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Managing Humans: Biting and Humorous Tales of a Software Engineering Manager [Paperback]

Michael Lopp

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Book Description

June 22 2007 159059844X 978-1590598443 1

Managing Humans is a selection of the best essays from Michael Lopps web site, Rands In Repose. Drawing on Lopp's management experiences at Apple, Netscape, Symantec, and Borland, this book is full of stories based on companies in the Silicon Valley where people have been known to yell at each other. It is a place full of dysfunctional bright people who are in an incredible hurry to find the next big thing so they can strike it rich and then do it all over again. Among these people are managers, a strange breed of people who through a mystical organizational ritual have been given power over your future and your bank account. Whether you're an aspiring manager, a current manager, or just wondering what the heck a manager does all day, there is a story in this book that will speak to you. You will learn:

  • What to do when people start yelling at each other
  • How to perform a diving save when the best engineer insists on resigning
  • How to say "No" to the person who signs your paycheck

Among fans of Michael Lopp is the incomparable Joel Spolsky, cofounder and CEO of Fog Creek Software:

"What you're holding in your hands in by far the most brilliant book about managing software teams you're ever going to find".

This book is designed for managers and would-be managers staring at the role of a manager wondering why they would ever leave the safe world of bits and bites for the messy world of managing humans. The book covers handling conflict, managing wildly differing personality types, infusing innovation into insane product schedules, and figuring out how to build a lasting and useful engineering culture.


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Product Description

About the Author

Michael Lopp is a veteran engineering manager who has never managed to escape the Silicon Valley. In over 15 years of software development, Michael has worked at a variety of innovative companies including Apple Computer, Netscape Communications, Symantec Corporation, Borland International, and a startup that slowly faded into nothingness.



In addition to his day job, Michael writes a popular technology and management weblog under the nom de plume "Rands", where he discusses his management ideas, worries about staying relevant, and wishes he had time to see more of the world. His weblog can be found at http://www.randsinrespose.com.


Michael lives in Northern California, never far from the ocean.


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Amazon.com: 3.9 out of 5 stars  59 reviews
30 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Valuable insights for both the manager and the "manage-ee"... July 14 2007
By Thomas Duff - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Managing people is difficult. Managing software engineers is something completely different. Michael Lopp brings his experience to bear in the book Managing Humans: Biting and Humorous Tales of a Software Engineering Manager. Wickedly funny, and dangerously accurate...

Contents:
Part 1 - Management Quiver: Don't Be A Prick; Managers Are Not Evil; The Monday Freakout; Agenda Detection; Mandate Dissection; Information Starvation; Subtlety, Subterfuge, And Silence; Managementese; Technicality; Avoiding The Fez; Your Resignation Checklist; Saying No
Part 2 - The Process Is The Product: 1.0, Taking Time To Think; The Soak; Malcolm Events; Capturing Context; Status Reports 2.0; Trickle Theory
Part 3 - Versions Of You: A Glimpse And A Hook; Nailing The Phone Screen; Ninety Days; Bellwethers; NADD; A Nerd In A Cave; Meeting Creatures; Incrementalists And Completionists; Organics And Mechanics; Inwards, Outwards, And Holistics; Free Electrons; Rules For The Reorg; Offshore Risk Factor; Joe; Secret Titles
Glossary; Index

Although the title would lead you to believe that the book is targeted for managers, that's not really the case. Yes, software managers will get a *lot* from these pages, but so will any other software professional being managed (that should cover everyone). Lopp, aka "Rands", has spent many years on the front lines of management, from larger companies to startups. In a "cut to the chase" fashion (with words you likely won't see in any other management book), he shares his insights and knowledge when it comes to dealing with the strange and often bizarre world of software development. You'll learn the underlying cause of the Monday morning "freakout", and what's really being said behind the emotional outburst. You'll understand what happens when your staff is starved for information (not a good thing). And something I've already used... figuring out the players in a meeting, and what the real agenda is.

