cover of the book: Managing the Unmanageable The Book: Managing the Unmanageable

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Managing the Unmanageable:

Rules, Tools, and Insights for
Managing Software People and Teams

by Mickey W. Mantle and Ron Lichty

Addison Wesley, publishers
Paperback: 450 pages
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The authors: Mickey W. Mantle and Ron Lichty
Vlad Voskresensky, CEO/CoFounder: "Your book
         helps to navigate through any turbulence"

What readers are saying...

This is the best book I ever read about engineering leadership, and I've read many good ones. It provided great insights and solutions to common pain points engineering leaders face today. I learned a ton. It's practical and inspiring at the same time. I wish I read the book years ago. Jerry Li, Founder, the San Francisco Engineering Leadership Community, and Director of Engineering, Groupon Managing the Unmanageable is the best overall guide to being an effective software manager. It covers all the areas a manager needs to think about, and gives specific and proscriptive advice; no fluffy business-management-book BS here! Chuck Groom, Director of Engineering, VTS, in his interview on Managers Club, answering the question,
"If you could recommend one book to managers, what would it be and why?"
A great update to an already great book—a diamond in the field of software development. As a fan of the first edition, I knew I wanted this edition as soon as I heard about it. I immediately dived into Chapter 10—it’s the new chapter the authors added. What a great chapter! The authors cover a subject that I have not seen covered even remotely as well elsewhere, and it's an important topic that I’ve had to contend with myself after moving teams to full Agile. I recommend Chapter 10, and this book, highly. Rob Parker, Sr. Director, Data & Analytics, GitLab, re the Second Edition of Managing the Unmanageable I liked it because it's a complete set of topics and resources and a great starting point to reason about your challenges and responsibilities as an engineering manager; because the narrative includes digressions of real episodes from the professional life of the authors; and because the book percolates the great experience of the authors at every page. Giordano Tamburrelli‏, Development Team Manager, Milan, Italy I am making the plunge into leadership/management and appreciate the wisdom and knowledge you've collected and continue to share. Sterling Houghton, Launch Tech Lead, Nike, Portland, Oregon Managing the Unmanageable finally made it to the top of my Must Read list. Having founded my firm 30 years ago, the content mirrors my experiences. A combination of war stories and lessons learned. Brilliant. Thomas (Tom) Hoffman, President, Systems Integration Technologies, Inc., Chicago One of the authors (Ron Lichty) presented on the topic of software engineering management at my employer in 2015. His talk was a great introduction to the book, which I subsequently read. It's an excellent summary of the ins and outs of software engineering management with applicability across many different environments. I recommend it as an introduction to managers new to the field as well as a handy reference for the experienced leader. I am looking forward to future revisions that reflect the ever changing field of software engineering. Alex Bochannek, Sr. Engineering Manager, Ticketfly, San Francisco I just wanted to say thanks for sharing all those experiences through your book, Managing the Unmanageable. I watched the video lessons and think those were amazing!! I have 2.5 years as a delivery manager but without training and the book information opened my eyes to better ways to do the things. I will continue experimenting and adopting your ideas to my team. Thank you Sir!. Juan Carlos Romero, Software Delivery Manager, Zapopan Area, Mexico I am impressed by the quality and amount of information provided in this book. As a HR Manager for a medium sized tech company, I have some knowledge in many of the areas covered, but there were still little gems that were helpful. I will be sharing this with my management team to help them improve the software development process at our company. I don't write many reviews, but I thought well enough of this book to write one. Bruce Bedayan, H.R. Manager, Digital Dynamics The book Managing the Unmanageable is really good. We had two copies in our office but I just bought my own copy and another for a former colleague. Mu Qiao, Engineering Manager, Ticketfly I can't emphasize enough how much I wish I'd read this book as soon as I had been promoted. Or even before. I'd highly recommend this book to any software engineer who has, like myself, been promoted into management. And I would also recommend it to managers from other disciplines that have found themselves managing a software team. This is a must read for anyone managing software developers. David Peterson, Silicon Valley Software Engineering Manager The quintessential management guidebook that should be in the hands of not just software leaders, but anyone managing technology. Michael J. Kimball, stealth startup President Finally a book about managing developers BY developers. I am head of engineering at a start up (and a developer myself) and really needed a read that would reflect my experiences