Top 9 Books for Engineering Managers to Improve Their Game

Engineering managers have a big responsibility. They are not only responsible for leading projects and ensuring business outcomes, but they are also responsible for managing people and leading teams. Managing engineers can be a challenging task, especially for those who do not have a technical background or are new to people management. It sure was for me! 

Whenever I find myself in a challenging situation, I always turn to books for guidance. Books have the power to educate, inspire and motivate. Good books allow me to tackle difficult problems with more clarity and confidence.

Luckily, there are several books that can help engineering managers improve their game and become more effective leaders. In this article, we will look at the top 9 engineering management books for engineering managers to help them navigate the unique challenges of managing technical teams and truly understand what is expected of their role in an organization. Whether you are a new manager or an experienced one, these books are packed with practical advice, tips, and strategies to help you become a better leader and achieve better results – for yourself, your teams, your organization and most importantly, your customers.

The Effective Manager

Author: Mark Horstman

This book is recommended for new and experienced managers who want to improve their management skills. It provides a comprehensive overview of the key elements of successful management, including decision-making, communication, problem-solving and more. It is packed with practical advice on developing relationships with employees, setting goals and objectives, holding people accountable, and creating an effective team environment.

According to a review, “This book is a great guide to management and leadership. The author provides practical advice on how to be an effective manager and achieve better results. This book is recommended for new and experienced managers who want to improve their management skills.”

The Phoenix Project: A Novel About IT, DevOps, and Helping Your Business Win

Authors: Gene Kim, Kevin Behr, George Spafford

This book as sold over half a million copies! If you are a manager that works in IT or software development and wants to learn about DevOps and how to implement DevOps principles to improve outcomes, this book is for you.

A review describes the book as “a great guide to IT management and DevOps. The authors use a novel format to explore the principles of DevOps and provide practical advice on how to implement DevOps in your organization.”

The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups

Author: Daniel Coyle

This book is recommended for managers who want to learn how to build a strong culture and achieve better team performance. It explores the three essential skills for creating a successful culture: building safety, sharing vulnerability, and establishing purpose. It is packed with practical advice on how to create a sense of belonging in your team, encourage trust and collaboration among team members, and foster an environment where everyone can contribute their best ideas.

According to a review, “This was one of the best business / behavioral psychology books I’ve read in a long time! The examples were incredibly engaging and drew from a variety of industries to make their points. As I read, I kept getting new ideas for things I could change on my own team to improve results. Highly recommend this book to anyone who leads a team!”

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable

Author: Patrick Lencioni

Read this book to learn how to build effective teams and improve team performance.

It uses a business fable to illustrate the five key dysfunctions that stand in the way of effective team functioning: absence of trust, fear of conflict, lack of commitment, avoidance of accountability, and inattention to results. In this book, Patrick provides practical advice on how to work through these dysfunctions and build a winning team that exceeds your expectations!

A review explains, “This book is a unique exploration of team dynamics and what makes a team successful. The author uses a fable format to explore the five dysfunctions of a team and provide practical advice on how to address them.”

Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts.

Author: Brené Brown

This book is recommended for managers who want to build their leadership skills and create a culture of trust, resilience and courage. It explores the concepts of vulnerability-based leadership and provides practical advice on how to lead with courage and authenticity.

According to a review, “This book is a great exploration of leadership and what it means to be a brave leader. The author provides practical advice on how to lead with courage and compassion and create a culture of trust and belonging.”

The New One Minute Manager

Authors: Ken Blanchard, Spencer Johnson

This book is an updated version of the classic One Minute Manager and provides practical advice on how to be a successful manager. It explores the three core concepts of effective management: goal setting, communication, and feedback. With these tools, managers can learn how to get better results with less stress. This book is a classic for new and experienced managers who want to improve their management skills.

A review explains, “Simple but powerful book about overlooked basics of people management. “I believe in facilitating, but not in participating in making other people’s decisions. We’re here to get results. By drawing on the talents of everyone, we’re a lot more productive”

Accelerate: The Science of Lean Software and DevOps: Building and Scaling High Performing Technology Organizations

Author: Nicole Forsgren, Jez Humble, Gene Kim

Link to Buy: Amazon

This book is recommended for technology leaders who want to learn how to create high-performing teams and organizations. It explores the key principles of lean software delivery, DevOps, and organizational culture and provides practical advice on how to implement these practices in your organization. By following the strategies outlined in this book, managers can gain insights into building an environment of agility and innovation.

According to a review, “This is a good book. It’s great to have actual data to validate our assumptions or disprove certain pre-conceived ideas. For people who are immersed in the Agile and Software Craftsmanship worlds and are already sold on the benefits of continuous delivery, this book won’t say anything they don’t already know or have experienced but will certainly give them more ammunition (data) to make their case.”

The Effective Executive: The Definitive Guide to Getting the Right Things Done

Author: Peter F. Drucker

Another classic, this book is a must-read for executives who want to be effective leaders and get the right things done. It explores the key concepts of effective executive management and provides practical advice on how to be an effective leader by developing skills such as goal setting, time management, decision-making, and self-discipline. With these tools, managers can learn how to be more productive and get better results with less effort.

A review explains, “The first version of the book was written in 1965, but majority of the assumptions are still valid in 21th century (like the perception that computers will take over decision making VS actually expecting serious mental effort from people because one cannot compete with a computer on standard computation).

1. Know where your time goes; relentlessly prune unproductive activities.

2. Know the contribution you’re expected to make – to others’ contributions and to the organization.

3. Make your strengths productive and hone them; focus on the absence of weakness leads to mediocrity.

4. There are always more opportunities available than time to pursue them – prioritize and focus on the truly impactful.

5. Continually shed unproductive programs and processes by asking, “If we didn’t already do this, would we go into it now?”

6. Most events are generic and should be handled by rules, policies, and procedures; solutions to truly unique events should be formed on the highest conceptual level possible. Decisions without disagreement are not effective. Doing nothing might be a good option (Warren Buffet).”

Engineering Management for the Rest of Us

Author: Sarah Drasner

This book is perfect for engineers who are new to management or want to gain an understanding of how to lead engineering teams. It offers practical advice on the fundamentals of managing engineering teams, from recruiting and motivating people to making data-driven decisions. Through real-world stories and examples, this book provides insights into how to build successful teams and organizations.

A review explains, “Grab your post-its and notebooks, this is such a fun and practical read for anyone going into management from the engineering path. Sarah has such deep knowledge on this subject and generously lays out plans and thoughtful approaches that you can apply immediately to your teams (and learn from if you’re considering management in the first place)!”