Management 3.0 by Jurgen Appelo – read, despite the dodgy title

The Christmas break often provides me with some time to catch up with my reading list, and lost amongst my ever-growing pile was Jurgen Appelo’s Management 3.0. Now, I very nearly did not buy this book, as am often put off by titles that smack of pompous management jargon, and “Management 3.0” flies very close to the wind on that front. However am glad that I rescued it from the pile of the great unread, as it is quite a unique book.
Pitched as a software management book for anyone managing software developers, this is an unusually well-researched book for this category. Drawing on a very broad body of traditional organisational behaviour theory, and applying some of the more esoteric principles of complexity theory, Appelo brings together a set of recommendations, ideas, and recipes for navigating the challenges of leading agile development teams in a fast-changing world. There are references to evolution, chaos theory, reductionism, game theory and non-linearity to provide context to the narrative.
Although there is a single, unifying theme, which is that management styles and approaches need to be adapted to a complex world, reassuringly there is not a single prescription provided. Too many management books these days, especially those dealing in the more fashionable technology-related disciplines tend to propose a single magical formula for success. Here, instead are proposed a number of practical and pragmatic suggestions, which may or may not work, but which invariably have some strong theoretical or empirical underpinning. Anyone looking for a simple checklist or quick fix for ‘managing agile teams’ will be disappointed. Instead, this is a smart, somewhat meandering exploration of why modern business and technology environments are complex, coupled with advice for the practitioner of the management arts in the modern age. A book to return to.

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