Books to Read Before Managing a Software Development Team
Whether you’re new to the role or a seasoned veteran, managing a software development team is not easy. It involves lots of stakeholders, complex requirements, unanticipated setbacks, and a myriad of pressures. Yet, at the same time, it’s a field with a constantly evolving body of knowledge.
With that in mind, managers need to spend some time preparing themselves before taking on a new software development project. Professional development through reading is a great way to do that.
Here’s a list of some books that will help you develop the leadership, organizational, and technical skills to get the most out of your development team.
Building Great Software Engineering Teams by Josh Tyler
Josh Tyler’s “Building Great Software Engineering Teams” looks at the role managers play in creating great teams. The premise is that the best development teams aren’t necessarily bought or recruited; instead, they’re created through great leadership and development. Tyler has experience scaling teams of all sizes, and his book provides tangible advice, specific take-aways for leaders, and detailed solutions. It also offers stories from his experience, making it relatable and enjoyable to read.
Project managers are constantly making decisions, both large and small. And while that’s a key part of the role, the reality is that managers can’t make all decisions for their teams. Because of this, Bakke argues, managers need to empower all of their team members to make good decisions.
One of the most interesting arguments in this book is Bakke’s premise that delegating decision-making to team members isn’t something that just has to be done. Instead, it’s something that managers should want to do. Bakke encourages managers to push decision-making down the organizational ladder — the idea being that the people closest to the decision are the most informed and will make the best decision.
Startup Engineering Management by Piaw Na
This is a must-read for leaders building a dev team for a startup or small business. It essentially serves as a manual for engineering management while tackling key issues like how to put together a team, how to hire a development team, and how to adopt specific leadership strategies based on your team and your organization’s culture. While covering foundational issues, its depth makes it helpful for both new and experienced managers.
The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right by Atul Gawande
The Checklist Manifesto is less specialized and industry-specific, but it’s still something that can benefit all project managers. The idea behind the book, which was written by a surgeon, is that we shouldn’t overlook simple tools when tackling complex projects. The book offers a well-researched argument for using checklists to help tackle complex projects.
The argument centers around how professionals deal with complex responsibilities. Malcolm Gladwell’s review of the book explains, “Gawande thinks that the modern world requires us to revisit what we mean by expertise: that experts need help and that progress depends on experts having the humility to concede that they need help.” It’s a great book to anchor and organize leaders before taking on highly-critical projects.
Inspired: How to Create Tech Products Customers Love by Marty Cagan
Inspired is focused on product managers and their roles. It looks at the major problems that managers face, with a particular focus on the all-too-common problem of development teams creating something great that no one wants to use. The book gives practical advice on creating a thriving product team and provides tips for the design, development, and deployment of products that work and that users love.
Making Things Happen: Mastering Product Management by Scott Berkun
Written by a Microsoft Product Manager, “Making Things Happen” looks at what it takes for leaders to get through complex software development projects. The book’s focus is on creating action within your team and how leaders can serve as a catalyst for their development teams. While it provides lots of practical advice, it’s not too dense and is a worthwhile read, especially for new managers. Plus, personal stories make it entertaining, and included exercises make it easy to apply to any team.
Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
Flow provides an in-depth study of what makes creative and technical minds “tick.” Two main ideas are discussed in the book — the importance of how work feels for creative workers and the fact that the “flow state” is a physical change in the body that influences productivity and creativity.
Productivity is a great topic for leaders to study before a project, and this is a comprehensive look at the topic and how it can affect your team. That said, it’s long and dense. Leaders looking for a lighter and quicker read on productivity might enjoy Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel Pink.
If you’re gearing up for a new project, besides just preparing yourself, a critical first step is hiring a team of developers with the skills that you need. Whether you’re scaling up an existing team or starting from scratch, Upstack can help. We have a team of vetted developers ready to get started. Contact us to start building your dream team today.
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Originally published at upstack.co on Mar 27, 2022, by Charlie Harper.