Thursday, March 16, 2017

Review of "The A Player: The Definitive Playbook & Guide for Employees and Leaders Who Want to Play and Perform at the Highest Level," by Rick Crossland

Review of
The A Player: The Definitive Playbook & Guide for Employees and Leaders Who Want to Play and Perform at the Highest Level, by Rick Crossland ISBN 9781630479947

Four out of five stars
 Since the dawn of the human race, there have been a select group of humans that were better at things than others, in most cases a lot better. It no doubt started with the hunt, some men returned with food nearly every time, while others begged from their betters or starved.
 That constant persists in the modern world. The very best, called A players in this book, perform at levels that dwarf many of their counterparts. This fact has been a part of the lore of software engineering for some time, the general numbers are that a great programmer is three times more productive than an average one and ten times more productive than the below average programmer.
 This book is about the A players, the employees that do the extraordinary work and often carry the load for an organization. How to identify the stars, nurture them in their work, keep them engaged and reap the benefits of their work is the theme of this book.
 The material is good, but there are some weaknesses and it is repetitive. Most notably the reality that few, if any, organizations can hire all A players. The reality is that for most of the employees in most of the organizations, the best that can be hoped for is to hire people in the high B category and grow/train them into the A category. In most cases, that is the real issue and one that is neglected. When time and budgets get strained in an organization, often the first things that are cut are the simple social perks and the time and money for training. These responses are nearly always disasters, for social perks such as an occasional cake are a social glue that binds groups together and gives the employees a sense that there is some level of caring.
 With all the ink spent in describing and praising the A players, there is too little left for explanations of how you turn a B or even a C player into one operating at a higher level. Given the standard distribution of the skills of people available to work, the goal is of necessity raising the level of performance of all players. While Crossland is quite correct in stating that the most effective training efforts are often those that raise the performance levels of the A players a small percentage, this is of limited value if you have few or no A players.
 I enjoyed this book and find little to disagree with regarding the value of the A player. Yet, the emphasis is on finding and praising them and information on your ability to grow them is lacking.

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