Books that every (engineering) manager should read.

Books that every (engineering) manager should read.

  Books that every (engineering) manager should read. 

I’ve been a people manager for about 6 years now, sometimes building engineering organizations from the ground up, other times coming in to help teams in need of new leadership. It’s been an exciting and rewarding journey.
Early on, it became clear to me that managing people requires an entirely new set of skills that I needed to learn quickly in order to do my job well. I think that not all engineering managers have this realization, and end up thinking that because they’re good engineers they will be good engineering managers. Or, perhaps, some engineering managers realize they need to learn new skills, but they don’t know where to start. In either case, there usually comes a time sooner or later when a manager thirsts for knowledge.
I learned how to be a better people manager by a combination of reading books and trial & error. Books provide new ideas of how to do my job. Trial & error are the proving grounds that teach me how to apply these ideas successfully. Over the years, I’ve read books on topics including people management, team building, team psychology, business operations, and business management. I’ve read a lot of books in fact, and while not all of them were good, a few of them really stood out and helped me establish a set of skills that have served me well over the years.  What follows are my Top Picks for books that every (engineering) manager should read.

Debugging Teams by Brian Fitzpatrick and Ben Collins-Sussman.  For anyone working on a team (this is everyone!). Debugging Teams teaches team leaders and team members how to build a better work environment. It stresses the importance of appreciation and respect for each other, and how to communicate clearly. This is the best book I’ve read so far on how to build a team culture that is naturally positive, supportive, and diverse. If you're only going to read one book, read this one. 
How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie.  Especially good for managers. This is an old book, but an excellent book for everyone to read, regardless of job function or role within the company. How to Win Friends and Influence People teaches how to connect with people, understand their needs, and motivate some action. Don’t be put off by the word “influence”; the book was written in 1936, and I think the word “influence” is roughly what we would call “motivate” in today’s language.
Getting to Yes by Roger Fisher and William Ury.  For anyone who has to deal with negotiating conflict. Getting to Yes focuses on how to lead a constructive negotiation based on principles and an appreciation for the needs of the other person / group / etc. The framework you learn in this book will help to diffuse tense conversations, particularly by acknowledging that different people with different priorities can still find a common ground, and that negotiating doesn’t have to be a zero-sum game.
The First 90 Days by Michael Watkins.  Great for managers starting a new job. The First 90 Days teaches a framework for coming up to speed on the current challenges in an organization that may be new to you, understanding the strengths of the organization, and laying out a plan of action based on what you’ve observed. Of course you can, if you wish, do this in fewer than 90 days(!); the book is useful for the framework, not strictly the timeline.
High Output Management by Andrew Grove.  For managers of all levels. High Output Management teaches how to define and measure success criteria for your organization, along with how to set up early warning signals to alert you when things start to go sideways. I think this book reads particularly well to stats minded people (like me!), because it focuses on how to apply data to decision making in the absence of complete information.
The Innovator’s Dilemma by Clayton Christensen.  For business leaders. This book explains the importance of focusing on your users, getting rapid feedback, and learning how to adapt to build the product that your users want. This is notably different from the product you might think your users want. The Innovator’s Dilemma will teach you how to understand the difference before it’s too late.
Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey Moore.  For business leaders. This is the seminal book on market analysis for tech companies. It lays out a framework to understand where your product is in its lifecycle, what types of users you are addressing in the market (ie. market segmentation), and how to adapt your product to meet the needs of different user segments. Crossing the Chasm is a must read for anyone growing a business, whether your business is a small startup or a new product in a larger company.
That’s it for now! I hope this reading list is useful. If you have an excellent book that you feel should have made the list, I would love to hear about it.

The Author: Dylan Curley

                                      Dylan Curley
I'm passionate about growing teams to build great products that make a difference.

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