2020 Scrummer Reading List
We all know this is a very different kind of summer (or winter for our friends in the Southern Hemisphere). One where the need to escape, learn, grow maybe even more acute. Our annual tribute to great reads (and listens) is here to help.
We asked the team what books they are currently nose-deep in, or that they highly recommend others check-out. As always, they came back with some great suggestions across genres.
JJ Sutherland, Chief Executive Officer recommends:
"Both Flesh And Not " by David Foster Wallace
From the state of bribery at the US Open, to the sharpest of literary criticism, to Wittgenstein this posthumous book of essays is one I missed in 2012 when it was published. This collection gathers together works published in various places from 1988 to 2007. In between each piece Foster Wallace, one of the great American stylists, gives you lists of words. Words as far afield as "debouche," "embrown," and "elute." My favorite - "decollate" (to behead), "decollete" (cut low at the neckline). Connection through placement... The best essay is his title piece Federer Both Flesh and Not first published in the New York Times in 2006. In it, he describes the seeming magical abilities of elite athletes by examining the luminous talent and grace of Roger Federer. One bit that struck me was when he writes that elite athletes expose a fundamental truth of the human condition - beauty itself. “The human beauty we’re talking about,” he writes, “is beauty of a particular type; it might be called kinetic beauty. It has nothing to do with sex or cultural norms. What it seems to have to do with, really, is human beings’ reconciliation with the fact of having a body.”
"Poet in New York " by Federico Garcia Lorca
Lorca is the greatest of gifts, an amazing poet I had yet to discover. Fitting this book was given to me as a birthday present. And I love the fact the Spanish and English versions appear side-by-side.
Jessica Larsen, Product Owner, Scrum Inc. Training Program recommends:
"The Fearless Organization" by Amy Edmundson
Today's workforce spends more time collaborating (team-based work) than ever before; knowledge and innovation are crucial sources of competitive advantage in nearly every industry, yet 70-85% of the world's workforce is either not engaged or actively disengaged at their jobs. In this book, Edmundson discusses the importance of psychological safety and creating an environment of respect for people (a pillar of the Toyota Way) in improving workplace engagement. For me, this book provided great empirical evidence and theoretical basis for why the Scrum Values and pillars of the Toyota Way are so important in the workplace.
Mark Rosania, Product Owner, Transformation Services recommends:
Scientists have always kept secrets. But rarely have the secrets been as vital as they were during WW II. In the middle of building an atomic bomb, the leaders of the Manhattan Project were alarmed to learn that Nazi Germany was far outpacing the Allies in nuclear weapons research; Hitler, with just a few pounds of uranium, would have the capability to reverse the entire D-Day operation and conquer Europe. So they assembled a rough and motley crew of geniuses - dubbed the Alsos mission - and sent them careening into Axis territory to spy on, sabotage, and even assassinate members of Nazi Germany's feared Uranium Club. No theater of the war, from battlefields to laboratories, was considered off-limits, and for good reason: the entire outcome of the war rested on Also's shoulders.
Matthew Jacobs, Chief Product Owner, Agile Transformations recommends:
“A Brave New Work: Are You Ready to Reinvent Your Organization?” by Aaron Dignan
This is a fascinating book on the future of work and what a reinvented organization could look like. Dignan leverages a lot of Scrum principles in this work but sometimes with a twist.
A brilliantly researched book (as all of Larsen's are) but I have to disagree with the subtitle. As you read you realize this book also shows how Churchill leveraged “Agile techniques” to prepare England's respond to Hitler’s take over of Europe and to win the Battle of Britain
Veronica Ruiz, Director, Marketing and Communications recommends:
Ghost Boys - by Jewell Parker Rhodes
Twelve-year-old Jerome is shot by a police officer who mistakes his toy gun for a real threat. As a ghost, he observes the devastation that’s been unleashed on his family and community in the wake of what they see as an unjust and brutal killing.
This book was assigned to my fifth grader, parents were also invited to read it. I am glad that I did. The book tackles timely issues like racial bias, bullying, and class directly, honestly, and deftly. It reflects current events and explores the long history of racism. It is a short and powerful book.
Patrick Roach, Chief Product Owner, Training & Consulting recommends:
"Make Me Smart" hosted by Kai Ryssdal and Molly Wood
This is a daily news podcast focused on tech, the economy, and culture. It's ~15 minutes of well-researched content that only focuses on a few topics each day. Kai and Molly do a great job of making sense of what it all means. I learn something new every day.
