Book Review: Management 3.0

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It's challenging to be a manager or a leader, much less both, and the challenges are especially great on an agile team, where self-organization is a core value and leaders are often servant leaders. Jurgen Appelo's book Management 3.0: Leading Agile Developers, Developing Agile Leaders explores what management and leadership mean in a world of agile and self-organizing teams.

The book provides a survey of various management models. But rather than being a book centered on management theory, it makes it clear from the start that management and leadership require an understanding of the human element to be successful. Creating a healthy culture is an important part of leadership on an agile team, and Appelo’s book helps you learn practices that facilitate a healthy culture, which in turn will help realize business value.

A key point of confusion that Appelo helps you understand is the difference between people management and project management. Agile methods tend to explicitly focus on project management, but good people management enables teams to be effective in the context of an agile project.

Another underlying theme in the book is the difference between a manager and a leader, something that is vital to understand if you want to successfully lead an agile team, and also one of the biggest challenges to those just starting out in an agile team after having worked in the context of more traditional organizations.

Written in a self-confident tone with occasional humor, it's one of the rare books that is useful, informative, and entertaining. Appello gives a solid mix of theory and practical advice, including stories and examples to add a sense of context to the many ideas.

Each chapter has useful exercises to help you understand and internalize the ideas presented. There are also many resources, should you desire to dig more deeply into the concepts in the books. (I found myself reading a number of interesting books on creativity and problem solving based on their being mentioned in the book.)

The book's website also has pointers to more information. This is a surprisingly easy book to read given the amount of information it contains, but you may want to pause between chapters to let the information sink in.

For me, this book will have a place on my bookshelf next to Becoming a Technical Leader: An Organic Problem-Solving Approach and Behind Closed Doors: Secrets of Great Management. Anyone in a leadership role—manager or not—will learn useful skills and find actions that can be applied immediately.

The one issue to be aware of when reading this book is that if you start it believing that you and your team are doing quite well, the book will open your eyes to all that is possible and leave you feeling a bit depressed. But that despair can be short-lived, as the book describes the many actions you can take to improve and inspires you to work through the challenges. Reading this book can help you be a better manager and a better leader—and it will help you understand the difference.

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Steve Berczuk

Steve Berczuk is a Principal Engineer and ScrumMaster at Fitbit in Boston, MA. He is the author of Software Configuration Management Patterns: Effective Teamwork, Practical Integration, and has an M.S. in operations research from Stanford University and an S.B. in Electrical Engineering from MIT.