Skunk works

If there’s a book that makes me want to believe in a 10X engineer its this one. An amazing read on skunk works, or more formally Lockheed Martin’s Advanced Development Programs (ADP), what this team was able to achieve over and over with more limited resources is absolutely remarkable. The U2 in so many ways was counter to what the standard direction was at the time, as well an incredible engineering feat.

What most stood out to me was the level at which the team operated at, and when process was introduced for “safety” and “process” the results were actually initially more harmful than good.

The hard things about the hard things

In one sense this felt like the cliff not version of Andy Grove’s High output management. In another sense Ben distils things down into some very practical guidance. It hits on some things that High output management does not such as how to handle layoffs, how to pivot, and in general some just interesting stories from his experiences of the years. His guidance on 1:1’s is spot on and for any manager I’d consider this required reading. I’d recommend this to anyone in tech/business, and not just as a replacement for High output management but as a supplement.

High output management

There’s a reason this is a cult classic in Silicon Valley among founders–it’s chocked full of great insight. It really is remarkable that while running Intel he took time to personally write this book. Unlike the previous, extracting some of the details and insights in this takes a little more focus. You can breeze through it, but you’ll lose so much of the value. For all the love that exists for this book I’ve not seen enough of it applied, from stagger charts to explicitly using meetings for various purposes–that said anything from this book you can apply you’re then better off.

Creativity Inc

Being a Disney fan this of course was a fun read to me. Even discounting that there’s some nice guidance in here for innovative/creative companies. Key themes include: the team, an environment of feedback that improves the product, a lot around creating an environment that helps you innovate but not burn out.

Effective Executive

Some of this ran counter to how I would approach a startup. Focus on the things you need to be doing and the process is the broad summary, which at the same time so much of it absolutely made sense. If you’re newer to upper management or to the executive team I’d highly recommend it. Even if not an exectuive there’s some good tidbits and it’ll give you some insight into a good executives world view. A few of the key themes:

  1. Track and then manage your time – which is useful guidance for anyone
  2. Focus on new opportunities not problem solving and damage control – this was a surprising concept to me but made a lot of sense
  3. Focus on one thing at a time as opposed to multitasking. This was an interesting one to me and while I can understand it’s argument there were also a few counter examples in the book.
  4. Creating organizational structures for success and outstanding performance

Inspired Products

This is a must read for product managers, engineers, project managers, and essentially everyone else involved in the product creation process. It clearly lays out what the goal of product management is, its interaction with other roles, and how to accomplish building great products.

Managing Humans

For a first time manager this has a lot of great insights. I typically enjoy Lopp’s style of writing as well, and this is essentially a number of blog posts converted to book form. Going from contributor to manager the biggest take away is that the manager’s job is different and should focus on the individual being successful. Beyond that there are a ton of small stories that apply to various situations, which makes for a light but worthwhile read.

Home game: An Accidental Guide to Fatherhood

As a father who had two children born at Alta Bates this one rings so very true. Tears were in my eyes from laughing so hard at this one. A great Michael Lewis style book that hits on modern fatherhood in a very humorous read. Highly encouraged for any father of young children or soon to be.