A colleague who found himself newly-appointed to a UX leadership role reached out to me recently to ask me if I had any book recommendations for him. “I’m skilled with the tools and the brain, but virtually inexperienced in managing and leading a UX team,” he wrote. “Do you have any book recommendations?”
Here are the books that I found that I thought would be helpful.
Note: I originally published this list in Now with even more 2015. I’ve updated it a few times since then (most recently, April 2019) to keep it current.
Arnie Lund’s User Experience Management: Essential Skills for Leading Effective UX Teams book comes highly recommended.
Another book I’d consider is Russ Unger and Carolyn Chandler’s Project Guide to UX Design. This is more about organizing UX project work, but it’s a good reference.
Finally, Managing Chaos by Lisa Welchman is about how to think about and create a framework for UX and other digital governance decisions in large organization — essentially, who gets to decide what?
If you’re interested in leading the UX process in Agile environments, I suggest Lean UX, which I wrote with Jeff Gothelf, and which is now in its second edition.
Readers of Lean UX asked for a book that would explain to senior leadership the importance of Lean methods, and more generally, how to cope with digital transformation. That book is Sense and Respond is available on Amazon.
As some point, every UX manager has to deal with “strategy” at some level. The best book on strategy I’ve encountered is Good Strategy Bad Strategy, by Richard Rumelt. Although Rumelt is concerned with strategy for organizations, the lessons apply to strategy at any level, including the contentious “UX Strategy.”
UX & Product Management
In the years since I first published this list, we’ve seen a welcome growth in the field of Product Management. As a UX Manager, you likely work closely with Product Management. Here are some books to help build your Product Skills.
Melissa Perri’s Escaping The Build Trap is where I’d recommend starting. Melissa’s approach is pragmatic, user-centered, and wise. You can’t do better.
Product Leadership by Richard Banfield, Martin Eriksson, and Nate Walkingshaw. Is another recommended title.
My latest book, Outcomes Over Output lives at the intersection of UX and Product. It will help you to plan the work of your teams in a way that maximizes value for your business and value for your users.
If you haven’t already done so, you should look at Marty Cagan’s Inspired, a classic of user-centered Product Management.
Managing Creative Teams
A lot of folks recommended Ed Catmull’s Creativity, Inc. which is about creative teams in general, not specifically UX teams.
One commenter recommended Dan Brown’s Designing Together, which looks cool (and which I admit I hadn’t heard about until John’s comment). Dan is super smart and I’ve just ordered his book for myself.
Also from a commenter, John Maeda’s Redesigning Leadership looks really interesting, and I’ve ordered this one too.
Modern UX practice is all about collaboration — and your role as a manager is about creating the conditions that foster collaboration. Two newer books that I’d recommend here are: Gretchen Anderson’s terrific Mastering Collaboration and Austin Govella’s forthcoming Collaborative Product Design. (I read an advance copy, and it was great.)
Management and Leadership, Generally
As a new manager, I got a lot of value from Buckingham and Coffman’s First Break All The Rules. Highly recommended as a way to think about your career, and the careers of your people.
When I worked for Alan Cooper in the mid-90’s, I remember discovering with pleasure the library he kept in his studio. On the shelves, I found DeMarco and Lister’s seminal Peopleware, highlighted with Alan’s notes, underlines, and exclamation marks. It was fascinating to me then (and impressive to me now) how many of the ideas in the book Alan had been able to implement in his own business.
Another great place to start is What Management Is by Joan Magretta. Recommended by one of the smartest managers I know, this is a foundational text.
Another title I hadn’t heard about until a commenter recommended it is Andy Grove’s High Output Management. Just ordered this one too. (This list-making is an expensive proposition.) It seems on point with the original ask — an individual contributor looking for help transitioning into a middle-management role.
Please do continue to share links to the books you’d recommend to UX, design, and other digital leaders — books that are specifically about leadership. I’ll keep updating this list as I hear from you….