Saturday, August 17, 2019

Book Review: 7 Rules for Positive, Productive Change

Having known Esther Derby from conferences, her writings, and having participated in a problem solving leadership workshop she led, I knew that she was an expert in helping organizations work better. I was thus looking forward to this book. It exceeded my expectations. “7 Rules” is a concise, easy to read book full of useful information . In addition to the “Rules” you will learn about a variety of ways to model organizational dynamics so that you can identify patterns that inhibit change.

This is a very actionable book. Chapters wrap up with things you can do and with a summary of key points. This book can be as much a daily reference as a tools for learning to be a better change agent.

While 7 Rules is about organizational/corporate change, concepts in the book are also helpful in helping you to navigate tricky issues in community and family life. For example, the relationship between congruence and empathy underlies being an effective change agent, and the book can help you understand these concepts better.

The lessons in the book will help you understand how to make changes at any level, from small things like encouraging unit testing to larger things like a better dev process.
The book provides useful advice for managers, scrum masters and those leading sprint and project retrospectives. Since change can happen at all levels anyone who has found challenges at work that they want to improve should consider this book.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Review: Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World

Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World by David Epstein
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In Range David Epstein explains that while specialization can be valuable in some circumstances, “Range” is both important and undervalued. There are many others where having breadth of experience leads to better solutions to problems, particularly in more complex domains that one typically encounters in knowledge work.

The idea of range resonates with the idea of Cross Functional Teams of T-Shaped people (breadth of experience with depth in some areas) which Scrum and Agile advocate. In the context of an agile team, such a team solves the problem of maintaining the flow of work, as you are less likely to find work in your backlog that is blocked because of a local of someone who can do it. Epstein explains that such teams lead to better solutions as well.

The discussion of the importance of “range” goes against many beliefs people have about the importance of having deep knowledge and getting a head start on acquiring it. Consider the push to start training for sports early or to develop deep skill in an academic discipline. Even in hiring, people with a mix of skills don’t seem to fit neatly into org charts, even as work requires a mix of skills, and a desire and ability to broaden ones areas of expertise.

As someone who has a wide range of interests, and who likes to find connections between seemingly unrelated domains I very much enjoyed and appreciated Range. It’s a well written book, with a mix of assertions, stories, and references to data, along with quite a few notes and sources for those who are skeptical and want to dig deeper.

If you are work in a knowledge area, or are thinking about how to influence a child’s learning path, Range is worth a read to help you understand the context of when breadth adds value.

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Review: Loonshots: How to Nurture the Crazy Ideas That Win Wars, Cure Diseases, and Transform Industries

Loonshots: How to Nurture the Crazy Ideas That Win Wars, Cure Diseases, and Transform Industries Loonshots: How to Nurture the Crazy Ideas That Win Wars, Cure Diseases, and Transform Industries by Safi Bahcall
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Loonshots is an engaging analysis of why some organizations nurture innovation while others seem to sabotage it. With a mix of history, organizational anthropology, psychology and even physics, Bacall makes the case for how culture and organizational structure affect innovation. He also explains how to structure teams to support innovation while still providing for a value stream.

I appreciated how Bahcall emphasized that culture isn’t just an afterthought, but rather something that shapes how your organization works. While some of his advice might be more relevant to larger organizations, the themes are helpful to consider in a company of any size, and any stage of growth, from startup to larger company. Relatedly, some of the phrasings for the "rules to follow" sometimes lose subtlety, but the text fills in the details

This book is worth a read is your are interested in teams, organizations, entrepreneurship, or the history of innovation.

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Review: Homo Deus: A History of Tomorrow

Homo Deus: A History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harari My rating: 4 of 5 stars Homo Deus is an in...