Brandon Cole, Art Director recommends:
Why do we struggle to change or improve our habits? James Clear writes one of my favorite reads of the last few years in Atomic Habits, discussing the importance of tiny changes and marginal gains. His balance of storytelling and statistics reminds me of a Malcolm Gladwell book where you find yourself grabbing a pencil or highlighter to document some of the information.
Find yourself questioning the norms of habit-forming in this excellent New York Times bestselling book.
"Lean Presentation Design" by Maurizio La Cava
Did you know many people spend more time designing and organizing in PowerPoint than they do creating the content? In Lean Presentation Design, Maurizio La Cava covers everything you need to know about creating successful presentations without being a designer.
Jess Jagoditsh, Scrum of Scrums Master, Transformation recommends:
"Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine" by Gail Honeyman
This is a story about our inherent need for human connection. Events from Eleanor's past erased her understanding of why humans need each other and of the warm feelings that come with friendship and caring. The story is particularly relevant right now as the global pandemic and shelter-in-place have caused many of us to be at home, sometimes alone, every day. Let us not forget the importance of having relationships and community.
Jack Harmening, Transformation Team Member recommends:
"The Fate of Rome: Climate, Disease, and the End of an Empire" by Kyle Harper
The Fate of Rome is my first foray into a new kind of historical analysis that links biology, economics, and good old-fashioned archeology. It's just an awesome book for any fan of history. Harper describes how different experts have analyzed bones, cliffsides, soil, coins, viruses, bacteria, and of course, ancient documents, to track a complete history of the health and wealth of the Roman people, as well as the climate and disease ecologies they experienced. The Rise and Fall of Rome were both more linked to external variables than I ever imagined. Read this if you want to learn from the past, so that, maybe, we aren't doomed to repeat it.
"The Narrow Corridor: States, Societies, and the Fate of Liberty" by Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson
Another historical view of economics and institutions, I paired this one with 'The Fate of Rome' because Acemoglu has always been interested in how institutional design affects the wealth of nations. The conclusion here is that personal and political liberties persist when a set of institutions walk the 'narrow corridor,' dodging authoritarianism or weak governance on either side. Perhaps if the Romans not been dominated by "extractive" hierarchies, perhaps they could have innovated enough to survive the changing climate and plagues that shook its foundations. Read this if you want to learn more about why some nations fail, and others succeed.
Tom Bullock, Product Owner, Storyteller recommends:
“Why We're Polarized" by Ezra Klein
Yes, this is a book about the causes and effects of America’s polarized political system. Dig a little deeper and it's about much more than that. Klein weaves in a significant amount of social science and data to help explain how and why polarization occurs. And it can occur anywhere. This non-partisan book about politics is a must for anyone thinking about change management.
“What's Magic Without A Little Mischief" by Charlie Bullock
Sorry, you can't get a copy of this one, not yet at least. But I still think it's worth sharing.
Charlie, our 9-year-old daughter, loves to write. Summer felt like the perfect time to start her first novel. What’s Magic WIthout a Little Mischief tells the tale of the Ko children as they discover the secrets their murdered parents never told them, including the magical abilities they all possess, and the threat they face in the shadows. Charlie is 6 chapters in, and I’m loving it!
Megan Fremont-Smith, Transformation Team Member recommends:
"Dare to Lead" by Brene Brown
This book is about using courage and vulnerability to lead. If you are looking for a good read on the human-centric approach to leadership this book is for you.
Ray Robinson, Transformation Advisor recommends:
"Principles" by Ray Dalio
I was drawn to Ray Dalio’s after seeing him on a 60 Minutes segment. In his most recent book, Mr. Dalio gives a biographical narrative to his successful rise in the financial industry. Through his experiences, he came to develop a fairly lengthy set of learned principles he has leveraged to reach his success.
Elizabeth Frazier, Training Program Team Member
This was recommended to me by a fabulous colleague. The hard thing...There's no simple recipe. I'm still finishing the book, but so far, it's a good 'listen' from someone who is willing to share the challenges he faced, the approaches he took, and glimpses into the places he found inspiration.
"Talking to my Daughter about the Economy: A Brief History of Capitalism" by Yanis Varoufakis
If you like something that looks at the complexity of a subject but can talk about it in a simple way, try this. I like his premise that to call yourself an expert in any topic, you need to be able to discuss it clearly a non-expert in the topic, and connect it with our humanity. It was a book that didn't require that I sign up for a particular approach, but invited me to think (and to talk about it with my kids.)