If someone were to ask you, “What manufacturing books do you recommend?” what would you say?

We thought about this question, pondered it, wrote out a list, and asked for input from peers on LinkedIn.

Those 9 books are listed below. But, with the many books on said list, we began to notice a common theme. No matter the industry focus, maybe it was a specific manufacturing book, a general business book, a book on negotiation, whatever it was, there was one specific theme woven throughout all of the recommendations.

People.

At the end of the day, the books on this list really focus on engaging people. In business, that means involving employees in decisions, being transparent, and showing them the information about the business.

 

The idea isn’t to just engage, but to make it real and honest, too. The books on this list help you do this.

So, we’ve compiled a list of books whether manufacturing-specific or general business that focus on that theme. Our hope is that at least one of these books will provide fresh insight and inspiration in your work (or personal life).

1. The Goal, by Eliyahu M. Goldratt

This book is relevant to any manufacturing vertical (and truthfully, any business as the lessons can be applied in any industry). The challenges that exist today and the solutions to those problems are not always easy to overcome, but with a goal in mind, such as engaging with your people and problem-solving, anything can be achieved.

And, this book, in particular, helps you think about things a little differently which helps you understand how other people did it. It’s a good reminder to take a break from the day-to-day stress of “getting things done” and think holistically. The “aha” moment may be only a page away.

2. The Toyota Way, by Jeffrey K. Liker

This book highlights an exemplary manufacturer, Toyota. The author spent years learning about the company and how it became an outstanding manufacturer that many look to for guidance in both industry practices and involving employees. In this book, Liker talks about Toyota’s culture and processes holistically, with a lean perspective. He explains how the company did certain things, their philosophy, and how it really focuses on people.

3. Principles: Life and Work, by Ray Dalio

Applicable to any business, the core thing we took away from this book was the ability to learn to recognize patterns, learn from the past, and focus on the credibility of people. Essentially, recognizing if you’ve made a mistake in the past, learn not to repeat it in the future and when listening to a person, consider someone’s background when they’re giving you advice.

4. Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It, by Christopher Voss and Tahl Raz

This book, as the title explains, focuses on negotiation, which unsurprisingly, involves people. It’s helped Bryan Sapot, Founder of SensrTrx negotiate many sales and investments over the years. In every aspect of life, there’s some form of negotiation with people.

5. The Great Game of Business: The Only Sensible Way to Run a Company, by Bo Burlingham and Jack Stack

This book focuses on the idea of sharing with your employees, well, everything. Explain how they can affect the trajectory of the company – the balance sheet, the income statement, and cash flow. Nothing is off-limits or taboo. Explaining this in really easy to use, visible metrics that people understand how they can affect and improve the performance of the company is key.

When you do that, your employees are more likely to feel connected to the company and contribute greater effort in their work. There’s also the idea of rewarding those same employees for hitting the goals and targets set.

6. Everybody Matters: The Extraordinary Power of Caring for Your People Like Family, by Bob Chapman, Raj Sisodia

“In this world of ‘human resources’ and ‘optimizing shareholder returns’, it was rare to hear of a company that truly cared about its employees,” John Santoni says of the book. In Bryan’s LinkedIn post, John recommended this book, and we’ll definitely be adding it to our reading lists.

In general, the idea is to simply care about your people. Help them out when they need it, make sure they know how they contribute to the company (like we mentioned in the above paragraph about The Great Game of Business, enlighten them on the things they can affect, and reward for the work done.

7. Creating a Lean Culture, by David Mann

The whole focus of this book is creating a sustainable lean based culture through engaging and involving employees, at all levels. Honestly, this is everything we preach at SensrTrx so we couldn’t think of a better book to recommend to you.

8. Great by Choice, by Jim Collins

Why do some companies flourish and others don’t? This book tackles that very question, and how you can use your resources to break the mold and become a great, prosperous company.

9. Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage, by Alfred Lansing

This book tells the story of ultimate leadership. It’s hard to really put into words in this blog just how impactful the story and lessons learned are so we’ll leave it at this: go get this book and read it. Let us know what you think after.

What Can You Learn From These Manufacturing Books?

At the end of the day, our goal as individuals and as businesses is to focus on people. In running your business, that means engaging employees and being transparent. Showing employees the business information, engaging them in all of the different processes, and making them feel like they matter and can make a difference.

That’s where you will make the most impact as a business leader, and your company will benefit. The manufacturing books on this list help you do this.

The idea isn’t just to say you’re going to do it but to make all of that real and honest. That’s what so many books on this list really dive into – caring for and engaging employees in a meaningful, impactful way. This is a common theme over and over and over again.

Lists aside, we’ve been reading “The Goal” as part of our company’s book club. And during one of those discussions, our in-house developer extraordinaire, Steve Wamsley, pointed out that Jonah uses the Socratic Method to ask questions and give Alex, the Plant Manager, the tools to figure out the solution on his own, rather than telling him how to do it. Steve highlighted that this was an important leadership lesson, and he’s right. (And, as we mentioned above, if you haven’t read this book, we highly suggest it.)

From the management side of things, it’s important to always see where people are coming from, how they’re motivated, what the problems really are, and then asking with a line of questioning to get them to realize how to solve the problems, just like Jonah did in “The Goal”.

Really, this boils down to the notion of simply caring about your people, which is highlighted in our list of 9 manufacturing books. No, not in a forced, superficial way, but genuinely caring for others.

The businesses you see with wild successes can contribute a lot of that success to a great culture. These model cultures encourage happy employees to stay, thrive, grow, and stay around for a long time. All of this can be contributed to a company and management that simply cares and is transparent.

We hope you pick up one of these manufacturing books and challenge yourself to apply what you learn. If you learn something profound that will potentially change the way you operate, both personally and professionally, let us know.

And, if there’s a book we left off this list that should be added, shoot us a message in the chatbox to your right.