Evan's Book Reviews: History Lessons

Evan Leybourn

January 14, 2021


I read a lot - not all of it related to agile or business management, but enough. Below are some of the important books that have shaped my thinking (and writing). Not all of them a great (as you can see from my ranking), but they all contain some interesting ideas.

This group of reviews will focus on books from the past. As they say; those who do not learn from the past are doomed to repeat it. 

This post contains Amazon affilliate links.

Motivation and Personality

Author: Abraham H. Maslow

While it reads like an academic treatise, it’s a fascinating look at human motivation. This is Maslow’s expression of his eponymously named Hierarchy of Needs; which has become more well known than the man himself. Though it has it’s share of criticism, it is still a useful (if simple) model of human needs. Worth a read for anyone interested is psychology and human motivation.

Evan's rating: ⭐⭐⭐

Buy a copy: Amazon link

Principles of Scientific Management

Author: Frederick Winslow Taylor

In 1911, Frederick Winslow Taylor published the “Principles of Scientific Management” which outlined ways in which worker productivity could be increased. By studying labour intensive, repetitive, activities in detail, for example loading iron from steel mills into a rail car, each individual action could be simplified - improving productivity and reducing error. Even fatigue was an attribute to be improved (by recommending rest breaks for labourers to recover) in order to improve productivity.

Compared to previous ways of working, Scientific Management required a higher manager to worker ratio - and, by today’s standards would be considered micro-management. Worth reading if you're a student of history, but not really otherwise.

Evan's rating: ⭐⭐

Buy a copyAmazon link

An essay upon projects

Author: Daniel Defoe

In 1697, Daniel Defoe (of Robinson Crusoe fame) wrote a series of essays on the topic of projects. This is a truly fascinating read, and provides great insights into how these grand projects (be they nation-building or war machines) were funded.

Defoe was highly critical of the “projectors” - what we would call investors - but recognised that many projects had left a positive legacy on the world. Anyone with an interest in history, project management, or new (old) ways of thinking should read this book.

Evan's rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Buy a copyAmazon link

The Balanced Scorecard: Translating Strategy into Action

Author: Robert S. Kaplan and David P. Norton

I’m never sure how I feel about the balanced scorecard. One one hand it provides a simple & generally unbiased performance tool, on the other the measurement of these behaviors can focus attention on the wrong areas and lead to unbalanced performance. However whatever my thoughts on the balanced scorecard in general, this book remains a valuable & practical introduction to the subject. You must read beyond this book, however, as the actual use of balanced scorecards has continued to evolve.

Evan's rating: ⭐⭐⭐

Buy a copyAmazon link

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