My journey for knowledge and transformation started 18 months ago as I joined a new and large company. As I started to read books about new ways of working I found that being at an organization going through dramatic change was the best place to be in order to fully explore many of these issues in person.
So I started reading.
and reading some more.
After reading a few influential books and getting an ever greater hunger for more, I started to notice something: my thinking had changed. My approach to problems had changed. omg my marriage had changed. My health changed dramatically. At first I didn’t see the changes but then a good friend pointed out “have you noticed how there seems to be a cumulative effect just from reading so many of these books?”. Boom. She was spot on (thanks Stacey!). Once I started to become aware of this – and upped my reading volume even more I started to become more and more aware of this.
It is one things to read a book. Or two. or three. However good they are, they tend to have a fairly limited effect on you. You read some great things and then ‘life continues’. Some of them you will retain and they will pop up at the perfect time in the future, but for the most part, much of the advice fades into the background of life.
You read a lot. You start spending a significant portion of your week just reading, highlighting and thinking. Then more dramatic transformation can happen. We have learned that the brain is plastic and this feels to me like taking advantage of that to change and ‘reprogram’ yourself.
Having gone through this I want to pass on what I’ve learned. I want to show the path I’ve taken and how it can work for you in far fewer steps.
OK so I have a list of 80 books on transformation and leadership. All you’ve got to do is go through all those book, highlight and reflect the key parts, and… JUST KIDDING.
I have actually read 80 books about change on my journey but if I had to do the journey again I would pick out the super critical ones. So this is what I have done for you. At first I picked the top 40. So yeah, right, just read 40 books. Again, who am I kidding? So OK I chopped that down to 20. Still too many huh? OK I chopped that down to 15. Still too many? Tough. That is really the minimum I can do (I tried 12 but it meant critical books on the cutting room floor). I think every one of these books is a critical part of the journey and not to be skipped.
The other interesting thing for me was the order I read those book in (preserved here). One book lead to another – primarily through Amazon recommendations from the previous book(s) – but also from recommendations from current colleagues – thanks Joe, Carla and Stacey – and from the challenges I faces in my daily work at a company going through and struggling with an Agile transformation.
So here is the list in the order that I read them:
- The Psychology of Computer Programming
The book that ‘got me started’. I was looking for some unusual reading and this caught my eye. It seemed such a different take from all the programming books I’d read over the decades but I though I’d give it a go. It also seemed somewhat dated perhaps. Once I started reading it however I quickly realized that the advice was priceless and just as relevant today as when it was written. This was the start of my journey…
- Crucial Conversations Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High
This made me consciously aware of so many things about the conversations I have had at every place I have worked at, but had never paid attention to before in detail. It was eye opening to me
- Managing the Unmanageable
This opened my eyes to the characteristics I had observed my whole working career about how ‘techies’ work and how it can be so different from other professions.
The next three book are all about experiences from specific companies and helped me to start having some answers to the many questions that I was coming up with in my current workplace.
- Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity
The story told here resonated strongly with me. Being open and honest is explored in a wonderful way in this book
- Powerful: Building a Culture of Freedom and Responsibility
This is story of Netflix and new ways of working that I strongly related to
- Work Rules!: Insights from Inside Google That Will Transform How You Live and Lead
Who wouldn’t want to know how they do it at Google huh? The interesting thing I found in this book was the emphasis over and over again, that it doesn’t matter what the business or industry is, the things that google does to reward and retain talent can be done anywhere
- Accelerate: The science of Lean Software and DevOps
A great read on what going faster means in practice
- The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups
A great book that examines what a change in culture really means
At this point in my journey I started to get a lot more ‘into’ how people and groups work (and don’t) work well to achieve goals and also some of the science behind it.
I started to read a lot of books on just how people work together and what has proven to work well and what hasn’t.
- Alive at Work: The Neuroscience of Helping Your People Love What They Do – Daniel M. Cable
This was a fascinating book on the science behind how the brain works
- Humble Leadership: The Power of Relationships, Openness, and Trust
Edgar H. Schein
An eye-opening book that goes by beyond ‘servant’ leadership to a radically different work of working. I want to work with people who have read and agree with this book.
- Not Nice: Stop People Pleasing, Staying Silent, & Feeling Guilty… And Start Speaking Up, Saying No, Asking Boldly, And Unapologetically Being Yourself – Aziz Gazipura
This book’s title may mislead you
It is about being nice by being honest and it is a great way to think differently.
This is the book that affected (improved) my health the most by explaining the stress that I hadn’t been able to see or understand well.
- Psychological Triggers: Human Nature, Irrationality, and Why We Do What We Do. The Hidden Influences Behind Our Actions, Thoughts, and Behaviors
This gives you a much greater understanding of the why behind peoples motivations and actions
- Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts
A moving book that brought me to tears. Amazing advice for tough talks
- Perfect Software and other illusions about testing
Another fantastic book by Gerald that is a most read for anyone doing testing and automation or leading that effort.
- Bring Your Human to Work: 10 Surefire Ways to Design a Workplace That Is Good for People, Great for Business, and Just Might Change the World
Continuing the ‘make it real’ movement at work with tips and tools to succeed
Finally here are all 15 books should you want to just go on a spending spree.
I got them all on kindle so total cost was probably around $200. A great investment.