LIFELINE OF COINCIDENCE


blog by Anton Katunin
 

Team Topologies

by Matthew Skelton and Manuel Pais

Finally a good book on team structure. I really enjoyed this book. It's very practical and provides a deep understanding of choices. Recent trends that more collaboration is better or all teams are the same are a big delusion. In fact sometimes less collaboration yields better results. But the question is which is which? The book doesn't give you a solution, but rather gives you tools and understanding to decide for yourself.

I listened to the audiobook, and while it was insightful, the book has a lot of diagrams, so I'll be reading it. I think this book is worth reading when you have at least 15 people across all teams.

While the book talks about tech teams, I'm curious how well these concepts could work on the organisational level across departments. 🤔

Update 13th Nov 2021: finished reading the book. Yeap, it's still very good. I definitely missed some parts in the audiobook as there are many images related to the discussion.




The Great CEO Within: the tactical guide to company building

by Matt Mochary

I loved this book. It's straight to the point. Chapters where the author is referring to other books do not repeat them, but reference the source instead.

The book's title is very accurate, it's a guide on how to build a company. It covers a bit of everything: co-founders, the team, personal habits, decision making, leadership, culture, tooling, collaboration, meetings, fundraising, recruiting, sales. My favourite chapters are decision-making, meetings and recruiting. I will be revising them later.

While the book is tailored for the CEOs, I would recommend it to a wider audience as it offers good advice to be an effective company. The chapters are clearly labeled and you probably can skip "Fundraising" as it won't be as useful to you.




The Manager's Path: A Guide for Tech Leaders Navigating Growth and Change

by Camille Fournier

The book gives an overview of what developers' career might look like when they move to management. The book has a good structure and easy to follow. I like how the author highlights challenges of each career level.

For example many developers see CTO position as their careers goal (I did myself). However the majority would resent it when they understand what it includes.

The book could benefit from deeper and wider research. It feels author's experience was the main source for the book. I wish the book was more comprehensive and included more roles.

I would recommend this book to all software developers at all levels to better understand their career path. In addition, the book should teach to spot and help bad manager they will encounter at work.




The Little Book of Common Sense Investing: The Only Way to Guarantee Your Fair Share of Stock Market Returns

by John C. Bogle

Barefoot Investor recommended this book. It is written by John Bogle who founded Vanguard Mutual Fund Group. If you don't know, Vanguard is the largest provider of mutual funds and the second-largest provider of exchange-traded funds in the world.

I found the book very dry to read, however, it has plenty of research data. The book requires a good understanding of different investment schemes to fully appreciate it. Unfortunately I could only grasp the core message: invest in index funds. They provide the best diversification and with lowest fees it's almost impossible to beat them.

That's only applicable to long term investments though. By following the mentioned advice, it should put you above the majority with minimum cost and effort. I agree with Barefoot Investor, this book is a must read for all stocks investors.

Few quotes:

In the short run the stock market is a voting machine . . . (but) in the long run it is a weighing machine. -- Ben Graham

When there are multiple solutions to a problem, choose the simplest one. -- Occam’s Razor

Common sense tells us that performance comes and goes, but costs go on forever.

"The greatest enemy of a good plan is the dream of a perfect plan.” Stick to the good plan.

The two greatest enemies of the equity fund investor are expenses and emotions.




Resilient Management

by Lara Hogan

This book gives good introduction to management. It gives exposure to the few concepts and frameworks. While it's very short and narrow, it's enough so you can continue learning by researching the mentioned references.

Looks like the book is primarily based on Lara's experience with a sprinkle of research. The advices she gives are very specific and practical. I wish the book included more details about stages of group development. While Lara used it as a thread that connects all chapters, but it definitely could have a stronger presence.

The strongest chapter is about growing your teammates through mentoring, coaching, sponsoring and feedback. I found it very insightful and valuable.

