There is an art to product development.
Lately we have seen a trend toward talking about leadership in terms of positive energy or the “law of attraction.” Said simply, the belief is that if you emanate a positive view and focus on good things then people will tend to follow and you will attract good things. While it is clear that people with a persistent positive focus make better leaders, it is not clear that they are better at building products. Being a good citizen and wanting good things is not always enough to make those good things happen; sometimes you must install some force or attractor that will compel the team to change. Many people have great visions. Less common are the hard skills to lead a product development effort toward that vision in meaningful bites.
Our reading list is for people actively involved in developing products. The books in this list will help people in the following roles: product owner, ScrumMaster, product champion, analyst, business analyst, the team, developer, architect, project manager, process mentor, graphic designer, and anyone who wants to better focus her energy on developing products.
The following resources will help those “in the trenches” with product development and the social aspects of building great product development teams. To help you understand why we chose each book, we have included a “One Big Like” (OBL) under each book.
- User Stories Applied, Mike Cohn
- OBL: Making small, sharp pieces of user-valued work to drive teams.
- Social Intelligence, Daniel Goleman
- OBL: The science behind how our heads are wired to work together.
- Agile Retrospectives, Esther Derby and Diana Larsen
- OBL:Retrospectives help teams lean how to do the work better.
- The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey
- OBL: The principles here remain effective in moving from vision to realized goal.
- The Cartoon Guide to (non) Communication, Larry Gonick
- OBL: Fun, clear, explanations of the internal forces that shape (and mis-shape) communication between people – and in cartoon form!
- Zen in the Martial Arts, Joe Hyams
- OBL: contains rich, dense nuggets of wisdom that form some of the basis of “agile first principles” such as courage, open-mindedness, and balance.
- Getting Real, 37Signals (available free online)
- OBL: “less is more” – less product can mean more utility to the users of a product.
- Implementing Lean Software Development, Mary & Tom Poppendieck
- OBL: Defining value in the eyes of the customer and relentless elimination of waste.
- Agile Software Development, Alistair Cockburn
- OBL: Emphasis on social aspects of cooperative software development.
- Theory of Constraints, Eliyahu Goldratt
- OBL: Simple effective techniques on analysis, one of a few books that address this head on.
- Metaphors We Live By, George Lakoff & Mark Johnson
- OBL: We don’t just decide to use metaphors our understanding is metaphorically.
- Software for Use, by Larry Constantine & Lucy Lockwood
- OBL: Complements use cases as a way to concentrate on users.
- Test Driven Development, Kent Beck
- OBL: A simple guide to writing great code.
- The New, New Product Development Game, H. Takeuchi & I. Nonaka in Harvard Business Review, Jan-Feb 1986.
- OBL: Developing products is a learning adventure, a sashimi process.
- Innovation Games, Luke Hohmann
- OBL: Simple techniques that offer fun ways of pulling information from peoples heads.
- Behind Closed Doors, Johanna Rothman & Esther Derby
- OBL: Common sense guidance about working with people.
- Just Enough Requirements Management, Alan Mark Davis
- OBL: Subtle introduction to Agile concepts for Waterfall practitioners— it introduces the power of short development cycles and just-in-time detail discovery.
- Agile Estimating and Planning, Mike Cohn
- OBL: First 3 chapters are a great introduction to just-in-time requirements gathering.
- Agile Management for Software Engineering, David J. Anderson
- OBL: Provides a theoretical foundation for agility.
- Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
- OBL: Creativity comes with “being in the flow.”
We could have added other books, but the books above represent our short list for product development. There are many more reasons why we liked these books and narrowing it down to “One Big Like” was often hard. There were also some things we did not like in each book; however, page for page we found these books above average. We will be discussing these reasons later in our blogs.