as a developer AND as a manager. I will be getting this book for our library for all new managers at our company to reference. It is so great. Amazon reviewer (5 stars) Managing the Unmanageable would be useful to anyone taking on a management role or to current managers who want to up their game. Easy-to-read and overflowing with real-life examples and in-the-trenches stories, it’s a great combination of how-to and why-to. Adrienne Dale, Consulting Fractional COO I've worked around software engineers for more than a decade, and I'm married to one – and I learned a lot reading this book. I've seen no other book that really dives into the same topics. Pam Fox Rollin, Executive Coach This is an excellent handbook for software engineering leaders. Full of very practical advice for every aspect of the job. It's one of three leadership resources I find myself referencing regularly (alongside Manager's Path and Difficult Conversations). Quick tip for new readers: start with the middle section 'Rules of Thumb' to get in the right mindset, and then dive in! Neville Samuell, VP Engineering, Degreed I found this book enjoyable to read and very practical to implement. The authors have broken the art of the software programming process down into easy bite size chunks so even the non-technical managers can absorb it. I recommend this book to all executives with responsibility to either manage or interact with a software development team. William L. Mince, reviewing on Amazon (5 stars) This is one the must-have books for anyone in the management of software development and delivery. It's a collective wisdom of 60+ years experience. The Rules of Thumb and Nuggets of Wisdom section is awesome and I wish I had those 300 nuggets 10 years ago. It’s one of the master pieces for managing software development and took its place near by The Mythical Man-Month in my digital library. Alp Eren Yilmaz, Solution Delivery Manager, Brussels, Belgium Great practical advice about managing software developers. Both Ron and Mickey have built their skills the hard way, through many failures and hard experiences. It's only when you've been through the fire that you can write a book this practical and readable. For those who want very practical hands-on advice about management software people and projects, this is a great place to start. The guidance in Chapter 4 about how to setup a new engineer's first day was incredibly useful, especially as I read it just before we had someone new start. It allowed me to have the smoothest first day ever on-boarding a new employee. But beyond that, ... this book provides lots of great advice to learn how to handle the people management part of software development. Well worth the read! Bruce D. Rosenblum, VP Engineering, CTO and Co-Founder It's so full of lessons I learned the hard way. I'm trading the school of hard knocks for this book! David Etheridge, VP, Program Management, Shutterfly Amazing book. The authors are sharing their deep experience and I think its a must read for anyone remotely connected software management. Valentin, reviewing on Amazon (5 stars) If you're or going to manage programmers, this is your bible! Vernon Baker, 30-year software veteran, reviewing on Amazon (5 stars) I agree with reviewers who equate (not just compare) Managing the Unmanageable with Mythical Man-Month. It is a “modern day classic” that belongs on every Software Manager’s Desk. Chuck Berg, Software Architect and Systems Engineer, SVForum Board Member, .Net SIG Chair I always start with skepticism about business books. Many business books spout one or two interesting ideas, and build up hundreds of pages around the idea to justify the cost of the book. I feared that this book would follow that pattern. When I exhausted my immediate reading list, I saw this near the top, and thought I might as well give it a chance. I'm glad I did. The book is packed with useful material, and every page is worth it.
    "I recommend that just about anyone in development - either management or developer - get and read a copy. If you're a manager of developers, then this book is directly meant for you. It may include much material you're familiar with, but it codifies it in one place, and puts the ideas in the context of when they might work, and when they won't. It even provides various management "tools" (spreadsheets and word docs) you can download. If nothing else, the "tools" might be useful to compare with what you're already doing.
    "If you're a developer, this book provides a great framework for you to understand how you fit in a team. This will give you some perspective to understand what your manager is doing, and why (and, for that matter, when your manager is not doing what they should...). And of course, if you're interested in a promotion that involves managing a project, this will be useful material to already understand.
Eric Johnson, Principal Architect I read your book, Managing the Unmanageable, with interest. I’ve managed software people through most of my 40-some year career and know the truth of what you speak. Robert Olson, repeat startup Engineering VP who began his career with HP and now mentors startup VPEs A great book for existing Software Managers, that contains lots of valuable "best management practices", good rules of thumb, and new approaches to dealing with familiar obstacles.
