Books and resources valuable to managers and leaders looking to make a difference in the people and groups they lead and manage.

The Mythical Man-Month: Essays on Software Engineering, by Frederick P. Brooks

Slack: Getting Past Burnout, Busywork, and the Myth of Total Efficiency, by Tom DeMarco

I re-read this book periodically to re-learn some of the many lessons in it. DeMarco says a lot about “the white space” in your organization and Slack was one of the books I quoted from in my presentation earlier this year (2008) on Managing in the White Space of your Organization. He writes about being a leader, what this really means and what it doesn’t mean. He writes about efficiency and effectiveness and how it is easy to have one or the other and very difficult (but ideal) to have both.

And mostly he writes about slack: that extra bit of time to think, to re-invent, to create and communicate, that extra bit of resources that you need to adjust quickly to changing environments.

By being too efficient (going somewhere fast), we sometimes forget about being effective (where are we going?) — quoting Yogi Berra, he observes “We’re lost, but we’re making good time.”

I. M. Wright’s “Hard Code”, by Eric Brechner

I picked this book up for a number of reasons. One is that it was from Microsoft Press and I’d never read anything from them before. Another is that I always enjoy reading The Mythical Man-Month and this seems to be in a similar vein. I’m not sure where I first heard about it since it isn’t on Slashdot (yet).

No matter, it’s a great book and I have already been challenged to rethink certain things because of its pages, for example, the relationship between a developer and a tester (or in my situation, an engineering resource and an operations resource). He goes into some detail about why this is such an Odd Couple relationship and makes a very good case for why (and how) the relationship should be improved.

Peopleware: Productive Projects and Teams, by Tom DeMarco, Timothy Lister

Shackleton’s Way: Leadership Lessons from the Great Antarctic Explorer, by Margot Morrell and Stephanie Capparell

Surfing the Edge of Chaos: The Laws of Nature and the New Laws of Business, by Richard Pascale, Mark Milleman, Linda Gioja

I first picked up this book on April 28th, 2006 and loved it on first read. It appears I have lent it to someone (perhaps you?) and may need to borrow a copy to give it a proper review.

This is an excellent book on agility and moving toward the edge of chaos. And recognizing that edge as a good thing.

I’ll be adding more titles and reviews when I feel I can sufficiently defend listing them here.

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