At Flock I had a slide with a list of books I’ve read recently (or, in some cases, re-read recently).
A few folks have asked if I could post said list, with author information and such, and here it is, replete with some of the other books I’ve forgotten about, and even bucketed by categories of sorts.
My top books from this list: OH GOD, where to start. I’d say: The Strategist, Multipliers, The Story of Purpose, Resilience, Phoenix Project, Lean Startup, not necessarily in that order.
- The Phoenix Project: A Novel about IT, DevOps, and Helping Your Business Win (Gene Kim, Kevin Behr, George Spafford): It really is a novel. And you probably identify with at least one person in it. It’s the story of the transformation of an IT organization to devops-ways of thinking; going from a team riddled with technical debt and more work than can ever be accomplished, especially with non-stop emergencies — to breaking down silos, eliminating single points of failure, saving the company through their brilliance. A great read that introduces you to kanban, agile, devops concepts, and shows you, most importantly, that devops is not just tools. Also, in person, Gene is just a super nice guy, a fun speaker, full of energy and insight.
- Continuous Delivery: Reliable Software Releases through Build, Test, and Deployment Automation: (Jez Humble, David Farley): If you have interests in testing automation, continuous integration, config management, quality, or other related things — this is the book to read. You can see a video of Jez Humble talking about continuous delivery at Puppetconf last year if you’d like a high-level overview to get you hooked enough to read – doing the topic justice by covering everything from “Build the right thing” to Deming to actual real-world implementation tips.
- The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses (Eric Ries): Speaking of “build the right thing” — if you’ve heard people talking about feedback loops or pivoting, they probably read The Lean Startup. It’s all about deploying implementations of ideas faster, in smaller pieces, so you can take feedback loops to build things people actually want – rather than getting to the end and discovering nobody cares. (Hmm. Sounds a bit like “release early, release often,” doesn’t it?)
- Lean Analytics: Use Data to Build a Better Startup Faster (Alasdair Kroll, Benjamin Yoskovitz): Building upon the ideas in the Lean Startup — this book looks to actual hard data to help make decisions. Covers a lot of nitty gritty around statistics, page views, that kind of jazz, which was a little more than I wanted to know, but the parts I read were useful enough to make me feel like I got value despite some of the parts I skimmed.
- Resilience: Why Things Bounce Back (Andrew Zolli): This book is very much organized around organizational resiliency – rather than “infrastructure resiliency,” for example – and I highly recommend it, particularly for people involved in open source communities.
Strategy and Endearment for organizations:
- Nice Companies Finish First: Why Cutthroat Management is Over — and Collaboration is In (Peter Shankman)
- The Story of Purpose: The Path to Creating a Brighter Brand, a Greater Company, and a Lasting Legacy (Joey Reiman): This is one of the better brand-thinking books I’ve read. There are lots of theoretical exercises, or things you could actually walk an organization through; at the bare minimum, it’s good food for thought about ensuring that your organization has a purpose that is meaningful, to the outside world and to the folks inside the organization
- Playing to Win: How Strategy Really Works (A.G. Lafley)
- The Strategist: Be the Leader Your Business Needs (Cynthia A. Montgomery): Oh, this book makes strategy seem easy and smart and doable. It’s not heavily referencing Peter Drucker or Michael Porter or any of the other management/strategy figureheads/theories – so you need not already be an expert; moreover, it’s not just strategy and how to come up with one, but how to be a champion for such a thing.
- Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter (Liz Wiseman): One of those books where you think a bit that you sort of inherently knew (or already do!) some of the things in here, but really opens the doors on how meaningful those things can be in inspiring and influencing others. It’s all about planting seeds, nudging people to chase their questions and ideas and imaginative thought processes, among other things.
- Leadership Rules: 50 Timeless Lessons for Leaders (Jo Owen): More on the obvious advice side, less on the illumination side, of leadership.
Filed Under “Other”, and Things Always Worthwhile Re-reading:
- The Wisdom of Psychopaths: What Saints, Spies, and Serial Killers Can Teach Us About Success (Kevin Dutton): Picked this up a while after reading an article in Scientific American by the same author on the topic of psychopaths, and how their abilities to charm, be confident, etc. aren’t simply useful in the more-commonly known depictions of psychopaths (ie: serial killers, etc.) – but also useful for getting ahead in the business world. (I’m also just an armchair psychiatrist and find the whole spectrum of personality disorders interesting, particularly the intersections of antisocial personality disorder with sociopathy and psychopathy; I’d add the DSM to this list, but I haven’t picked up DSM-V yet, I only have DSM-IV on my shelf.)
- The Art of War (Sun Tzu): To be clear: This is the “Art of War” by Sun Tzu, not the “Art of War” by Niccolo Machiavelli. There are numerous translations available, and being a timeless book there typically are numerous translations also available at larger bookstores; I recommend taking a jaunt to your local shop and looking through a few of them to see what they have. I recommend getting one that has not just “the interpreted translation” but also one that has some context in-line (“what he means here is”) if you’re a first-time reader. I have a few copies of this book, including one that is an all-in-one-volume combined with “On War” by Carl von Clausewitz.
- The Innovator’s Dilemma (Clayton M. Christensen): Just read it. Seriously.
- The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations (Ori Brafman, Rod Beckstrom): Catalysts. Community. How to bring people in. Go read.