My 2016 Management Reads
This post also appears in my other blog.
It’s the middle of January, so everybody must have already published their version of summary for 2016. I will try to catch this leaving train and list several of the books that I read last year and found particularly useful for everyone whose job involves management. There are actually only two items that are directly related to management, but I still believe that all of these books are particularly useful — sometimes even essential — specifically for those of us, who hold responsibility for guiding others and tackling a wide range of organizational problems. At the same time, all five titles will likely be interesting to any human, no matter what they do for a living.
This widely known piece of wisdom is among the most precious jewels which I found last year. The stakes are high you read it long ago — I’m unhappy I got to it this late. Even if you did, it may be a good idea to refresh it in your mind. Speaking on the way one should treat people to build lasting and fruitful relationships, the book is crucial to study for anyone, whose job is to lead people, communicate the goals of an organization to them, help them acknowledge their mistakes and grow professionally. The things that I learnt from it helped me provide clearer feedback to the members of my team, understand better what my bosses want from us, explain to the team our objectives and overall build trust-based relationships with the people I work with. To be honest, when I first heard about the book I thought it must be a box of dirty tricks that allow one make others do what they please. In reality it turned out to be a pretty sincere practical study of the principle “treat other people the way you want to be treated” and its implications, touching on many strings of the complex nature of human’s ego.
While it’s difficult for a book to compete in value with How to Win Friends and Influence People, David Allen’s guide to personal efficiency certainly manages to do so. My regrets about reaching it only in 2016 were even stronger than with Carnegie. The book doesn’t touch a lot on the topics of managing people and business, but rather dives deeply into the problems of managing oneself. However, personal efficiency of a manager is a key to the efficiency of his team. The fact that the book not only gives advice on how to get productive, but also inspects many psychological questions around succeeding at one’s job makes it a must read for every manager in the world because this way it shows how you can teach your directs to succede. Besides that, the key focus of Getting Things Done is the way one manages information, ensures that progress is made on every active goal and validates the goals themselves. This sounds a lot like the responsibilities of a software development manager, so it will be educating for everyone holding such a position. If you feel almost sold, check this article where I sum up my takeaways from the book.
The next book could win the “Most Controversial Reading” award if I made a kind of Oscar for the things I read. The Taleb’s style of writing as well as his intense reproaches toward certain broad categories of people and fields of study sometimes bothered me a lot. On top of that, the book is not concerned with management in any particular way. At the same time, the ideas given in Antifragile have a lot to do with change and risks and how we can live with it — the topic that is very relevant for managers. Taleb speaks a lot about the ways one should chose what to invest in and how to secure yourself from unnecessary risks. Most of his ideas are applicable to any area of life, including software management where one frequently faces the need to chose from a wide range of technologies, projects and potential employees. Even if it is difficult to perceive the book as purely practical and career-boosting it is certainly educating and offers fresh points of view.
This is another classic that I checked in 2016 and one more must read for everyone involved in any kind of modern organization — no matter what’s its size or which role you hold in it. In a grotesque form, looking very much like a collection of unreal anecdotes, the book shows how organizations tend to lose efficiency. It is a great fun to read in the first place, but its anecdotes do show real threats that a company or a team may face. Beside telling how things can get bad it describes quite realistic indicators of the fact that something unpleasant is already happening. Thus, in addition to entertaining you, Parkinson’s Law will help you assess the state of your organization or spot the moment when it takes the wrong turn.
Finally, because the article is supposed to list the books I would recommend to managers, there should be at least one that has the word “management” in its title. Management Styles is the first book by Adizes that I read and it looks like the right pick. It provides a great model explaining what managers should do, what they actually do and why these are different things. The focus of this part of Adizes’ writing is what kind of managers are encountered in the wild and — especially useful — how most of them fail at their duties. It actually gave me a framework that allows to remember that there are several areas in which I should work and makes me spot my own deficiencies when I fail to pay enough attention to one of them. While this was most valuable for me, the book also covers many aspects of managers’ and non-managers’ behavior and helps handle colleagues better and know what to expect from them. I definitely recommend it to everyone and will myself study other works by the same author — there is likely more great advice to find.
These five titles played a great role in my personal development this year. Of course that’s not enough to satisfy one hungry for growth, so there are lots of articles and other sources of valuable information, like podcasts, but these are a different story. As for the books, in 2017 I certainly resolve to read more than last year and will start with Herding Cats by Hank Rainwater and some other book by Ichak Adizes. If you read one of these, please share your thoughts and takeaways in the comments. In this new year I wish you more great books, that will both entertain and educate you!