An Elegant Puzzle

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An Elegant Puzzle by Will Larson is a new book that was released this year. I was not paid to read/review this book. I am an engineering manager and the book peaked my interest. I've read a few Will Larson blog posts throughout the years. These posts were pretty helpful in navigating the engineering manager work and so I thought I'd see what they had to say.

The book is broken up into 5 major sections. Organizations, Tools, Approaches, Culture, and Careers. Organizations was an interesting section, its main focus was discussing how companies grow, what role each stage is and what to do during transition. It brought light that organizations are not static, they are forever evolving, always chasing the next step. I really enjoyed the section about "Succession Planning". I've seen so many times in my career where there is someone that has jumped from one role to another not fully giving up their old role. They didn't do great succession planning. Really its about being mindful. I've added some steps into my longer term event look in light of this section. Highly recommend.

Being software engineers we always have great minds for analyzing situations and finding the right tool for the job. It makes perfect sense that there is a chapter on Tools. The main difference between SE (software engineering) and EM (engineering management) is the length of the game. As a SE your objectives are clear, cut and dry. Do this initiative, move the needle in this area, etc... As an EM your strategy plays out over the course of quarters and sometimes years. You work on your teams to try to build out great organizational teams that are motivated and excited about the work they have in hand. This doesn't happen quickly and sometimes is not straightforward. The tools outlined in this chapter helps you analyze these bigger initiatives. This really helped me as its hard to measure success of the things we are building. We have some things, like mentioned in the Accelerate book, but this provided more. PS; really cool this book references a bunch of other books, including Accelerate!

Overall, this book is interesting. I found myself picking it up, reading a chapter, then putting it down for a week to ponder. There are some good bits in here that show the progression that Will took during his career. He is a list kind of person. For this scenario do x, y, and z. This works for me because I love lists. I think consuming this will help any fresh engineering manager, something to build off of. Very few books are written at the line manager level, many go above and beyond. This helps managers understand how they can help with the bigger picture, and what it looks like when you evolve to a director type role. I have been able to utilize some of the suggestions in this book right away, so for that I appreciate. The physical copy of the book was actually quite delightful. Nice thick paper with color pictures/diagrams. 4 out of 5 because it tries to cover just a lot of different areas where I felt it really could have been 2 or 3 books with the breadth of topics covered.


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