An end of a year is always the best moment for reflection on how the whole year was. I’ve decided to take part in this global movement by summarising the best books I read in 2015. This list contains books that help me in my job in one way or the other, so they should be helpful for managers, product managers, HR professionals and agile coaches. The order is random! If you’re interested in the whole 2015 reading list, take a look at my profile at Goodreads here.
The Goal by Eliyahu M. Goldratt
This is an absolute classic. The book was published in 1984 and is actually a… novel. The plot is about a manager Alex Rogo, who tries to make his unprofitable production plant successful in just three months. The narrative makes the book very easy to read, but it’s the theory, gradually revealed while reading, which is interesting. The book is famous for introducing a management philosophy called Theory of Constraints (ToC). Although not always directly applicable in software development (it seems that in manufacturing the process is much more stable, therefore constraints are not changing as fast as may be the case in software development) it was good for me to understand the principles of ToC and it’s approach to improving the process.
Death by Meeting by Patrick Lencioni
And another fable, this time by Patrick Lencioni. I had an opportunity to read Lencioni’s famous “5 Dysfunctions of a Team” and this book was very similar in regards to structure. The story is not the best in the world (I preferred the story from The Goal), but Lencioni’s model helped me to more consciously organise meetings and challenge the current ones. The basic idea is to have 4 types of meetings – fast daily stand-up style updates, weekly tactic, monthly strategic and quarterly offsite. The book covers what exactly should be in agendas of each meeting, how long they should last and so on. No science behind it, but a nice model to consider.
Work Rules! by Laszlo Bock
After reading this one I was running around the company trying to force other managers to read it. A must read for all HR specialists, recruiters and managers. Laszlo Bock, who is Google’s SVP of People Operations (it’s HR on steroids), uncovers a lot of knowledge which Google have managed to gather during their years of operation. For me it was a trip into the mechanics of one of the biggest companies in the world – how they hire, promote, empower, help people grow and make them happy. And all driven by data. Recently Google decided to go even further with uncovering their practices and published a site called re:Work, where you can find even more exciting articles about how they and other organisations work. Welcome to the XXI century!
Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
This book was a little bit harder to read, but definitely worth the time spent. Daniel Kahneman, who is a psychologist and a Nobel Prize winner in Economics, took me on a journey into our minds – how we think, make decisions and generally how irrational we are, even when we really, really try not to be. How we prefer causes over statistics (a single story from the TV may easily change our perception of reality, even when the statistics show just the opposite). How algorithms are better than humans in decision making. How important it is to eat before judging! How to bid effectively. An important read.
Nonviolent Communication by Marshall B. Rosenberg
Marshall Rosenberg, who was a psychologist and mediator, spent his life practicing and developing Nonviolent Communication (NVC). NVC assumes that everyone has the same universal human needs. Conflicts arise because people have different ideas about how to meet those needs. If we stated our wants and feelings clearly we could easily resolve the conflicts. Rosenberg proposes a structure for expressing your needs and requests in a nonviolent way, but also stresses the importance of listening and compassion. This approach became very important for me and my family – we even started to raise our children in alignment with NVC and it turns out that this approach is very compatible with other models of raising competent children. So, probably a life changing book for me.
Kanban from the Inside by Mike Burrows
Mike Burrows takes a different approach to others when describing Kanban. He starts with values and while talking about them, introduces practices and principles. This helps us better understand why such a practice or principle is in place. Definitely a must read for everyone interested in the Kanban Method. Additionally, you’ll get a brief view on lots of connected theories, frameworks and methods like Systems Thinking, Theory of Constraints, Agile (and how it corresponds to Kanban), Lean, Cost of Delay and so on with references to the most important literature about particular topic. A wealth of knowledge just waiting to be read.
I hope that was helpful for you and you’ve added something to your reading list. I really value book recommendations, so if you think that there’s a book that I might be interested in, don’t hesitate to drop me a line in a comment, Twitter, Goodreads or whatever platform you’re on. Happy New Year and read a lot of great books in 2016!