    "Most new Software Managers don't receive any management training before being promoted. Yet these new Managers are entrusted with some of the highest value assets that any company "possesses": those "unmanageable" creative, bright, capable, and hard to replace Engineers/Programmers. Software management is not like managing the sales team, or a store, it takes different skills and approaches. The difference between having a team of engineers (programmers) working on the job, and having a focused motivated team "humming" toward the goal, is huge. I especially liked "Managing the Unmanageable's" discussion about the motivation of creative workers -- it provides some great insights.
    "I ramped up two new Software Managers last year, and wish this book had been available for them at that time. I certainly will buy a copy for the next one.
    "Mickey Mantle and Ron Lichty have written a new classic. Highly recommended.
Steve Podell, Software Engineering Director, Innovative Interfaces I've been managing programmers for several years, and "Managing the Unmanageable" has outstanding advice on how to herd the cats while preserving a sense of teamwork and creativity, and getting things done for customers. Philip K. Robinson, on Amazon Agile has no explicit mention of role transformation and the people managers feel ignored by the gurus.. this book is a must read for all people managers who are managing or want to manage the crucial developers... and turn them into high performing individuals and teams Amazon Customer Practical, well organized, comprehensive. This is the new standard for engineering management. The beating heart of the book is the collection of quotes from managers that makes up the center of the book. The variety of voice, the humor, and the diversity of viewpoints is uncollected anywhere else. Chris Lunt, VP Engineering, Mountain View, CA This is a very low BS, highly actionable description of what it takes to effectively manage a software development team. The text is about the real-world experience of hiring, leading, managing, all the skills required. Daniel Williams, PhD, MCSD, Boulder, CO Very useful (whether you are managing software or depend on a software team to deliver the goods). Michael Weber, reviewing on Amazon (5 stars) This wonderful book by Lichty and Mantle is a breath of fresh air! With practical down-to-earth advice on tactics, motivation, administration, direction, interaction and processes, I would wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone who has become, or who aspires to be, a manager in the software industry.
    "I can't claim to have cross-discipline management expertise; I've only managed software developers and consultants. But the great thing about this book is that it addresses the specific culture of software development with an insightful and contemporary perspective, accurately capturing the mindset of many developers and explaining how to be most effective within that mindset.
    "If you understand that high-performance software development is a carefully orchestrated dance between process application and people management, and you want to know how to get the best of both worlds, this is a book you must read.
Mark Denne, engineering manager, architect, and author of Software by Numbers I am a college professor who teaches software engineering courses and I think this is a great book for college students. Often, I hear students tell me they don't know what to expect once they land their first software development job. This book sets expectations for what a good organization is, what a competent manager should be doing, and hopefully, how they will eventually lead the organizations of tomorrow. I highly recommend it. Mark Mahoney, Ph.D., Chair, Department of Computer Science, Carthage College Anyone leading a software development team knows the value of having an experienced friend willing to help you. We all want someone we can go to and ask those tough questions about issues we face.
    "I find myself turning to this book often when I face a tough issue. I ask myself "What would Ron and Mickey say about this issue?" I turn to the index and look for my topic. To be sure, not every question I have is answered. But a lot of them are. It is like having a old friend with a lot of experience there willing to help me.
    "The topics of the book are well chosen. The depth of the experience of the authors is tremendous. The conversational style of the book is so direct. It wastes no time getting right to the critical points. The organization of the material makes it a good read and an excellent reference book. At the same time, the book is not perfect. There are many major topics that are not covered. And, some topics are so elementary that I wondered why the authors spent so much time there and ignored other major subjects.
    "In the end, you can never have too many friends willing to help you. I view this book as a "trusted friend" for me.
