Add These Books to Your Reading List

Paul V. Arnold, Noria Corporation

Jack Covert and Todd Sattersten, two fellow writers from my home state of Wisconsin, recently published a book titled “100 Best Business Books of All Time: What They Say, Why They Matter, and How They Can Help You” (Portfolio, $25.95).

The 304-page hardcover examines the books that the authors believe are the most pertinent for today’s business-minded professional (any manager, from the plant floor to the board room) and deliver the biggest informational and monetary payoff.

Of the literally tens of thousands of business books out there, the authors came up with a top-100 list, and then set out to review and distill the essence of each one. This power list includes traditional titles found on many maintenance and reliability leaders’ bookshelves: “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen R. Covey; “Good to Great” by Jim Collins; “In Search of Excellence” by Thomas J. Peters and Robert H. Waterman Jr.; “The Goal” by Eliyahu M. Goldratt and Jeff Cox; “The Knowing-Doing Gap” by Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert I. Sutton; and “The Essential Drucker” by Peter Drucker.

It also includes non-traditional titles such as: “Oh, the Places You’ll Go” by Dr. Seuss and “Moneyball” by Michael Lewis.

You’ll find several of these “top 100” books (unfortunately, not Dr. Seuss) on the Society for Maintenance & Reliability Professionals’ recommended reading list for members planning to take the Certified Maintenance & Reliability Professional exam.

After perusing the Covert-Sattersten list, I peered over the top of my computer screen and glanced at the overstuffed bookshelf that takes up one wall of my office. My eyes were drawn to several books that were memorable reads and provided an immense amount of takeaways. Therefore, I thought I’d use this column to share five of my favorite “business”-related books with you.

  • “Gemba Kaizen” by Masaaki Imai. The Japanese title translates to bringing continuous, incremental improvement (kaizen) to the place where real action occurs (gemba). The 354-page book (published in 1997) is filled with case-study examples of low-cost, commonsense innovations that increased productivity, quality and profit margins. I’ve owned four copies over the past decade and gave away the first three after talking it up over the years with various M&R folks (the recipients were two maintenance managers and a welder). A few years back, I bought the fourth copy, and had Imai sign and personalize it in order to keep a copy for myself.

  • “Be Our Guest: Perfecting the Art of Customer Service” by the Disney Institute. Customer service excellence is a requirement for workers in the restaurant, hotel, souvenir and theme park industry. And, it’s a requirement for you, me and nearly every person in practically every industry. If your work has an impact on someone else (for maintenance, that includes plant organizations such as production/operations, quality, purchasing, warehousing, logistics, finance, etc., etc.), you are in customer service. No one is better at it than the Walt Disney Company. This 206-page book is loaded with many of its internal and borrowed best practices.

  • “Juran on Planning for Quality” by J.M. Juran. I found this 341-page book at an estate sale last year. Cool. The price was $1. Even cooler. The book, published in 1988, was signed by Dr. Juran, the father of the Pareto Principle. Cooler still. It outlines a clear, step-by-step approach to what the good doctor called “the quality trilogy” (quality planning, quality control and quality improvement), a method that was developed and battle-tested at companies such as Caterpillar, DuPont and Mobil. Way cool.

  • “Let’s Fix It: Overcoming the Crisis in Manufacturing” by Richard J. Schonberger. This 294-page book, published in 2001, asserted that many of the world’s leading manufacturers had stopped improving and that record profits were covering up for waste and weakness. Stock hyping, Schonberger states, was distracting companies’ attention away from “the basics of world-class excellence”. The author offered a solution “to solve the manufacturing crisis for good.” Did industry take heed? Nope. Is the plan still pertinent today? Yep.

  • “Rules of the Red Rubber Ball” by Kevin Carroll. My high-school son introduced me to this pocket-sized, 100-page jewel. You can read it in a half-hour, but the message sticks with you for a long time. It’s all about finding what you are passionate about (“your primal source of joy”), and then dedicating yourself fully to it. That dedication can be to anything – even a machinery lubrication or oil analysis program.

Examine your own bookshelf and let me know which books have been most helpful in your role as an M&R pro. E-mail your “best books” list to me at

- Paul V. Arnold, editor-in-chief

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