Considering how under-skilled the managers I've met in my career, I think the book is a good fit for the majority. I'm yet to see a comprehensive management book, so I would recommend Resilient Management to at least junior to mid managers.




Joy Inc. How We Built a Workplace People Love

by Richard Sheridan

This book is a simple description how fairly successful consultancy company called Menlo works. The book is obviously promoting their process and culture, but it’s not encouraging you to follow it. That makes it smooth to read and allows you to make your own conclusion.

Menlo is a consultancy and not a product company. That defines their culture and processes. Looks like a lot of processes were solidified when the company was founded in 2000s. Nothing wrong with that, it just feels dated at times.

Below are my highlights and comments




Great by choice

by James C. Collins

Great by choice is a book about research that answers the question: why do some companies thrive in uncertainty, even chaos, and others do not?

The book is based on research, has many examples and very engaging. It serves all of that with amazing structure including handy chapter summaries.

It is a bit too detailed to my liking in some places.

Below are my favourite highlights

Update: I read some criticism of Jim’s research and there are some very strong points. While his research methods might be good (there are enough criticism about it as well) the issue lies in a small pool of companies. Statistically it’s very easy to get false positive when you have only 20 companies to look at.

There are two videos which expand on the issue with such research - About p-hacking: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=42QuXLucH3Q - And how data is random https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1tSqSMOyNFE




High Performance Habits

by Brendon Burchard

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I like this book because it's practical. I also hate it in places because it feels like the book couldn't qualify as a best seller without completely unnecessary chapters. The book can be very useful if you can finish it.

First of all few words about the author. It's hard to respect Brendon when he is proud that he wrote a book in 1 month (not this book). Author who seeks success while openly claiming that good research is unnecessary. You will see that while reading it. Few chapters are written around author's personal stories and claims based on it. So yeah, who needs research?

The best part the book is very well structured and easy to follow. The content is weak in places, but there is nothing that conflicts with my personal experience, so it's easy for me to accept it even with weak arguments.

The book presents 6 habits and 3 common mistakes/traps.




Anything you want

by Derek Sivers

This is extremely dense book. It wins extra points for being concise. You can read it in hour or two. There is also audiobook read by the author.

I still can't make my mind about Derek. It's either he is genius and hiding it very well. Or he is the most naive and luckiest man. Either way read the book, it's worth it.

One thing really surprised me. Derek talks about completely different attitude of running a business. Every single business I know is there for one reason — money. You might think that's the best way to run the business. Sure, but it's definitely a survivorship bias. Money focused business might live longer but it's like a walking dead — it ruins the scenery.

It's rare to find customer focused business. Everybody says they focus on their customers. Yeah right, as long as their business is growing. Are your customers really interested in your business growth? I don't think so. They are interested in a great service/product. In fact larger companies tend to have worse service than their small competitors.

The author's mindset is similar to Basecamp. Focus on customers. You are not going to need it. Adjust as you go. No funding.

Quick notes:

I like his "HELL YEAH! or no" principle. I saw it many years ago and it got stuck with me for all that time.

Delegate or die: Answer the question and explain the thought process and philosophy behind the answer.

Trust, but verify: Remember it when delegating. You have to do both.

A real person, a lot like you: Technology depersonalises humans, but there are people on the other end, remember that.

Quote from Steve Blank: No plan survives first contact with customers.

You should feel pain. If you do you will always know what to improve.

If you like the book I would recommend to follow Derek's blog.




The Phoenix Project

by Gene Kim, Kevin Behr, George Spafford

This is a great technical story. I find it hard to explain my daily job to a non technical person. This book is the best example I've seen which closely resembles what the tech work is like. It's not the perfect match but the closest I've seen by far.

The story's realism keeps holding your attention till the end. The book is well paced and full of management lessons. Few highlights which I enjoyed:

"Free puppy" analogy. When what you think is free ends up costing you a lot over the years. I find people tend to favour short term thinking unfortunately.

Management of key resources and bottle necks at production factories and office jobs.

