If ever an old adage fits, this is it: Don't judge this month's No.6 best-seller by its cover. Microsoft Secrets (Free Press, $30) has an eye-grabbing title that might make you think you'll be dished up some delectable dirt on the software giant. Think again. Instead, authors Michael A. Cusumano and Richard W. Selby provide a thorough analysis of the whys and wherefores of Microsoft Corp.'s huge success. But secrets? They're not here.
What is here is a meticulous accounting of how Microsoft operates--from its rigorous hiring methods (only 2% to 3% of those interviewed make the cut) to how it improves products by making workers use them (a practice called "eating your own dog food") to a culture that emphasizes brutal critiques of finished products (called postmortems). The result: a blueprint not only for software companies but also for any company that's facing fast-paced markets and harrowing competition while managing a nonconformist, high-I.Q. staff.
Authors Cusumano, an associate professor of management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Selby, an associate professor of information and computer science at the University of California at Irvine, came up with the seven-point blueprint after in-depth interviews with 38 employees, including Chairman William H. Gates III, and an examination of several thousand pages of confidential internal documents and project data. It offers up much insight, but be forewarned: Microsoft Secrets is not for the casual reader.
HARDCOVER BUSINESS BOOKS
1 BUFFETT by Roger Lowenstein (Random House $27.50) The life and wisdom of the Oracle of Omaha.
2 BUILT TO LAST by James C. Collins and Jerry I. Porras (HarperBusiness $25) How 3M, Wal-Mart, Procter & Gamble, and others became standouts.
3 THE BEARDSTOWN LADIES' COMMON-SENSE INVESTMENT GUIDE by the Beardstown Ladies Investment Club with Leslie Whitaker (Hyperion $19.95) Recipes for Four-Bean Salad, Five-Hour Stew--and 23% returns.
4 FIRST THINGS FIRST by Stephen R. Covey, A. Roger Merrill, and Rebecca R. Merrill (Simon & Schuster $23) Managing your time by balancing your life.
5 HOW TO DRIVE YOUR COMPETITION CRAZY by Guy Kawasaki (Hyperion $22.95) Pulling off the gloves--and giving the other guy fits.
6 MICROSOFT SECRETS by Michael A. Cusumano and Richard W. Selby (Free Press $30) An academic look at the company's product development and management style.
7 RAVING FANS by Kenneth Blanchard PhD and Sheldon Bowles (Morrow $20) How to turn customers into your biggest boosters.
8 MAKE IT SO by Wess Roberts PhD and Bill Ross (Pocket Books $22) From Star Trek's Captain Jean-Luc Picard, leadership lesson and deep-space lore.
9 INSIDE THE TORNADO by Geoffrey A. Moore (HarperBusiness $25) A dip into Silicon Valley for lessons on marketing.
10 THE DISCIPLINE OF MARKET LEADERS by Michael Treacy and Fred Wiersema (Addison-Wesley $25) Consultants diagnose what successful companies do.
11 JESUS CEO by Laurie Beth Jones (Hyperion $16.95) Applying the teachings of the Bible to business problems.
12 THE WARREN BUFFETT WAY by Robert G. Hagstrom Jr. (Wiley $24.95) A useful analysis of how Buffett does it.
13 FIDELITY'S WORLD by Diana B. Henriques (Scribner $26) Is the mutual-fund giant "an 800-pound gorilla" in need of a leash?
14 THE NEW POSITIONING by Jack Trout with Steve Rivkin (McGraw-Hill $21.95) To build your market, first understand how buyers' minds work.
15 COMPETING FOR THE FUTURE by Gary Hamel and C.K. Prahalad (Harvard Business School $24.95) For healthy growth, anticipate the future--and how to dominate it.
PAPERBACK BUSINESS BOOKS
1 THE SEVEN HABITS OF HIGHLY EFFECTIVE PEOPLE by Stephen R. Covey (Fireside $12) Habitually popular.
2 1001 WAYS TO REWARD EMPLOYEES by Bob Nelson (Workman $8.95) Give them a champagne brunch, a casual-dress day--or plain old cash.
3 GETTING TO YES by Roger Fisher, William Ury, and Bruce Patton (Penguin $11.95) A Harvard team's step-by-step guide to conflict resolution.
4 YOUR MONEY OR YOUR LIFE by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin (Penguin $11.95) To achieve financial independence, restructure your life.
5 SOROS ON SOROS by George Soros with Byron Wien and Krisztina Koenen (Wiley $19.95) Financial tips and political philosophy from the "world's most powerful trader."
6 THE 1995 WHAT COLOR IS YOUR PARACHUTE? by Richard Nelson Bolles (Ten Speed Press $14.95) The enduring job-search bible.
7 ZAPP! by William C. Byham PhD with Jeff Cox (Fawcett $10) How "empowerment" revved up employees at the fictional Normal Co.
8 THE WALL STREET JOURNAL GUIDE TO UNDERSTANDING MONEY AND INVESTING by Kenneth M. Morris and Alan M. Siegel (Fireside $13.95) Concise explanations enriched with graphics.
9 THE FIFTH DISCIPLINE by Peter Senge (Currency $18.50) Creating the "learning organization."
10 THE ONE MINUTE MANAGER by Kenneth Blanchard PhD and Spencer Johnson M.D. (Berkley $9.95) Three management techniques, conveyed in brief story form.
11 PERSONAL FINANCE FOR DUMMIES by Eric Tyson (IDG Books $16.95) Lighthearted primer.
12 THE PURSUIT OF WOW by Tom Peters (Vintage $14) Irreverent tips on keeping products, organizations, and people from going stale.
13 THE GOAL by Eliyahu M. Goldratt (North River Press $19.95) Bringing your strategies in line with your No.1 purpose: making money.
14 KNOCK 'EM DEAD by Martin Yate (Adams $9.95) A job-seeker's handbook.
15 DO WHAT YOU ARE by Paul D. Tieger and Barbara Barron-Tieger (Little, Brown $16.95) Discover your personality strengths, then get the right job.
BUSINESS WEEK's Best-Seller List is based on a survey of chain and independent booksellers that carry a broad selection of books on economics, management, sales and marketing, small business, investing, personal finance, and careers. Well over 1,000 retail outlets nationwide are represented. Current rankings are based on a weighted analysis of unit sales in October.