Ed Van Deman, Founder and CEO, Financial Navigator, Inc. I am a skeptic when it comes to management books, which are often thin on information and about as well-written as a set of stereo instructions. But this book is written to a high literary standard, thoughtfully constructed and rich in detail. Every opinion or conclusion is supported by the authors' own experience. They have a deep understanding of the software development culture, and of management culture. It is rare for anyone to be this knowledgeable about both of these worlds, making this book a pretty unique resource. Hillary Louise Johnson, Publisher, Dymaxicon (The Elements of Scrum) I found myself needing to build and manage a new offshore development team, split across three cities. If that doesn't qualify as 'unmanageable' I don't know what does. Thankfully, Ron Lichty and Mickey Mantle were there to coach me along with their terrific book Managing the Unmanageable. The book contains lots of concrete advice, explanations, and wisdom, plus a lot of first hand stories and examples. It also spends considerable time on soft skills such as understanding the different personality types on your team and how to leverage these differences. Most importantly though, their advice works. Three months into managing this team, our productivity is up over 200% and still climbing. Managing the Unmanageable is a book that I continue to turn to often. Greg Cohen, startup founder, certified Scrum Master, and past president of the Silicon Valley Product Management Association You can tell these guys know what they are talking about and have been around developers after reading the first few pages. I wish I had these guys as mentors earlier in my career as a developer! Scott Gaston, IT Supervisor, on Amazon I definitely picked up a few good tips from the book. I like the fact that it describes actual situations from the authors' experiences. It validates many of my own thoughts. Michael E. Yeager (on Amazon) I am reading Managing the Unmanageable now. This is the best and most practical guide for managing software employees that I've ever come across. The information on recruiting alone is priceless. Lots of specifics, and a lot of hard 'from the trenches' advice that will serve a software manager well in managing people. Gregory Close, Senior Project Manager Without hesitation, Mantle and Lichty’s book is absolutely one every tech team manager needs to get their hands on and read cover to cover. John F. Bauer III, IT Software Development Manager, Cleveland I got this book on a Friday; on that Monday I was already using some of the tips I had read. This is a good book to go through if you manage software developers. The chapters divide up the challenges clearly, and the ‘rules of thumb’ and ‘nuggets of wisdom’ section in the middle pages are good thinking points. Dave the Rave (on Amazon) This book is a fantastic read and I especially appreciated the people management sections. I also deeply enjoyed the managing down and managing out parts. Having experienced both sides of management I have to say that the manager who truly manages in this way is a rare and wonderful being. I would unreservedly recommend this book to any manager of a software engineering team and, beyond, to any manager of people with a technical and creative bend. Panos Lambrianides, Founder and CEO, algorithm design house Protonomics, LLC This book will become a classic to turn to over time. Every manager interacting with programmers should read this book. That includes CIOs, Software Architects, Enterprise Architects, and Lead Developers. You don't need to have the word manager or director in your title. If in your role you find you are managing a team of developers, you should read this book. Tad Anderson, Software Architect (on Amazon) Lichty and Mantle have assembled a guide that will help you hire, motivate and mentor a software development team that functions at the highest level. Their rules of thumb and coaching advice are a great blueprint for new and experienced software engineering managers alike. Tom Conrad, CTO, Pandora I wish I'd had this material available years ago.   I see lots and lots of 'meat' in there that I'll use over and over again as I try to become a better manager.   The writing style is right on, and I love the personal anecdotes. Steve Johnson, VP, Custom Solutions, DigitalFish Managing the Unmanageable is a well-written, must-have reference book for anyone serious about building sustainable software teams that consistently deliver high quality solutions that meet expectations. It is loaded with incredibly useful and practical tips and tricks to deal with real-life situations commonly encountered by software managers anywhere in the world. It tearlessly peels back the onion layers of the process of managing software developers - whether a handful of co-located programmers or thousands dispersed across the world - through a balance of battle-tested approaches and keen understanding of the various personalities and backgrounds of software team members. Finally, a book on software engineering that focuses on the manager's dilemma of making a team of programmers work efficiently together. Every single software manager should have it on their bookshelf. Phac Le Tuan, CTO, Reepeet, and CEO, PaceWorks Becoming a great engineering leader requires more than technical know how; Ron's and Mickey's book provides a practical cookbook for the important softer side of engineering leadership that can be applied to any software development