Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Driving Technical Change Review

One particular book that caught my eye some time ago is Driving Technical Change by Terrence Ryan. In his book, Ryan teaches the skills necessary to convince others to adopt your ideas. Though the book focuses around technical fields, most of the skills taught apply to other disciplines.

Ryan begins his book by classifying different types of people, such as the Cynic, the Uniformed, and the Irrational. From there he progresses to the skills needed to use on the different categories including delivering your message, gaining trust, and getting publicity. Ryan then concludes with how to strategically employ the needed skills.

The book is written in a way that it can in whatever order fits your needs. Once you have identified the category (or categories) of people you are working with, you can jump straight to the recommended skills and techniques. The chapters are short and easy to read. Every skeptic category and rhetoric technique includes short examples to illustrate the ideas.

Most of the ideas covered seem common sense. Yet there are some examples that I had never thought of employing. For example, Ryan suggests one way to get coworkers to accept a framework you've built is to open source it. If many people start using it, or even contributing to it, then your coworkers will be much more open to using your framework.

Ryan tends to dodge confronting the Irrational. It is true that little can be done to convince an irrational person. However, he doesn't offer many suggestions besides avoid them and/or have management mandate a policy. Management mandate may be the silver bullet, but what about the situation when management is irrational? Perhaps the best solution at that point is to find a new job.

Before reading this book, I was expecting Ryan to go into more detail on leadership skills. However, many skills such as gaining trust are left with few examples or explanation of how to gain trust. I do like the succinctness of Ryan's writing, but sometimes I'm left wanting more concrete examples.

If you are one of the many that feel your voice isn't heard, this book likely has some skills you haven't tried yet. Ryan shares his secret to leadership: "you can be promoted to management, but no one appoints you a leader." Driving Technical Change can help you take initiative and become a leader.

You can purchase Driving Technical Change here from The Pragmatic Bookshelf.