I've been reading a lot of management books lately, to see what they're all about, and to learn how to tell who's going to be a lousy manager and who's got potential to be great. It's fascinating stuff, and since stupid management can make your life miserable, I think every technical guy should at least read a few of these books. I certainly formulated my opinions on whether I'd ever go for a management job from this reading list.
Peopleware, Demarco & Lister
This is a great book. It's about all those parts of a project group or team that nobody thinks about. From project estimates to work environment to what you can do to make a team great or jell, Demarco and Lister tell a great story and give you good approaches to help you do better. Especially readable even if you're not a management type.
Why is Software So Expensive?, Tom Demarco
Written by the same Tom Demarco who was co-author of Peopleware, this is a hilarious collection of essays ranging from topics like teams and teambuilding (in one essay, Demarco mentions that he thinks that the whole concept of "teams" should be thrown out the window) to software factories. By turns witty, sarcastic, somber, and realistic, Tom Demarco takes pot shots at our favorite myths. A must-read for everyone in the software industry.
Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey
I initially refused to read this book, because the title felt so much like a self-help book. But it's not, really. It's a management book. It doesn't talk about techniques or how to fake your way out of a bad spot, but it's about the fundamentals --- how to essentially be a good person. I especially like its "no quick fixes" approach to life. This book and its sequel, First Things First, comes highly recommended. Like Peopleware, it's readable even by non-management types.
Our Emperors Have No Clothes, Alan Weiss
This is the book on stupid and greedy management. It talks about how executives do incredibly stupid things, like measuring actions rather than results, and then blaming the typical worker when it fails. A quote: "The focus is too often on loss and people leaving. The focus needs to be on retention and people staying." Good stuff, and provides good ammunition for when your boss talks about how the typical American worker (or worker at your company) is lazy and stupid.
Dynamics of Software Development, Joe McCarthy
An excellent book by the man who helped turn around the languages group at Microsoft. Read it, savor it, and read it again. This book is especially a must for technical people moving to management. It talks about leadership and how to achieve it, as well as myriad ways to ship on time. Good stuff. If you're not a manager, you won't have much use for this book. It's definitely geared for the manager.
Built to Last, Collins & Porras
This is what I call a concept book. It deals with what vision is, and how visionary companies get where they are. Full of examples, anecdotes, etc. I love the chapters on 3M and on Merck. Definitely required reading for anyone who's even thinking about starting his own company. Readable by anyone, and very idealistic. Also try, Beyond Entrepreneurship, by Collins & Lazier.
The HP Way, Dave Packard
I'm not sure I like this book. It seems awfully self-congratulatory, but then again, the man has something to be self-congratulatory about: he's responsible for building one of the most successful companies around! Read through it to get the idea of what HP is all about. I think there's good stuff in here, but read Built to Last first.
The New GE
"How to be an asshole and run a successful company." You might or might not like it. Lots of wheeling and dealing, for those who like that stuff.
The One Minute Manager, Kenneth Blanchard and Spencer Johnson
An interesting and quick read about the basic principles and techniques of management. Good reading, but nothing about leadership can be found in here. If you're new to management read this, but don't think it's the only thing you need to read!
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