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Jolt Awards: The Best Books

, October 01, 2013 Five notable books every serious programmer should read.
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Finalist: Team Geek

By Brian Fitzpatrick and Ben Collins-Sussman

One of the hardest aspects of a manager's job is building a team, keeping it on track, and helping it stay free of productivity-sapping dynamics. Likewise, for developers, the great challenge is how to work in a team and handle the inherent stresses and strains without becoming an impediment or drain on the collective effort. This book is very much oriented to explaining these dynamics and how teams can ideally be assembled, managed, and led towards productive results. In this sense, it is a modern-day version of the classic title Peopleware, but updated for today's teams.

This update is necessary because the culture of software development has changed so much. The authors, both presently at Google but earlier contributors to high-profile open-source projects, cast the necessary wisdom so that it's tailored to present needs. The latter include handling teams that comprise not only developers but designers, the current emphasis on agile and lean methods, and the expectation that team leaders will provide direction on the basis of more than just a hierarchical authority.

As such, the advice is supremely pragmatic and eschews philosophical views of management. For example, here are the suggestions on managing problems without drama:

• Reject behaviors, not people.
• Guard your team's attention and focus.
• Ignore trolls and stick to facts.
• Don't sacrifice long-term culture for short-term convenience.

All good advice that is elaborated with care and presented so as to be implemented immediately. The discussions of meetings and team communications are especially well thought out and clearly articulated. It's evident the authors have spent a lot of time thinking about the problems and testing solutions before formulating the counsel they present here.

This book is short and highly readable. Team Geek should be mandatory reading for most developers today.

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