I decided rather than post my weekly reading list update on Friday I would wait and post on Tuesday instead. Given the long holiday weekend in the US I had my expectations that this would afford me a bit of extra time to read. Excitingly enough I was correct and have a few more books I’d like to add to this post. In addition to my usually non-fiction reviews I’m also sharing some of the fiction books I was able to find time to indulge in as well. I hope you’ll find something in here that will inspire, encourage, or motivate you to pick up a new book as well.
Business books & a common theme
Just as I have done in weeks past I’ll start by sharing the three business books I read this past week and after the summary and takeaway from each I’ll share what I believe might be considered a common thread between them. Interestingly enough, this week, as with weeks past, I am not purposefully selecting books that I believe share a common theme. However, I have been once again pleasantly surprised with how these three disparate books and authors have some common themes and relevant points shared.
This book was one I picked up because the subtitle completely caught my eye. The full title of the book is Accelerate, Building and Scaling High Performing Technology Organizations by Nicole Forsgren, PhD, Jez Humble and Gene Kim. The subtitle jumps out at me because of the challenges and opportunities Mautic is encountering as we continue to grow at such a rapid pace. Thankfully I was able to enjoy reading this book as Mautic has overcome many of the early struggles we had handling such great growth. I say enjoy because I wasn’t forced to scour the pages in an attempt to uncover some instant fix in the midst of a crisis!
This book was only recently published and has been receiving quite a bit of publicity (at least in my circles) so I was quite eager to read it, particularly given the individuals recommending it. I can now solidly add my own name to that list and say, if you are in any technology-related position in any organization, you should absolutely pick up a copy of this book. In fact, any time I read a book and discover the amount of my highlighted text exceeds the un-highlighted I know I have read something truly meaningful. That being said I don’t have any idea how I’m supposed to shrink down things into a simple handful of bullet points. Here is the best I can do for you:
- Practical Application: This book has performed incredible studies into real-life use cases and organizations and extracted useful results from them.
- Process Makes Perfect: To twist a common saying, the authors focus on creating the best processes for scaling a successful organization.
- Psychometrics and Surveys: The authors focus on collecting data through surveys (some consider this questionable or too subjective) and then applying science to study the results.
I feel terrible offering three meager snippets for a book of this quality but also recognize I cannot paraphrase the entirety of the book here. I can only suggest you pick up a copy and read it yourself. Whether you’re concerned about deployment processes, employee satisfaction, product stability, or just a better understanding of what other highly successful organizations do, this book is a must read.
The process by which an organization accelerates the development and delivery of software improves profitability, productivity, and market share as well as improved effectiveness, efficiency, and customer satisfaction.
The second book I read this weekend was technically a bit of a re-read since I had read it once before and I don’t frequently take the time to read a book through a second time but this book is one that serves such a practical nature it’s more of a handbook or manual then it is a book. The book, SPRINT by Jake Knapp is a playbook for how to successfully “solve big problems and test new ideas in just five days”. There are many reasons why I recommend this book but let me give you just a few:
- Plan and Execute: The author uses a story-telling narrative as he shares how to organize a team, identify a specific problem, and create a prototype in only one week.
- Pick a Path: Storyboarding, brainstorming, idea sharing all play a role within the team as a path is outlined to solve the problem.
- Prototyping: In this week of incredibly fast iterative development it’s important to recognize the outcomes anticipated and focus on getting insights. A prototype rather than a polished finish product is the week's goal.
I should be clear: this book is not referring to agile development sprints. Just in case there’s confusion I realize it’s important to mention this book and its outcomes are applicable to any organization and any problem. The author is quick to point out the principles and processes here can be applied to any industry and any problem.
Ultimately, this book provides a fascinating and highly specific 5 day (almost hour by hour) journey through a process to go from idea to customer-tested prototype.
Human + Machine
The last of the non-fiction books I read last week was a more future-focused look at how humans work alongside artificial intelligence. In, Human + Machine, Reimagining Work in the Age of AI the authors Paul Daughtery and H. James Wilson focus on how a future work experience looks like as we begin to realize that we are not competing with AI for all jobs but rather how we will work together in a mutually beneficial relationship to accomplish a goal.
I personally enjoyed this book as I am constantly thinking about and sharing how I believe AI will revolutionize the marketing automation space and what machine learning really means (beyond just fancy marketing jargon that some companies like to throw around).
The authors break the book into two parts, first studying what advancements we have already made in the world of artificial intelligence today. They point to the seamless and even elegant interaction between robots and humans in factories where previously these machines were completely restricted to assembly line motions. They continue to draw the reader to conclude how much “AI” we are already consuming today. This serves to emphasize their point that we are currently already living in this humans and machines symbiosis.
The second half of the book is where the authors take more creative liberties to explore what this future looks like if things continue at their current pace. They explore many of the topics which strike fear however unfounded in the hearts of workers everywhere (The imagined future where all jobs are owned by AI). Instead of such a bleak outlook the writers focus instead on the many benefits and attempt to set straight a realistic view of this future world. This is where things get interesting for me. The book focuses on a concept colloquially termed “the missing middle”, or ways of working which currently don’t exist in today’s economy.
This book is a thought-provoking study into how businesses will achieve the greatest success when machines and humans work as allies to create a process which takes advantage of complementary strengths.
As I selected them and read throughout the week these three books did not seem at first glance to have any real correlation. However, as I read them I was struck by what once again seemed to be a common theme.
The Common Theme: Process
The concept of process was pervasive in these three books, whether in product departments of an organization, in how a sprint is handled, or in how machines and humans work together for the betterment of the business. Across all these different thoughts and areas of focus the singular idea of the importance of a clear process was immediately evident.
Personally I admit I may have been slightly predisposed to this notion as the concept of processes is one I personally study heavily, speak about publicly, and even write about with some frequency (The Importance of Process, An 8 Step On-boarding Process, The Importance of Planning, The Importance of Planning: Practically Speaking just to list a few examples.)
As a result of this personal interest I found these three books to touch on unique yet similar aspects of this concept in fresh ways (or in the case of SPRINT, refreshing ways). If you have not read one (or any) of these books, I would certainly recommend you consider adding them to your bookshelf. I would recommend them in the order in which I’ve written about them here and depending on your field of focus might recommend switching #1 and #2. However, if you’re in the technical side of an organization you simply must read Accelerate.
Too often we get caught up in the details of a particular problem and fail to either look at the bigger picture or more accurately, we fail to see how the part fits into the whole. We lose sight of the process. These books helped remind me that the process is critically important as businesses grow and develop.
Bonus: Fiction Fun
Okay, as I said in the beginning due to the long holiday weekend I was able to read a few more just-for-fun books as well. Rather than doing any sort of write-up on them I’ll just share the titles with you in case you’re curious what else I read.
I’m a bit of a mystery thriller fan and love reading a good book with a “twist”. Regardless of your personal interests, I’d recommend anything by James Patterson, he’s a very easy-to-read fiction author (not to mention phenomenally prolific and I find myself inspired by his drive and work ethic). Whatever your pleasure-reading preference might be I encourage you to find a new book, new author, or new topic.