Best Business Books: Deborah C. Wright's Picks
Deborah C. Wright, chairman, president, and CEO, Carver Bancorp
Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap ... and Others Don't by Jim Collins (2001)
Management consultant Collins and a team of researchers examined company data from over 1,400 firms, whittling the list to 11including Fannie Mae, Gillette, and Wells Fargothat have substantially improved their performance, growing from just "good" to "great."
Why it's a must-read: "This is a hugely common-sensical framework that allows any team to assess how effective you're being, and which members for what reasons are not stepping up to the plate, either because of a skills mismatch or an attitude mismatch or a host of reasons. When you're a little company and you're trying to figure out what type of talent you need against your business plan, this allows you to think smartly about it. Virtually all levels of junior managers can process it: Once you get the lingo, you can get everybody on the bus. Everybody can relate to that. If you don't have the right people on the bus, we're going to have a tough year making our numbers. It's one of those books that you read and say, 'Hmm, why didn't I think of that?' "
Competitive Strategy: Techniques for Analyzing Industries and Competitors by Michael Porter (1980)
A seminal primer on how organizations can respond to competition
Why it's a must-read: "I read it 20 years ago because I was a student at Harvard Business School, and it was required reading, but I've read it two or three times since. It changed everybody's thinking around strategy to focus as candidly as you could on not just your industry but your place in it. It forces you to be brutally honest with yourself and your team about the essence of what's different about you that you can sell to your customers. When I got here to Carver in 1999, I pulled it off the shelf and said OK, I need to go back to basics here. This company is in a consolidating industry, and we're using all of Porter's ideas about figuring out how to compete in a world where you're a small player among giants, trying not just to stay alive but do well."
I Don't Know How She Does It: The Life of Kate Reddy, Working Mother by Allison Pearson (2002)
A novel about a hedge-fund-managing mother of two who struggles to juggle work and family life
Why it's a must-read: "I adopted a little girl three years ago, and I read this book just before doing it. I was struggling with the balancing act between the life I lead, which is pretty hectic, and throwing a very large monkey wrench into it. This book was the most hilarious depiction of modern motherhood that I've ever read. I still keep it when I want to give myself a reminder of the high expectations you have for yourself and everybody you work with, but the reality of having an 8 o'clock breakfast when your daughter has a cold.