I’ve been posting a lot about communication and safety recently and I want to give credit to the book which kickstarted my renewed interest.
Crucial Conversations is by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, and Ron Mcmillan. In the opening chapters the authors explain that a crucial conversation is any exchange where the stakes are high and emotions are running rampant. They describe how avoiding these conversations or handling them badly can leave lasting repercussions on our wellbeing.
Over the following chapters they describe how to recognise safety, how to reinforce it, and how to reach a positive outcome. It’s really strong stuff, in fact I’ve incorporated many of their ideas in my own style and recent talks.
The book isn’t targeted to a work environment, in fact many of the examples are close to home and personal scenarios. Asking for a raise or disagreeing with someone over a design choice will seem like small fry compared to some of the issues the characters in the book face.
However, I believe strongly that by using these techniques teams can communicate more effectively. By using some of the ideas Kerry and his fellow authors use to monitor safety in a conversation we’ll have better retros, planning sessions, and general collaboration.
If you’ve not read it then I strongly suggest you pick up a copy – it’s one of the few books I’ve rated 5* this year.
Driving Technical Change is a great little book who wants to understand how to influence different people in a technology organisation.
If you’re expecting a book on mind control then you’ll be disappointed. If you’re looking for a book which will explain why people react in particular ways to new ideas and technologies then that’s exactly what you’ll get.
Terrence Ryan discusses a series of personality caricatures. These are a little extreme, but you’ll be amazed at how closely they match up with people you know!
Then, the book discusses why these people may resist change or disagree with your proposals and how you can help to win them around.
For example, one of the characters in the book is “The Overworked”, this guy has far too much to do and never enough time. They can’t spare the time to pick up your idea, so how do you convince them? Show them how your project or proposal will save their time and help them complete their neverending pile of work.
I don’t want to plagiarise Terrence work, I’d much rather you picked up a copy and let him explain them first hand.
Would I recommend this book to someone working in a development team? Absolutely! Not just to help them drive powerful ideas forward, but also to help them appreciate other points of view – understand why The Boss, The Overworked, and The Burned may not necessarily agree with every suggestion.
This post is shamelessly inspired by John Sonmez’s blog post Books I Read, seriously 72!? I need to get an audible account! Here’s my list:
Always space for some geeky books on my shelf!
The Phoenix Project
This is possibly the most important book IT managers can have on their bookshelf at the moment. The Phoenix Project illustrates how systems thinking can be applied to IT and shows you how futile software development is without it. If you’re going to read one book in 2017 make it this one!
An oldie but a goodie, I did a book review on The Goal recently and I have to say. Once you’ve read The Phoenix Project if you want to go a little deeper then this book is absolutly essential!
Rolling Rocks Downhill
This is a book I’ve quoted from several times before, Clarke came to speak to us at Agile Yorkshire and I made a point of picking up his book. What I love about this book is how Agile ideas are developed as solutions for problems the team is having, rather using methodologies and presenting them as solutions to your problems.
5 Disfunctions of a Team
This one was recommended to me via a colleague, it’s a great quick read and essential reading for anyone works in a team (therefore pretty much anyone). I’ll do a review of it sometime soon, recommended reading!
Although my wife doesn’t believe it I do occasionally read books which are not work related!
The Mermaid Singing
My wife reads dozens of books where people are brutally murdered and has always encouraged me to do the same. While we were on holiday she talked me into reading a the first of Val McDermid’s Tony Hill series and I have to admit I loved it. I’m reading The Wire in the Blood already!
Divergent, Insurgent, and Allegiant
I actually really enjoyed these, I’ve seen the Shailene Woodley films on the shelf at the supermarket and have held off on buying them until I’d read the series. I’d expected another Hunger Games or Twilight Saga and while I wasn’t too wrong I loved the idea of the factions system. A good read, loved the twists and thought the big series twist was inspired.
8 books, nowhere near John’s 72 but still a good list. What have you read this year? Anything to add to my list for 2017?
