Suggestions from Ed Scotcher
Who Do We Choose to Be?: Facing Reality, Claiming Leadership, Restoring Sanity -Margaret J. Wheatley
A book that explores how we have come to embrace behaviours that are essentially destructive of cultures both big and small. It’s a book with a concrete message which is that we need to take time to tune in to what is happening around us, work out our identity in relation to that, and then figure out what part we can play in leading through the complexity, wherever the opportunity may present itself.
My favourite part of the book was exploring the pattern to the decline of civilisations, as covered in Sir John Glubb’s essay “The fate of empires and the search for survival” as I could clearly see how the same behaviours and traits can be applied to companies big and small as well as countries and civilisations.
Talking to Strangers – What We Should Know About the People We Don’t Know – Malcolm Gladwell
A great story by a fantastic storyteller, I recommend the audible version as it is well produced. The book focusses on how people misunderstand each other and why that is. A core concept is that people are overly willing to trust each other to act in the way they themselves act and are then surprised when the other person may react differently. Going through examples as varied as Chamberlain and Hitler to the unfortunate episode of the Amanda Knox trial, Gladwell, gradually exposes that we need to learn to assess the trustworthiness of people we don’t know, not because they are inherently bad, but because they may just react to things differently to what we expect, which can have totally avoidable yet catastrophic results.
Leadership Is Language – The Hidden Power of What You Say and What You Don’t – L. David Marquet
I mourned this book when I completed it, I enjoyed it that much. Marquet tells the story of a ship that sank. Using a transcript of the voyage, he explains how the language used by people on board led to the disaster. It’s gripping, not only because it’s real, but because what is going on becomes obviously avoidable, so spending time unpicking events in a timeline to disaster with some great explanations of why the language being used directly led to it is simply fascinating. This would be my book of the year if I had one!
Brave New Work – Are You Ready to Reinvent Your Organization? – Aaron Dignan
This book is really in three parts. Part one and three are great for everyone, they explore the history and the future of the way we work, respectively. They are an enjoyable read for anyone working in an organisation, especially who is interested in responding to a changing global working environment. The middle section is more about a template which Dignan has for developing what he calls an organisational ‘operating system’ which was okay, but not really as enjoyable to read as it was more functional than inspirational. A really good read though if you want to know why we work in the strange ways we do, and what we can go on to do about it.
Suggestions from Paul Grew
Racing for the bomb – Robert S. Norris
If you’re looking for the ultimate project management challenge, it doesn’t get much bigger and challenging than running the Manhattan project in complete secrecy with a bunch of maverick scientists, trying to build something that was only theoretically possible as a matter of urgency. That was the challenge General Leslie R.Groves was tasked with and this is his story covering how he came to be the trusted man for the challenge and how he led and managed the like of Oppenheimer and the POTUS.
The Fear Bubble: Harness Fear and Live Without Limits – Ant Middleton
Does the thought of presenting in front of an audience terrify you? Are you hesitating from quitting a job you hate because of what may lie ahead? Perhaps you want the courage to ask for a pay rise. Ant Middleton draws on his experience as an elite soldier and his successful summit of Mt. Everest to share the secrets of recognising and managing fear. What was surprising was how important fear is. Without fear, there’s no challenge. Without challenge, there’s no growth. Without growth, there’s no life.
Chasing the moon – Robert Stone, Alan Andres
The second in my big projects reads. Growing up a huge Star Wars fan it’s hard not to be inspired by anything space. I remember hanging around my mate’s house to watch the shuttle launches back in the 80s with bags of french fries. After a few years, nothing much happened and we started taking it for granted and it was just another space flight. We do have to remember that getting into space and ultimately to the moon still stands as one of mankind’s biggest achievements.
The Great Influenza – John M. Barry
My third big projects book and no real surprise why this one was relevant. (This one was also on Bill Gates recommended reads for the year in case you don’t want to take my word for it). This was so helpful to understand what is happing now with covid-19 also remembering a century ago the only tools they had were distancing, mask wearing, and hand washing.
Endurance – Alfred Langsing
Based on this story you could easily imagine Shackleton as probably one of the best leaders to ever live. When his ship Endurance crushed in the ice, he took a few of his crew and rowed an open boat 720 miles in freezing conditions to South Georgia island where he ultimately formed a rescue party.
Suggestion from Geoff Goddard
Training from the Back of the room – Sharon Bowman
This fantastic book changed the way I deliver training courses. By using the 4C’s approach outlined by Sharon Bowman, I believe I have not only increased the effectiveness of my training but also taken a burden off of myself by not feeling I have to do all the instruction. Changing my approach from ‘Trainers talk; learners listen’ to allow an environment where ’learners talk and teach to each other, and thus learn’. The 4C’s – Connections, Concepts, Concrete practice and Conclusion’s are supported by over 60 training strategies. Not surprisingly the book itself uses the 4C’s approach to deliver its message very successfully. A fitting testament.
Managing Technical Debt – reducing Friction in Software Development – Phillipe Kruchten, Robert Nord and Ipek Ozkaya
This book considerably broadened my understanding of what Technical debt actually is, why it occurs and ways to remedy it. Previously I had mainly thought of Tech Debt as just hard to maintain, badly written spaghetti code. But it can be so much more, such as choices made about the structure or architecture of the system or platform choices or data persistency for example. Arguably far more encompassing, pervasive and costly!
Also, not all Tech Debt is a result of bad quality processes, sometimes it is just down to the passage of time and the technological gap that has grown over that period. I particularly liked the fact that each chapter concluded with a ‘What you can do today’ section encouraging one to not feel too overwhelmed and to take action.
Suggestion from Brian Carman
The DevOps Handbook – Gene Kim, Jez Humble, Patrick Debois, John Willis
Many of the clients we work with are adopting or looking to adopt DevOps. This book describes the origins of DevOps and uses case-studies to illustrate the value of this approach by improving the delivery and stability of solutions. It really is a wealth of knowledge and serves as both a book to read through from end to end and as a reference guide.