I’m embarking on a program to build up my management skills and learn more about what the business that I work in actually does. To achieve that I’m reading some classic management books. Why?? Because I’ve realised that I have a hole in my education. I know surprisingly little about Sales and Marketing; Business Management, Facility management; Supply chains; procurement and the various other things that happen in a business. I’m trying to fix that, and I’m trying to build respect for the people in my organisation who do those jobs.
Why should I learn management skills?
So why bother learning this stuff at all? I mean us developers often deride or look down on marketing droids, and the fat cat layer at the top of an organisation right?
I’ve recently come to the conclusion that much of our time as developers is being completely wasted writing software that someone has told us is important. Agile Development is supposed to help with this, ensuring that we are more connected with the business owners and therefore only writing software that is important. But in a large organisation, your business owner may not really be aware of what the company strategy is, or whether their project is the right thing to do.
If we allow ourselves to remain oblivious about how our companies work, and why they work, we’ll continue to expend energy on fancy looking features and new projects, and always suggest that it’s pointless spending time and effort on boring business tasks like improving marketing spreadsheets, fixing procurement systems, and helping improve the business.
If we really focused on Kanban style reduction of batch size and increasing flow, we’d realise that it’s not about increasing flow in the department, but ensuring that our department increases flow of commercially valuable projects and products throughout the entire company. We can’t do that if we don’t understand what the company does.
How should I learn about management and business?
I’m starting with books, and I’m going back in time a bit to find them. I want to read some of the great classics on Management, on Business and on Sales and Marketing. I want to understand how an organisation produces a strategy, how it executes on it, and what the purpose is. That way I think I’ll understand better what value I can bring to an organisation, and how best to align what my team does with what the business actually wants.
Books are not necessarily the best way to build up management skills, but for a developer wanting to break into management, wanting to understand the business that they work in and to ensure that their work is helping the business succeed, they seem like a good start.
The book list
Note: this is simply the books I could find, that I’ve heard of, or that were recommended to me. I’ve not read most of these yet, so I can’t really recommend them to you yet. Reviews will be forthcoming hopefully.
# Peter Drucker: The Effective Executive
Drucker is considered the father of modern management. His books are seminal, and from what I understand, are required reading on almost all MBA courses.
This particular book is about being effective in that job. He strips back the concepts of management to help you understand what is really important and therefore how to do it well.
# The Innovators Dilemma
This book is one of the classic analysis of why companies fail. It talks about why companies appear in some cases to innovate and be successful and why sometimes a change in an industry can apparently catch an entire industry by surprise and destroy all the modern leaders.
I’m particularly interested in this one as I’d like to know how it might apply to publishing and newspapers.
# Switch - How to change when change is hard
Another analysis style book that looks at the inherent difficulty in applying change to an organisation.
One of the benefits of being a digital native and developer is that we are used to change, but that can make us frustrated with other business processes that don’t change. Let’s understand why and how we can help.
# Daniel Pink - Drive
Daniel Pink has done a very popular TED talk and RSAnimate on “Drive”, and I want to read the book to see more.
What motivates people and are we helping our people do their job the best?
# Eric Ries - The Lean Startup
Ries’s classic book is about understanding that startups are not about technology, they are also about customers, value and business plans. But he also challenges the view that this is dull, boring and fixed concepts that can’t work in high pressure, often changing environments.
# Spencer - Who Moved My Cheese
I’ve read this a while ago. Again it’s about change, and why we have resistance to change and what we can do about it.
# Seth Godin - All Marketeers are Liars, Purple Cow and Permission Marketing
Seth is always entertaining, and I’ve been reading his blog for years, but never actually read his seminal books on the fundamental function and changes to marketing in the modern digital era.
I haven’t read these yet, so I’m working on reading through them, and I’ll try to produce a review for each book, and I’d love to get recommendations on classic books to read, particularly books that aren’t on general management techniques or Agile focused. I’ll try to come back and update this post with a better list as I get more books on my to read list.