Books - 2021Q1

The non-fiction books I read in January - March 2021.

  1. Accelerate: Building and Scaling High Performing Technology Organizations by Nicole Forsgren, Ph.D. Jez Humble, Gene Kim
  2. Managing Humans: Biting and Humorous Tales of a Software Engineering Manager by Michael Lopp
  3. The Art of Leadership: Small Things, Done Well by Michael Lopp
  4. Skin in the Game by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Accelerate: Building and Scaling High Performing Technology Organizations

Nicole Forsgren, Ph.D. Jez Humble, Gene Kim

What

The title is quite explanatory, the interesting part is how one can measure the performance of the software delivery and what translates into a team and/or a company's high performance.

The four "golden signals" of team performance (with the target in brackets):

  • Deployment frequency (on-demand / >1 per day).
  • Lead time to change (less than one hour).
  • Meantime to recovery (less than one hour).
  • Change failure rate (0 - 15%).

These are pretty intuitive already, but the authors prove it with their research and give specific quantifiable measures. They go into detail explaining each of the metrics with the reference to the "State of DevOps Reports".

Another interesting research they've done is about burnout and how it can be reduced/prevented with Lean practices. One may think that high performance leads to burnout, but it's vice versa. The most important factors in this:

  • Organizational culture (respectful, blame-free, etc.).
  • Deployment pain (deployment should be simple and during the regular hours).
  • Effectiveness of leaders (.. who limit WIP and eliminate blockers quickly).
  • Organizational investments in DevOps (investing in training, tooling, etc).
  • Organizational performance (org that supports experimentation, failure/learning, etc).

Bullet points are fun, right? :) However, the authors elaborate deeply on each and there is plenty of other useful information in the book. Totally recommend.

Rating ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Who should read it

IT professionals who are not yet convinced in the benefits of the DevOps / Agile / Lean or those who are already convinced and want to convince others with data and extensive details.

Managing Humans: Biting and Humorous Tales of a Software Engineering Manager

Michael Lopp

What

The book is a collection of blog posts from the author’s experience as an engineering manager in different companies. They talk in a humorous fashion about serious matters, both do’s and don’t. Some topics are straightforward thus very prescriptive like "how to run a successful meeting", some on the opposite give great advice on the less tangible matters like Culture and what makes it great.

Rating ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Who should read it
As the book states it is for engineering managers - leads, leads of leads, and directors. However, there is a lot of useful information also for individual contributors. If you are an IC, this book will help you in 3 things - to become a better collaborator with your manager, to understand what is engineering management is actually about, and to decide if this is something you would like to pursue.

The Art of Leadership: Small Things, Done Well

Michael Lopp

What

A book by the same author as the one above - Managing Humans. The same structure and the same narration style. There is not much repetition though and the author covers well new topics or gives the previously discussed more depth. Moreover, the names of the chapters give a better context on their content, so it is easier to use the book as a manual.

Rating ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Who should read it

I believe the book is useful for everyone - leads, managers, ICs. As the author advocates, and I totally agree with it, "... leadership can come from anywhere in the team".

Skin in the Game

Nassim Nicholas Taleb

What

Not the first Taleb's book that I've read, so the somewhat "aggressive" narration style was not new to me. The book is about ethics and talks about how dangerous is when people are isolated from the impacts of their decisions. There is no evolution without skin in the game.

One of the self-explanatory quotes:

In case you are giving economic views:
Don’t tell me what you “think,” just tell me what’s in your portfolio.

And the one to the young people who "want to help mankind" - take a risk:

1) Never engage in virtue signaling;
2) Never engage in rent-seeking;
3) You must start a business. Put yourself on the line, start a business.

Rating ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Who should read it

If you know Taleb, have already read some of his work and you like it. This book may give you another perspective and even inspire you to have more courage (take the risk).