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Book club in our engineering team - It doesn't have to be crazy at work

nikola profile image Nikola Brežnjak ・3 min read

Originally published on my blog.

TL;DR

You can read all about how we implemented our 1st book club idea in our engineering team, and in this post, I'm going to do the same but with a new book. In this short post I'll tell you:

  • how we implemented the book club idea in our engineering team
  • what book we read
  • how we liked it,
  • and share a few learnings, comments and (as I usually do in my book posts) quotes

What book did we read?

We read the book called It Doesn't Have to Be Crazy at Work by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson.

It seems that the Goodreads and Amazon reviewers liked the book.

However, I’m not really sure why, because this is how much we liked (or better said didn’t) the book. So, 4.5/10 with a max rating of 6 says a lot.

How did we do it?

We read it in only three weeks which means it was a really easy read. This comes down to about 75 pages per week, which amounts to 15 pages per work day.

On average, it took us 2hr and 22 minutes to finish the book, or about 9 minutes per work day.

Here's a short post on the math behind reading 30 books per year in case you're interested.

What did we like?

Even though we didn’t like the book in general, it still had some parts that we liked:

  • Office hours idea
  • Stance towards interviews - and paying for spec work
  • Company is not a family
  • Salary negotiation is crap
  • Calm goodbyes
  • Fridays off during summer

What we didn't like

A lot of the chapters were common sense, and we agreed with them (few mentioned above), but some of the things we just couldn't agree with:

  • No goal setting
  • Not going out of your comfort zone - promoting mediocrity
  • It seems like the whole book is an advertisement for them
  • They support multiple versions
  • This most probably won’t work for a bigger company

Some quotes

As usual in my book posts, here are some quotes that we liked:

  • We don't mind leaving some money on the table, and we don't need to squeeze every drop out of the lemon. Those final drops usually taste sour, anyway.
  • There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.
  • Your company is a product. If you want to make the product better, you have to keep tweaking, revising, and iterating.

  • Comparison is the death of joy.

Conclusion

Even though we didn't like the book in general, it definitely wasn't a total waste of time. We already started with the next book (Pragmatic Programmer), and this time we hope the choice is better.

A question for those that already conducted book clubs in your engineering organizations - what books did you read?

Discussion (5)

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elmuerte profile image
Michiel Hendriks

I also read that book recently and I did like it a lot.

What you say is common sense is not the case with a lot of people in the industry. Just like a lot of things from the DevOps movement were common sense to me over 10 years ago. But it needed the likes of The Phoenix Project to make this more clear to a lot of people. There are still people who do not know some parts of the Mythical Man Month, and think you can go faster by adding more people. And this was written 40 years ago.

No goals setting

The point of this was not to set arbitrary, ever inflating, goals. They do set goals, short term and achievable. They don't set goals which are 6 months or longer away. In that time the world could have changed. So you are basically wasting time by planning something which might not be relevant when you get there.

Advertisement for them

Maybe a bit. They just document how they work, and how they think no about it. DHH and Jason have strong opinions about things, and they usually put their money where their mouth is. They prove their points by still being in business and being profitable.

Support multiple versions

Most companies will need to do this at some point. They made the calculated decision to do this rather than force everybody to the new system.

But I think it sounds worse than it actually is. Iirc they only have 2 or 3 different versions. They effort to keep the old versions up and running appears to be minimal.

Won't work in bigger companies

Prove it 😜
That's what they also said about agile and DevOps.
Maybe not all of it, but pick the things you like and try it out.

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nikola profile image
Nikola Brežnjak Author

Hey Michiel,

Thanks for your comments.

I loved their two other books (Remote and Rework). This one just didn't sit well.

I say common sense probably because we do a lot of stuff that is common sense and forward thinking.

Our first book club 'book' was The Phoenix Project, so it must have set a too high bar for a 'good book'.

Either way, I agree with your statement of taking a few things and testing them out - that's the only way to know if something will indeed work in a certain organisation or not.

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jwollner5 profile image
John 'BBQ' Wollner • Edited

What an incredibly AWSOME idea! I'm going to shamelessly steal this, although I'll probably start with a weekly blog read targeted at our environment.

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nikola profile image
Nikola Brežnjak Author

Hey John,

Circling back to this - did you try it on your team? How did it go?

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nikola profile image
Nikola Brežnjak Author

Cool! Glad you like it - let me know how it goes 👍

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