I recently finished reading The Goal by Eliyahu M. Goldratt. This is the book which is referenced in The Phoenix Project and Rolling Rocks Downhill so I was determined to get my hands on a copy and read it!
Alex Rogo is a Plant Manager, work isn’t doing so well… in fact he’s been given an ultimatum and is about to get shut down. In order to save his job he enlists the help of an old teacher who persuades him to question the standard measures and processes he’s been using his whole career.
What follows is a very interesting and in depth look at the Theory of Constraints (although I don’t actually believe the term is used in the book) as the team try to identify the bottlenecks in their plant and work on ways to exploit them.
Like the best books Eli doesn’t try to throw too many concepts at you, his message is clear – find the bottleneck and organise work around it. There are some great analogies (such as Herpie leading his fellow boy scouts through the woods) and you genuinely feel like you’re working these problems out alongside Rogo.
The last few chapters felt a little disorganised to me but they they carried an important message – build up the process of how to examine your system, don’t just rely on a defined step by step guide. Continuously review, understand, and adapt.
Would I recommend The Goal to other IT Managers? Absolutely! You’ll gain a great understanding of how to observe and measure your team’s throughput.However, I’d say it’s absolutely essential for anyone in software development to read The Phoenix Project first so you understand why we’re looking at manufacturing plants to help us run IT departments!
I recently read The Phoenix Project, the definitive and often referenced DevOps Business Novel by Gene Kim, Kevin Behr, and George Spafford.
I have to admit I’ve been putting off reading this book, perhaps I had some misgivings about replacing Scrum techniques with the new craze of DevOps. Having decided that I was going to invest my time I was tested once again when I realised that Bill, the book’s main protagonist is an infrastructure guy… I’m a Development Manager, I want to know what DevOps can do for do for me not what I can do for the other guys!
That however was the last time I paused before devouring the remaining 370 pages.
Bill’s first few days after his promotion are littered with disasters. He has a project to deliver, infrastructure problems to resolve, and political ambushes to endure. In other words, he’s in the situation we’ve all experienced when teams aren’t communicating and colleagues are so stacked up with their own projects and priorities that they simply can’t assist each other.
With the timely arrival of Eric, the new potential board member Bill slowly equips himself with the tools he needs to resolve his infrastructure headaches and get the Phoenix Project back on track. Eric, acting as a kind of DevOps Yoda helps Bill gain an understanding of the four different types of work, the Theory of Constraints, Systems Thinking and see the value of Automated Deployments.
There’s a nice appendix at the end which helps consolidate the ideas and explains some of the ideas away from the story. There are also some mind blowing statistics about how some of the big web companies such as Amazon, Google, and Netflix.
So would I recommend this book to others? Absolutely! In fact I have, repeatedly to friends and colleagues! Whether you’re a developer, infrastructure guru or IT manager this book will introduce you to several new ways of thinking about workload management and IT processes.
I read Clarke Ching‘s book Rolling Rocks Downhill a while ago and I picked it up again recently while on holiday. I’d enjoyed it the first time, going back over the story a second time with a little more leadership experience I was amazed just how many valuable lessons Clarke has managed to cram in there!
The book is a Business Novel and follows Steven, the Development Manager at Wyxcomb Financials who discovers that a competing company has stolen their idea and is determined to beat them to market. Their project on the other hand is behind and likely to slip even further. With their company’s future at stake Steven must develop a new approach to development to save the day.
What follows is a story of a team discovering Agile ideas and practices for themselves. Not because they have a guru preaching at them, but because they’re trying to solve real business problems. I couldn’t help chuckling at some of the discussions Steven has with his mother, the Product Sponsor, and even the Cafeteria Manager as he learns about Iterative Releases, Product Backlogs, Continuous Testing and the Theory of Constraints.
After all can you really understand the advantages of building a small number of features in an iterative manner if you’ve not heard about the French Fry Revolution!?
An easy read and a great book to really reinforce some of the ideas of scrum you already know with real world examples. Recommended to anyone!