Jar's Life Changing Book List - 2017 Edition

I read a lot.  I read 45 books in 2017. Oh gosh that sounds pretentious!  Well, my point is that when I give you my top 5 books, it’s not just like “Hey I read 5 books and I’m calling them the ‘best’ books, but really they are the only books I read.”  No, I’ve curated this list because these books were life changing, and I’m sharing my list hoping that they change your life too.  And maybe I can save you from reading 40 extra books.  

Shoe Dog - by Phil Knight.   This is by far the most fun I’ve ever had reading a business book. Why?  It reads like a novel.  Nike founder, Phil Knight, in true character, sought writing lessons from best selling novelist Abraham Verghese.  You are right transported back to 1963 selling sneakers out of the trunk of Phil’s car, wondering if this little enterprise will ever stay afloat.

Team of Teams - by General Stanley McChrystal.  This is one of those books where I ordered multiple copies and handed them out to my clients.  The premise of the book is that the military had great teams on the ground, but up the chain they were still a command and control hierarchy.  This sounds like the same thing many organizations are struggling with in their Agile Transformations - great scrum teams, surrounded by old hierarchy.  General McChrystal transformed his organization using high-touch communication and team structure at all levels. A must read for anyone trying to scale Agile.  

If I Understood You Would I Have this Look on my Face? - Alan Alda.  Did you know that Alan Alda started an institute for “Communicating Science”?  His hypothesis is the scientists can communicate better by borrowing techniques used by actors and entertainers.  His primary tool is Improvisation, and he’s proven that it can help speakers relate to their listeners.   Can we use his work to improve communication on Agile teams?  Executive communications?  Stay tuned as we explore these ideas in our upcoming blog series on Improv.

Refuse to Choose - Barbara Sher.  I have had a lifelong struggle trying to find “the one thing” when so many things are interesting!  This book significantly shifted my perspective, showing me that my curiosity is a good thing if channeled effectively.  She calls us “Scanners”, and runs through the many types of “Scanners” and how to best manage your life depending in which type you are.  Shortly after read this book, I happened upon  Leonardo DaVinci by Walter Isaacson.  DaVinci was the ultimate scanner!  This cemented my own resolve to embrace my inner "scanner", if it's good enough for DaVinci, it's good enough for me!

The Lean Machine - Dantar P. Ooserwal.  If you thought Harley-Davidson was run by a bunch of rogue bikers, think again.  Although their willingness to be non-comformists may have helped ease their journey to Lean Product development.  Using empirical data and knocking down constraints, these folks found their own way to Lean Product Development.   They discovered that they needed to shift their emphasis on “creating reusable knowledge” rather than simply completing tasks.  They tell a story about a belt failing when the tension changed due to redesign of the engine.  Instead of specifying a belt for a bike and then testing it, they now have a table of belt-tension relationships that they can reference for all bikes.

Harley Davidson analyzed and found that the constraint of their process was the number of feedback loops.  It didn’t matter how much time had passed, it matter how many iterations they had.  This proved that shortening the feedback loop was the key to improving the product development cycle.

What do I read for fiction?  In 2017 I read 5 books by Lianne Moriarty, finishing our her body of work.  I can’t wait for her to stop working on the TV series for “Big Little Lies” and get her next book out!

What books changed your life this year?  Please share and so we can put them on our 2018 reading list.