Management Books I Reread
Roughly every year I reread (or relisten to) some of my favorite management books. Bradley Schaefer (aka Soulcutter) asked me if I had that list published somewhere. I lazily replied to him on Twitter, but thought it’d be worth giving a bit more info here.
Without further ado, here’s the list!
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The Manager’s Path by Camille Fournier: Arguably a classic of software engineering management, at this point, this book does a great job of laying out the challenges of each stop on the way to (and including) CTO. It’s great because it’s easy to understand, and because, frankly, there are few books that lay out the challenges of needing to be both technical and manage people. It’s intended to primarily clear up the more common uknowns at each level. I like to hand it out to people who think they might want to progress into management, or folks who are on the fence.
An Elegant Puzzle by Will Larson: This is a deep dive into systems thinking about engineering teams as a manager. I particularly enjoy section 2.2 “System Fixes and Tactical Support”, which discusses states of an engineering team from “Falling Behind” to “Innovating”, and what to do to get the team to (or keep the team at) “Innovating”. Overall, this book applies mostly to larger organizations than the one in which I currently work, but I still think it’s worth it even at our current size.
Radical Candor by Kim Scott: The tagline of this book is “Be a kick-ass boss without losing your humanity”. That’s exactly what it is, too. Find out why Steve Jobs was a better people manager than your average Midwestern US manager despite a reputation for being a massive jerk to people at work regularly. (Don’t worry, Kim Scott recommends very, very strongly that you don’t be like Steve Jobs.) Kim Scott and others have a Radical Candor podcast, too, that is worth a listen.
The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni: I don’t know that I have read a Patrick Lencioni book that I haven’t liked, honestly. This is my favorite, though, because it lays out and ranks five dysfunctions to watch out for in your teams, and roughly what to do about them. It’s told in parable form, as Mr. Lencioni commonly does, which I find makes it easy to reread. As each dysfunction is revealed you’ll find yourself nodding your head, “Yup. Yup. Uh huh.” Even then, you’ll get to the end and think, “I mean, I should’ve known all of that, but I’m going to read it again.”
Who by Geoff Smart and Randy Street: This book lays out a 4-step process for hiring that they call “The A Method of Hiring”. I can’t say that I have followed the method to the letter, but I have used some of it directly and adapted other parts. I’ve found it incredibly helpful in knowing what to ask, how to structure our interview process, and why. Note: this is not going to solve your company’s (possibly questionable) technical interview process. This is about everything except the technical vetting portion. If you need help there, maybe consider calling Woven, whose CEO, Wes Winler and co-founder, Kyle Shipley, originally recommended this book to me.
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That’s my list, today. It will evolve. I’ll try to remember to post here as it changes. What would you add to it, or remove from it?