A Story of Three Books
I first read Management der Unternehmensentwicklung: Phasengerechte Fuhrung und der Umgang mit Krisen (St. Galler Management-Konzept) (German Edition) when the book was first published. I found it a helpful book in that it explained nicely the lifecycle of a firm and how one should act effectively in each of the four phases they described. One thing jumped out at me: as a firm approaches the last phase, it needs to think about returning to the first. That's a problem, because startup phases won't support the full organization, so the typical response is to split the firm into different segments or business units. These two (or more) units take different times to pass through the phases, so that the firm eventually finds itself with different parts in different phases and thus needing different approaches to management. That flexibility is difficult to manage. I recommend this to any who are interested in management of organizations and who can read German.
Much more recently, I finally got around to reading The HP Phenomenon: Innovation and Business Transformation (Stanford Business Books). Many management histories I've read tend to praise or condemn the past, but House and Price did a very good job of portraying the challenges of the major transformations Hewlett-Packard has made since it was founded in 1939. I learned much about what I had not observed while working there; I also learned to think more deeply about the challenges we all see in organizations. I'd recommend this to any who have been or are still at HP, for you may gain perspective on your experiences. I would also recommend it to any from other high-tech, growth-oriented companies, for it might help you think about what you'll likely face as your company evolves.
Finally, I just finished David Wortley's Gadgets to God. Like The HP Phenomenon, this book focuses on transformations, this time at a much smaller scale. As Chuck and Ray did for large companies, David gives a clear description of the challenges and transformations he negotiated as an entrepreneur of a small business in a growing, changing market. As someone who ran a small business in much the same time, I find that his descriptions of the life of a small businessperson should be required reading for anyone setting out to do the same thing, for it should help you prepare for the challenges you'll face. David also puts the developments of the past few decades in a larger context, which may help you, too, consider the values and norms you bring to your work. Incidentally, David is a friend and colleague, for, as you can find somewhere in the book, we've worked together for a number of years without ever having seen each other.
Three books, one theme: transformations. The theme is a seeming constant in our world, and each of the three might bring different facets of the theme to light in your work.