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17 Operations Books Every CEO Should Read » Portal Insights
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Despite being one of the most neglected areas in small and medium-sized companies, history shows that Operations is what guarantees a competitive advantage in the medium and long term. Amazon and Toyota, two of the biggest business successes of the last 50 years, are fundamentally operations-focused companies.

The difference between these companies has never been in the product or marketing, but rather in the ability to make the entire production and logistics chain as efficient as possible.

Want more examples? Think about the five biggest consultancies in the world.


These companies, like many others, did not win by spending more on marketing or even inventing some super disruptive new product. They won through operations.

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Sales and marketing are sexy and glamorous. Finance touches money. Product brings attention and generates new business opportunities. But operations are the glue that makes all these things work together.

In the case of Toyota, for example, it is very clear that they won through a relentless and deeply culturally embedded focus on kaizen, which is a philosophy of continuous operational improvements.

In the B2B sector, we have the best example of the McKinsey consultancy, known for its obsession with processes aligned with the company's strategic objectives (all of this detailed very well in the book The McKinsey Way).


In 10 years of experience working with small and medium-sized businesses, I have come to the conclusion that many growing business problems these companies face are actually operational problems – not sales or marketing.

With a good sales process and money to invest in marketing, I see that in most cases attracting customers is not a problem. The challenge lies in coordinating many individual tasks over time to generate real, lasting value.

This is the operations domain.

However, despite its importance, operations is an area that is almost completely ignored in Brazilian companies. Generally, when the company starts to get out of control and lose many customers, the tendency of Brazilian entrepreneurs is:

  1. Focus even more money and energy on sales, creating a true “leaky bucket” where the more companies enter, the more leave.
  2. Associate chaos with the product itself, not its delivery (which is the responsibility of operations).
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How to avoid this cycle and build a sustainable company based on its efficiency, and not just on how much money is invested in marketing and sales?

The first step is recognizing the importance of looking at operations in your company, which if you're reading this far I hope I've been able to help you recognize.


The second is to study. Operations is an exact science and, like in engineering for example, you will not build a building based on what you think or what is most likely.

It is necessary to develop a systemic view of your business and identify the levers and bottlenecks, and then implement a cycle of continuous improvement.

Below I list all the books that I recommend for anyone who wants to delve deeper into this journey. Some do not yet have a Portuguese version, but you can easily search for summaries on YouTube.

Personal level operation books

  • Managing Yourself by Peter Drucker
  • The effective manager, by Peter Drucker
  • The art of making things happen, by David Allen
  • Building a second brain, by Tiago Forte
  • Checklist, by Atul Gawande

Operation books more focused on theory

  • Systemantics, by John Gall
  • Seeing Like a State, by James C. Scott
  • Organization Images, by Gareth Morgan
  • The Toyota production system, by Taiichi Ohno
  • The Goal, by Eliyahu M. Goldratt
  • The Pareto principle, by Rodrigo Oliveira
  • Certain to Win, by Chet Richards
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Operations books more focused on practical implementation

  • Work the System, by Sam Carpenter
  • High Performance Management, by Andrew S. Grove
  • Process Management, by Araujo, Garcias and Martines
  • The Great CEO Within, by Matt Mochary
  • Management Essentials, by Peter Drucker

I hope these books can help you understand and improve operations in your company. With a good sales process, a marketing strategy that makes sense and a more systemic look at operations, it will be much more likely to have a successful company in the long term.


17 Operations Books Every CEO Should Read » Portal Insights

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