proven tools in this book can be applied by anyone. They give you a structured and systematic approach that are be applied at any scale – from a website built with CI/CD to complex waterfall projects like spacecraft.

This book captures years of experience in a simple, accessible, and practical way.

Team of Teams

By Stanley McChrystal, Tantum Collins, David Silverman

Book cover of Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World

An outstanding analysis of complex systems and the necessity of trust and collaboration on high performing teams. McChrystal uses SEAL teams as his model for a great team. McChrystal and his team point out that the primary purpose of SEAL training is not to develop super fit warriors as much as it is to develop the interdependence and trust needed to function collaboratively as an elite team in an ambiguous, volatile, complex and uncertain world.


Who are we?

Jim Tamm was a Senior Administrative Law Judge for the State of California with jurisdiction over workplace disputes. In that role, he mediated more school district labor strikes than any other person in the United States. Ron Luyet is a licensed psychotherapist who has worked with group dynamics pioneers such as Carl Rogers and Will Schutz.  He has advised Fortune 500 companies for over forty years specializing in building high-performance teams. Together they wrote Radical Collaboration and are excited to share this list with you today.


We wrote...

Radical Collaboration: Five Essential Skills to Overcome Defensiveness and Build Successful Relationships

By James Tamm, Ronald Luyet,

Book cover of Radical Collaboration: Five Essential Skills to Overcome Defensiveness and Build Successful Relationships

What is our book about?

Collaborative skills have never been more important to a company's success and these skills are essential for every worker today. Radical Collaboration is a how-to-manual for creating trusting, cooperative environments, and transforming groups into motivated and empowered teams. James W. Tamm and Ronald J. Luyet provide tools that will help you increase your ability to work successfully with others, learn to be more aware of colleagues, and better problem-solve and negotiate.

Radical Collaboration is an eye-opener for leaders, managers, HR professionals, agents, trainers, and consultants who are seeking constructive ways of getting the results they want.

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