I wrote earlier this week that I didn’t see the need for most business books (although I got quite a few managers emailing me, letting me know that they DO see the need, and do have time to read them - thank you for the counterpoints and keep them coming!), and that:
My favorite management books have been either actual case studies, biographies, or fiction books. I’ve plugged Shoe Dog a number of times now, and I’m going to plug it again, because it reveals exactly what you don’t want in a manager. Bad Blood is also an excellent example of a good management book as an anti-pattern. Both are filled with excellent details, and neither are drawn from blog posts, but written as biographies, or by journalists keenly interested in tying a story together.
I want to hear about your favorite management books, particularly if they are not at all related to business, but have taught you something you’ve carried through into your working life.
Or, fictional books that would make good management books. All of the Harry Potter books, for example, are a prime lesson in very bad magical bank cybersecurity best practices that let to social engineering hacks, and that could have 100% been mitigated by replacing all the Gringotts goblins with monitoring and cybersecurity.
More here..this is probably my fave: https://twitter.com/RKBrodell/status/1162408224970162177?s=20
The best book on actual management is The Little Red Hen. I didn't know about this until I read it to my kids. However, it is the most true to life management book I have ever read.
The Phoenix Project is my favorite book about tech management. It’s focused around devops but it’s great to see the interaction with management. It’s also fiction which makes it a really fun read.
Ok, so this is goofy, but..
As a kid I read lots of sci-fi, detective, or action hero books, where the hero _was_ an astronaut, _was_ a detective, etc. Then I read “On a Pale Horse” by Piers Anthony at a formative time as a tween. (It made enough of an impression that I re-read it ~25 years later. It.... was easier to be impressed by it In my youth.) It’s about someone forced to take up the cowl and scythe of the Grim Reaper.
It was the first thing I had ever read that was very explicit about how an impactful role one might have was *completely separate* from the individual inhabiting that office; and that the role conveys responsibilities that you might not like and might not even be a particularly good fit to you personally, but you do them anyway and get good at them because that’s the job.
When I became a manager for the first time, I realized how big an influence that had in shaping my approach to work, and how many of my peers had _not_ internalized that distinction. This is particularly true in the science-adjacent areas I work in now, where “scientist” is at least as much an identity as a job. So the fact that I suck it up and do one-on-ones, give feedback, etc even though I’d really rather not - because that’s the job! - comes down at least in part to 80s pulp YA sci-if.
My favorite management book is probably "The Hard Thing About Hard Things" by Ben Horowitz. He shares his personal experience on various struggles most CEOs will face at some point in their careers - hiring the right people, focusing on culture, solving crises and more.
"The Choice Factory" and "The Small Big. Small changes that spark big influence" are not management books per se. They analyse behavioural biases that influence what we buy and how we behave in various situations. Understanding various aspects (and importance of them) of human behaviour helped me a lot when communicating with my team of 50, understanding why our customers (B2B) want and what our (software) users need.
Can it be like non-fiction fiction? Maybe it's too direct https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/26030703-disrupted
Creativity, Inc by Ed Catmull is my favourite management book. It informs a lot of how I build my data science consulting company. Specifically, the ideas around creativity and giving people room to fail. The tension between wanting an organization to minimize error and maximize innovation never resolves.
Could you link where you elaborated on why Shoe Dog is an example of what you don't want in a manager? His mantra is fresh in my mind: "Don't tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results." He describes himself as a truly hands off manager, allowing his subordinates to thrive in ways that would have been smothered by a micro-manager, no? Then again he surprises his employees with things like "hey, you're moving to eastern seaboard next week" and spends half the book talking about all the alcohol they'd drink and how rough-and-tumble they were...definitely not appealing aspects of management.
It's been a while but I think Ender's Game probably has some management insights. Maybe a few dystopian ones.
I’m going to have to go with “Oh The Places You’ll Go.” Too many quotes to choose from...
You'll get mixed up, of course,
as you already know.
You'll get mixed up
with many strange birds as you go.
So be sure when you step.
Step with care and great tact
and remember that Life's
a Great Balancing Act.
Just never foget to be dexterous and deft.
And never mix up your right foot with your left.
I was just thinking whether it fits here, but the format is at least partly fiction https://leanpub.com/developerhegemony
I always thought that Wolf Hall (and the follow-up, Bring Up the Bodies) provided great insights into how an ambitious person (Thomas Cromwell) thought about things: how to weigh people up, assess the balance of power in a situation, and plot a way through it all (they’re also wonderful novels). So v helpful in surviving corporate culture.