Much of part 1 is devoted to the management side, but parts 2 and 3 are more general in nature, and apply to your own well-being. The Soak is something that we often don't allow ourselves the luxury of, but it's critical to sorting through your thoughts and ideas. A Nerd In A Cave does a great job explaining why we set up our work area as we do. And if you've ever had an argument with someone over the merits of a particular solution to a problem, you'll immediately relate to Incrementalists and Completionists. I know that explains a lot about my approach to problem resolution...

This is one of those reads that is both enjoyable and valuable. You'll either learn to manage better, or learn how to be managed better. You may even learn how to manage yourself while you're at it.
39 of 46 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Some good content, but needs an editor July 25 2007
By A. Pukinskis - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I'm torn, because there's a lot of great content in this book on management responsibilities, how to handle specific management problems, and how developers can understand managers.

But the book is really choppy. Topics shift abruptly in the middle of chapters without transitions, headings have nothing to do with the content that follows then, and the chapters don't flow together. The style is downright strange at times. There are whole paragraphs full of incomprehensible colloquial gobbledygook. The author occasionally refers to himself in the third person as "Rands", but only at random, which just serves to make the book harder to read.

I usually inhale books like this in a day or so, but I've been working on this one for weeks and am barely a hundred pages in.

If you need practical software management advice, do buy this book, but be prepared to do a lot of work to get value out of it. And let's hope Mr. Lopp can find a skilled editor for a second edition that really helps this great information shine.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Definitely not the best book on management June 23 2008
By Leonardo Bueno - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I've read a couple of Rand's posts on his blog and thought it'd be nice to be able to read the edited, reviewed and improved paper version... I should have saved my money. It's not that the book is useless, but it doesn't adds to much value to the blog posts. Also, not all chapters are worth reading, so you pay for a lot of bad stuff too.
20 of 24 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not a book about management July 25 2008
By Gregory M. Li - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This book is supposed to be for aspiring managers, managers, and anyone who wants to know what a manager is. While it is definitely for the latter, it's not a book for managers or even aspiring managers. What I dislike most about the book is the self-important tone the author has. A lot of the content degrades in usefulness because the author assumes (or wants to believe) that the reader is really interested in him, not the lessons learned from his experiences. This is especially evident the third part, "Versions of You", where the author writes as if the reader will be impressed by the author's self-description (though this is thinly veiled by his constant reference to himself in the third-person, using his pseudonym "Rands").

The use of this pseudonym, "Rands" was puzzling by itself until I learned about how he started writing about his work experiences by blogging. In this light, things make a little more sense, as I could see how the book is just a collection of blog posts pulled together. The execution leaves a lot to be desired however, as the content jumps a lot, and successive chapters have little relation to each other. I can understand why one would want to use a pseudonym while blogging about work life, but using a pseudonym in a book when your real name is on the cover is silly.

Regardless, much of the book is written for people who want to understand software managers, which is much different than people who know anything about software or management, and want to hone their craft. There are a few interesting tidbits throughout the book, but they're scattered in between material I felt was irrelevant, or which I could barely continue reading because my eyes were rolling so much.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A solid move from the blogsphere to the world of book atoms Aug. 11 2007
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I have been reading Rands In Repose for the last two years. This book is a condensation, and rewrite, of Rands best writing. Rands is trying to help you think about where you are in your mgmt career and where you want to go. Its about not-being-a-jerk. Its about being an organic, if that's what works for you. It is about understanding that people aren't cogs.

I like the writing. I wish the publisher had used better quality paper for the book. The paper feels as if it has been (poorly) recycled. The paper is too yellow for me. It would not matter if it had the whitest paper in existence, my personal copy would end up yellowing eventually. I exzpect that I will keep it until I retire, and long after that.

I don't work in the valley, nor the US, but the Rands' writing and ideas are universal. Never mind the valley talk; just soak in the ideas. The book is a bargain for its idea density.

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