The book brings attentions to 4 types of work in tech teams:

  1. Business projects
  2. Internal projects
  3. Changes
  4. Unplanned work

And my final observation, just like in real life, managers in the book don't have formal management education.

The book focuses on the management aspect of work. I would recommend this book to experienced tech people, because they will appreciate it more. If you are outside of tech and want to get a glimpse into the daily lives of tech management jobs have a look as well.




Shape Up. Stop Running in Circles and Ship Work that Matters

by Ryan Singer

It is available online.

Shortly after I finished Inspired book Shape Up book came to my radar. After reading this book the whole puzzle got together. The pieces:

  • 37 signals is a software company that develops Basecamp
  • Basecamp is a project management and communication tool
  • Basecamp is used by 37 signals to develop Basecamp

This book serves well as a guide on how to use Basecamp. The closer your process is to this book, the more useful Basecamp will be for you.

It’s important to note that Basecamp is a cash-cow. The quality of the development process is not necessary affects its success. Read the book with a grain of salt.

Their process is also Dual Track. The first stage is exploration and the second is development. However unlike in Inspired, it’s not clear if they ever do user testing. The book is very practical and it’s easy to see that it evolved over time.

I find Shape Up process very reactive as they discourage having backlog. I agree with the principle that important ideas will always come back, so you don’t need to record them. However they went to the extreme to reinvent the road map every 2 months. Basecamp doesn’t feel like a product but a playground for its founders.

I think the book will gain popularity because it’s short and free. It would serve as a good introduction to dual track processes. I will recommended it on this basis to others.




Inspired: how to create products customers love

by Marty Cagan

My friend is a big fan of Marty Cagan. He is so impressed by his work that it made me think I’m missing out, so I’ve decided to read it. Inspired is a book for product managers about product managers by product managers.

Let’s start with important things first. I loved it. My career is a decade old and I was surprised how little I knew about product development. This book taught me a lot. What product managers are, what they are not, what they do, how to hire and how to work with them. It’s probably the most comprehensive book on a single topic.

The mind blowing discovery for my was at the end. The author is highlighting through the book about the difference between normal agile coach and the one who worked in product team. It’s only at the end of the book he explains the difference. Scrum as the most popular agile methodology is created in consulting (custom software in the book). It works amazingly well in such setup and it is completely unsuitable for product teams. I knew it myself deep inside, but verbalising it made it real. I like agile manifesto. With that the new knowledge 12 principles behind the Agile Manifesto opened up from a completely new perspective.

Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.

It’s great for consultants, pointless for product teams.

The process the author proposes is something between waterfall and agile. In short you don’t develop anything until you’ve proven the prototype and business model. I was very skeptical at the start but finally got convinced that it is a good process to use. The book does not give it a name, but people call it Dual Track Development.

On the first track you explore ideas, come up with prototypes and test them on users. The idea is to keep the feedback loop tight and iterate on ideas. On this track all roles must be involved, including developers. That avoid the problem with waterfall model where levels don’t communicate.

The second track is usual development process. That could be Scrum, Kanban or chaos driven development.

Both tracks run in parallel, but with different cycles.

If you test an idea and it fails, you just scrap it and move to the next. The BIG difference to plain agile you don’t pollute your code base with bad ideas. Also when you start development you already have well designed, tested and proven feature. No more assumptions and no more pivoting.

Even though the book is mostly for product managers, I found it very useful, so would recommend it to everybody who is in software development.




The Barefoot Investor

by Scott Pape

I'm pretty good with money (at least I'd like to think that). However I lack a lot of common knowledge about Australian rules. For example how super works or what happens when your bank goes bankrupt. This book is mostly relevant to only Australians, as financial system differs in each country.

The book present a simple step by step guide on how to take your financial life under control. Starting from the bottom of owning a lot of debt up to getting the financial independence. This book is recent which is important as the content is time relevant.

The books proves a good general knowledge and a must read for all Australians.