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There is some decent leadership advice in this book. However I don't think it was worth the $40 CDN I paid. Especially when half the book is written by other authors. It was also littered with a ridiculous amount of grammatical and editing errors.
I had great hopes for Notes to a Software Team Leader, but unfortunately ended up being disappointed by this book and the advise it gives. Sure, it has useful tips, but then there are things (e.g. commitment language) that I just don't agree with. Also, the book is thinner than you think as the second half is actually filled with articles or blog posts. So, there wasn't a lot of meat in the book, unfortunately.
The book is split into two parts: The book and the articles or blog posts. Half of the book is the actual book (only about 100 pages) and the other half is articles or blog posts collected by the author. The articles cover a very wide range of topics. Part #1 of the book consists of 4 sections: 1) Elastic Leadership, 2) The Survival Phase, 3) The Learning Phase, and 4) The Self-Organizing Phase.
The Elastic Leadership section sets the tone and structure of the book by stating that leadership is situational and that it depends on the state of the team. The experience of the author is that teams go through 3 different phases, unsurprisingly: 1) Survival, 2) Learning, 3) Self-organizing, each having a section with one or more chapters related to the leaders role when the team is in that phase. The survival phase is when there is panic and no time to learn. The learning phase is when the team gradually learns to solve their own problems and the self-organizing phase is where the team is able to solve problems without your help. The author state that maybe 5% of the teams are in the self-organizing phase and the majority in the survival.
He then goes on to explain the kind of leadership style you ought to use for each of these phases. For the survival phase the main leadership style is command control, for learning phase it is more a coaching style, and for self-organizing more a facilitation style (not black/white). Each chapter explains a couple of techniques and ideas for teams in that phase. Though, the majority of the book (almost 40%) focuses on the learning phase.
Roy has some great ideas and some good stories to share, yet I was uncomfortable with some of his advise and the tone of the book. I've experienced a lot of teams, but the 3 phases do not really match my experience. Neither does the style link well to the describes phases. If you have a team in survival then there might not be time for learning, but if you can get them goal and purpose then I don't believe you must survive by applying command control management. But I was most uncomfortable with the commitment language. Adding precision in language when there is often no precision in the task doesn't feel right to me. And most organizations don't need more focus on commitments, but more focus on delivery. Anyways.
All in all, the book is not bad, yet I wouldn't recommend it. It is small and doesn't contain a huge amount of new information. I'd probably do 3 stars for the book itself, but will reduce a start because of the random collection of articles towards the end of the book. 2 stars.
This is a pretty good book for first time software leaders to get an introduction to everything they will need to learn from a mentor. The book alone will give you the ideas and concepts with a few sort of real world examples. What you will need to make the experience complete is a mentor to help you understand the nuance that a book just cannot give. The contributions at the end of the book are really valuable and I like how they tie to the overall themes presented in the book. Overall a good read that makes you think what you can do better.
I consider Notes to a Software Team Leader a great introduction into (team) leadership literature. It helps you identify which mode your team is in (most likely the detrimental survival mode, which appears 'normal', because it's so common) and gives practical advice on how to level up your team to the next mode. Once the team is stable, more in depth books, recommended in NTASTL, are helpful for further improvement and to understand the theory behind NTASTL.
Definitely recommend this book. Great set of real world examples, that I could totally relate to. At the end, the author has invited other writers who are experts on this topic - great idea coz that adds so much diversity to the book. Definitely a must read for a budding team lead but also any lead!
But, I somehow feel it represents a rather "old-style" leadership. That might be all good, but I found reading Ed Catmull's Creativity Inc. and David Marquet's Turn the Ship Around more inspirational. Go read those instead :-)