In my ‘High Impact Tasks for CTOs’ eBook I mention starting a book club as a way to impact organizational culture and drive performance.

There are several benefits to reading the same books for technology team members, including:

  • Prompting ideas and solutions for organizational challenges.
  • Developing a common framework for problem-solving.
  • Building a shared language.
  • Providing new perspectives and modes of thinking.
  • Driving engagement and team identity.

But where to start? You obviously don’t want to waste your team’s time with books that add little or no value. Here’s a list of great reads for technology team members and a few thoughts on their particular significance:


Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

by Greg McKeown

Essentialism provides a framework and a mindset for determining what is truly needful (and what is not). In what McKeown calls “The Way of the Essentialist”, we can learn to make discerning choices in all areas of our lives.


I consider Essentialism to be a great read for technology team members because it provides a thought process to cut through the many choices and options facing tech teams every day. Many teams will benefit from the “do less, better” message of Essentialism.


Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity

by Kim Scott

Radical Candor provides a simple idea: to be a good boss, you have to “care personally” at the same time that you “challenge directly”. Providing a simple framework for thinking and communicating, Radical Candor is the answer to how teams disagree appropriately.


Perhaps written for bosses, I believe Radical Candor is a mindset that can and should permeate through entire teams. Technology team members will benefit from the ability to be more engaged and passionate in a meaningful and respectful way.


Extreme Ownership: How US Navy SEALs Lead and Win
by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin

Written by two US Navy SEAL commanders, Extreme Ownership ties hard-hitting military lessons to corporate management. While this is nothing new, Willink and Babin do a terrific job of isolating highly usable leadership principles that apply to all levels of the organization. The insider SEAL stories are relevant and engaging, and the associated leadership lessons and application to business are clear and effective.


I suggest Extreme Ownership for technical teams because it clearly outlines 10 key principles that can increase performance on any team. Including “keep plans simple, clear, and precise”, “check your ego”, and “keep your boss in the loop”, these principles are simple but all too often ignored. Oh, and the war stories are terrific!


Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action
by Simon Sinek

Written in 2011, Start with Why quickly became a business classic and for good reason. Sinek’s “Golden Circle” principle provides a powerful and sticky framework for thinking about communication, and has the potential to be a catalyst for real change in an organization.


I recommend Start with Why for technical teams because it gets to the heart of understanding why we do what we do (not surprisingly). This idea can add a great deal of context, especially for technical teams that are typically disconnected from end users.


Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard
by Chip and Dan Heath

Among the mass of books about change management, this is simply the best. Both accessible and profound, the Heath brothers take the reader on a journey through three key principles of creating change within an organization – any organization. Filled with engaging and thought-provoking examples, Switch is sure to change the conversation in any organization that wants to make or influence change.


This book made my top-six list not only because it’s one of my favorites, but also because so much of what technical teams do centers on change. Whether we are driving internal change or building changes of behavior into our products, Switch provides an excellent lexicon for talking about change as well as a framework for creating it.


The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t

by Robert Sutton

Based on one of HBR’s most popular articles ever, Sutton’s The No Asshole Rule explains how to create a “civilized workplace”. Especially helpful in environments where experts and prima donnas reign supreme, The No Asshole Rule sets the standard for how teams can work together in an environment of respect and mutual support.


With many technology teams relying heavily on expertise over personality, The No Asshole Rule will be an interesting “back to basics” on what teams consider permissible behavior and how to deal with the worst behavior.


Do you like the list? What other books do you suggest as powerful reads for technology teams? Post in the comments below…