Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Summer Reading List over December

Since returning home* to South Africa in June 2011, life has been really pretty damn hectic, they say relocating your family & household contents is one of the most stressful things you can do in life - added to that, working with a new company presented itself with a massive culture shock. So I had my hands full with handling not only work but also family transitioning to the new life. Not to mention I quit my permanent job and ventured into consulting territory. This transformation has set me back someways: in particular, my reading list fell on the back burner, and it's only now that I'm starting to rev it up again. Another reason for not maintaining my reading as I used to in UK, is that South Africa is way behind in the online shopping space, the deals I used to get on Amazon were so great in terms of price (not to mention service!), that when I pick up books from the shelves in stores here in SA, or even online (Kalahari), I often cringe at the price tags (definitely cheaper in UK, wait). I still haven't made the leap to the Kindle yet which is the sensible thing to do (although the Pound/Rate exchange rate is crazy!), I was an early adopter a few years back, but I really wasn't impressed at the time - so still prefer my hardbound copies! I do have my eye on the Kindle Fire HDX though...

Here's a snippet of the handful of books piled on my bedside table for reading over the South African summer break:

Made to Stick: Why some ideas take hold and others come unstuck
This comes widely recommended by people in the management / leadership sphere on strategy. The core message is about keeping ideas simple, concrete and relevant communications at a level where everyone can understand without ambiguity & confusion. Especially important in techniques to transfer ideas across to various audiences, touching on the challenges that experts find themselves in with being blessed with the "Curse of Knowledge". This resonates at a personal level for me, where most of my challenges lie with communicating new ideas on strategy & implementation. Book presents a sticky checklist focused on SUCCESs principle: Simple, Unexpected, Concrete, Credible, Emotional, Stories. Based on my reading so far, much of the messages are common sense, but it is quite tricky to catch yourself from falling into the traps of assuming people understand you...

HBR's 10 Must Reads on Strategy (Harvard Business Review Must Reads)
Another much recommended book from the acclaimed Harvard Business Review works. As a consultant, it's useful to be across topics on addressing matters of strategy.

Conversation Transformation: Recognize and Overcome the 6 Most Destructive Communication Patterns
Another one close to home that I'd like to personally improve on. Recently I completed the Henley Business School's Management Accelerator Program, as well as other courses on Neuroscience & NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) & Emotional Intelligence - it is so clear that all project's successes are pivoted around structured Conversations & Relationships. I have been burnt in the past with communication problems, hoping this book will further enlighten me on transforming my conversation style.

The One Page Project Manager for Execution: Drive Strategy and Solve Problems with a Single Sheet of Paper
I own all the previous series of the One Page Project Manager (OPPM) so bought this book to serve my emotional attachment need of owning the complete set work. The book also touches on Lean & the Toyota Production system, I'm curious to learn how one can communicate large complex programs status on one piece of paper. To date, I have applied the concept on a past project of mine, and received feedback "This is one of the best report I've seen in all my life as Program manager" - I was really chaffed with that feedback, but unfortunately I haven't followed through with this reporting style in subsequent projects because it requires quite a change in mindset. You don't need to read the previous two OPPM books, you can jump straight to this one.

How Google Tests Software
I always try to keep up-to-date with the latest state-of-the-art in software production, what other company to follow other than Google - it's a no-brainer. Even though the book is two years old now, and Google would've definitely moved on, it still contains relevant information that other development teams can reference, compare and apply learnings in their own journey with Continuous Integration, Test Driven Development & Continuous Deployment. I am already a third through this book, it is quite fascinating.

The Management Consultant: Mastering the Art of Consultancy (Financial Times Series)
My new job title I'm advertising is "Software Management Consultant" so I'm hoping to pick out a few jewels from someone who's spent decades experiencing the life & challenges of management consultancy. I like to learn from the wisdom of others instead of tripping up...

Lean Software Development: An Agile Toolkit
The Poppendicks are much cited authors in the field of Agile & Lean. Even though this was a seminal work that is over ten years old since its first publication, the material is still very relevant to software teams today. This ties nicely in with my recent experience of seeing Nissan production line, and should enlighten me on all my thoughts parked for unpacking later (it should accelerate my learning). A lot of the concepts might seem obvious to me based on my own experience, it is nevertheless comforting that I'm on the right track and not shooting from the hip...

The Bicycling Guide to Complete Bicycle Maintenance and Repair (Bicycling Guide to Complete Bicycle Maintenance & Repair for Road & Mountain Bikes)
A break from the technical grind of work, making time for some hobbies - My kids and I are into cycling (mountain biking), still novices - but I found out soon enough that this is an expensive hobby, and cycling shops can really pull the wool over your eyes when it comes to servicing your bike, etc. So I plan to do all bike maintenance myself, best to start somewhere, educate myself with a DIY guide…

*I am still in two minds calling South Africa my home. Ten years is a long time to be away, especially after settling down and building a life, then leaving it to come back. Not to mention the complications I've had with SA Home Affairs, I wonder how much of a "home" this really is. Looks like I still have one foot in the UK & another in SA - only time will tell!

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