The Best 5 Books for Operations Managers

From showing you how to strategize and execute, and how to implement quality and deliver a world-class experience for clients and internally, there is a wealth of literature out there for operations managers with the challenges they face.

As Founder and CEO of Empaxis, I find it helpful reading such books. In my 20+ years' career, I have put together a list of books I've read that I feel are most helpful for those in investment operations management.

Top 5 Books for Operations Managers

1. The Checklist Manifesto

The Checklist Manifesto demonstrates how, despite human capability to achieve excellence, people still fail.

The book's author, Atul Gawande, argues that our biggest failures are not because of what we don't know, but because we don't apply what we know properly.

The solution is simple: create checklists.

If people create checklists, then it could solve many avoidable problems, as Mr. Gawande cites examples of how even the smartest and most experienced doctors can make mistakes due to the complexity and time-sensitive nature of their work, and when they've used checklists, they've reduced the potential for errors.

Main Takeaway for Your Operation: Create Checklists

Humans are fallible. We get confused and disorganized. We may forget the steps and tend to cut corners, which could result in wildly inaccurate data and poor-quality work outcomes.

Having checklists helps prevent those errors, and they allow you to deliver on the quality control others expect and deserve from your operation.

2. Strategy and the Fat Smoker

Strategy and the Fat Smoker offers a guide to executing a strategy for things that we know we should be doing but aren't.

The book's author, David Maiser, argues that all businesses want the same goals, providing excellent service to clients while creating a positive and cohesive work environment. But the problem is that companies lack the means or will in implementing the strategy.

A strategy is meant to be executed, not something that looks and sounds good in theory.

The book provides a guide in helping businesses actually follow through with their strategy while not getting sidetracked.

Main Takeaway for Your Operation: Execute Strategy

Perhaps you've said you want checklists or documented procedures, but you haven't gotten them done because performing the task will take several hours out of your week when you think time is better spent on something else.

But at some point down the road when one of your key operations members is out sick, on vacation, or leaves the firm, you'll wish you had the checklist and documentation so that backups and new hires can run the reports successfully.

Develop your strategy, and take the time necessary to get this or any other important job done that you've kicked the can down the road on.

3. The New Gold Standard

The New Gold Standard illustrates how the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company mastered the art of perfection and delivering a world-class experience for their guests:

  • understanding the changing needs of the customers
  • empowering employees by treating them with the utmost respect
  • anticipating customers' unexpected needs and concerns
  • developing a solid training program

The book gives you a look at all levels of the organization and shows how they live up to their expectations.

Main Takeaway for Your Operation: Be World-Class

Your team is producing reports to serve clients and departments within your company; the report recipients all deserve a first-class experience.

Don't wait for someone to approach you that something is wrong; anticipate their needs and understand how their needs will change. Make sure there are QC systems in place to check for errors before the reports go out.

Our TAMP1 platform helps investment firms deliver that first-class experience to their clients by providing a single platform for advisors and clients to view investment portfolio data and reports in real time.

Treat your operations team with respect and give them the tools and confidence they need to succeed. In addition to respecting and motivating them, you need to create or improve your training program.

4. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team is a great book for understanding team dynamics and how to maximize team performance. It also discusses company politics and sources of failure.

Ultimately, the dysfunction boils down to five things:

  • Absence of trust
  • Fear of conflict
  • Lack of commitment
  • Avoidance of accountability
  • Inattention to results

Main Takeaway for Your Operation: Identify Root Causes of Problems and Solve Them

When you read this book, you might notice some of this dysfunction exists in your operations.

Don't just assume these issues are "normal" in business and therefore cannot be fixed.

They can be fixed if you are willing to investigate why they're occurring in the first place.

If your team's work is full of errors and not getting done on time, don't simply get upset. Yes, you have a right to be angry, but figure out why:

  • Do they lack the proper training?
  • Is the documentation not helpful?
  • Is your staff working beyond capacity?
  • Are there no QC checks in place?

5. Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win

Extreme Ownership is authored by two former SEALs, and they share their combat experiences in Iraq, the lessons they learned, and how those lessons can be applied to leadership and business.

At the heart of extreme ownership is the notion that  the leader is always responsible, and taking accountability is a recurring theme throughout the book.

When there are injuries or casualties suffered on the battlefield, and even worse when it's friendly fire, the senior commander is responsible for everything. Instead of blaming subordinates for a breakdown in planning, communication, cooperation, and execution, the person at the top of is always responsible.

By taking ownership of one's problems, whether in combat, in business, or personal-related,  it becomes clear what you can do to solve them.

Main Takeaway for Your Operation: Be Extremely Accountable for Everything

Don't pass the buck to someone else. Don't point the finger at someone else. You will not earn respect from your superiors, and you may lose your position as a result.

But if you are honest, and if you take full responsibility along with steps to prevent mistakes from happening again,  you will be trusted by those who control your fate in the organization.

Even though people under you will work as they will, you actually own all of it. When you see something wrong, step in and set the right example. Train them, empower them, and motivate them to take ownership and pride in what they do.

You don't have to have military or combat experience to apply lessons learned from the Navy SEALs into your own operations.

Go out there and lead... and win.

Never Stop Learning and Improving

Of course, there are many other great books, podcast, and videos out there for leaders of operations, and I encourage you to consume as much as you can of those.

You should always look for new ways to improve, as well as going back to the basic and principles you may have strayed away from.

Mastering the art of operations management requires constant self-evaluation and reflection on team performance and outcomes. Stay in learning mode, and you'll always be an effective operations leader that everyone can trust and look up to.

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