organization. Paul Melmon, VP of Engineering, NICE Systems EXCELLENT. Well-structured, logical, filled with great personal color and many little gems. You guys have done a great job here. Terrific balance between theory and practice, rich with info. Joe Kleinschmidt, CTO & co-founder, Leverage Software I started reading the nuggets section and it took fewer than four pages to improve my thinking. What struck me about the nuggets was that I could sense the genesis of this book - two masters of their craft learning from each other. Most books feel like a teacher describing a sterile version of what "ought to be done" that leaves you wondering, "will this work in the 'real world'?" Reading the nuggets felt like the sort of guidance that I would get from a trusted mentor. A mentor that I not only trusted, but one who trusted me to take the wisdom, understand its limits and apply it correctly. It's concentrated like a Reader's Digest for technical management wisdom. Mike Fauzy, President and CTO, 1stMediCall LLC Managing the Unmanageable is a great collection of sometimes-obvious and sometimes-not-obvious guidance for software managers. I wish that I had had this book when I first started managing teams, and it still is illuminating. For programmers who step into management, the hardest thing is to learn the soft skills. Ron and Mickey do a great job of illustrating not just the why but also the how. Bill Hofmann, Vice President of Engineering, Unique dialog around the human aspects of software development that is very much overdue. Mark Friedman, CEO and Founder, GreenAxle Solutions The book provides insight to a unique group of people, programmers. Companies around the planet have and are still struggling with how to best develop software products. Managing programmers is at the heart of developing software products successfully. Many project and organization leaders are ill-equipped to deal with programmers and software development in general. I think this book can bring insight to leaders of software organizations and help them understand and even get inside the head of programmers and therefore be more effective leaders. Michael Maitland, CEO (geek-in-charge), WhereTheGeeksRoam ...what to do on the new employee’s first day of work seems unique and very helpful! Steven Flannes, Ph.D., Principal, Flannes & Associates I have enjoyed reading the book very much and I wish I had it 10 years ago - probably would have saved me from making certain mistakes. A lot of what I read is not new to me, but I have never seen so much relevant material assembled in one book. The book was just what I needed. I already feel that I've benefited from it. David Vydra, Continuous Delivery Advocate and Software Craftsman, I am finding the reading helpful to me right now - it has heightened my sensitivity to staff, even having managed for decades. Margo Kannenberg, Assistant Director, Application Development, HighWire Press Mickey was my manager in my first role as programming manager. His real-world, pragmatic, hands-on guidance was a profound positive influence on everything I've ever done with management since. It's still my go-to advice as I develop and mentor managers. I'm pleased that he's taken the time to canonize it in this book so that many more new and experienced managers can benefit from it. H.B. Siegel, CTO, (a wholly owned subsidiary of Amazon) I just wish that I had this book when I started as a first-time manager five years ago! Kinnar Vora, VP, Product Development & Operations, Sequoia Retail Systems Mantle and Lichty cut through abstract principles and present proven techniques that can increase the effectiveness of software development organizations. It deserves a place on the real (or virtual) bookshelf of every software manager who wants to build an outstanding development team and create a culture where everyone enjoys coming to work. It's especially valuable in telling managers what not to do, and how to address the inevitable problems that affect all organizations. Anthony I. (Tony) Wasserman, Professor of Software Management Practice, Carnegie Mellon University - Silicon Valley, ACM Fellow and IEEE Life Fellow Mickey was there on Long Island in the mid 1970s when the group now known as Pixar first formed, delivering successful software products then and was still doing so, as manager, almost two decades later at Pixar itself. He knows what he’s talking about. Alvy Ray Smith, Cofounder of Pixar Really well written, and I do not say that lightly. A droll, breezy, yet assured style, delivering a lot of information while keeping it entertaining. I also like the design and layout of the text. A very approachable book all around! Hillary Johnson, Creative Director, Agile Learning Labs Ron and Mickey clearly understand how important it is for programmers to work on projects that make a difference and how essential it is for managers to create and foster a unique and innovative culture. Kathy Baldanza, VPE, Perforce Software This book is treasure trove of real world experiences that will make you a more effective software development manager. Chris Richardson, Founder of the original, and Author, POJOs in Action I'm working my way through your book. There's a lot of sage advice. I read the chapter on a new employee's first day two days before we had someone new start, and it was tremendously helpful. I'd never thought to organize things like that. Bruce Rosenblum, CEO and manager of software development and consulting, Inera

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