Favourite books – Agile and Lean

I first discovered agile though a copy of Kent Beck’s Extreme Programming explained. I spent the next few years experimenting with bits of it, but the concept as a whole was considered a bit too, em, extreme for use in real organisations. Fast forward a few years and the world has changed. Agile is mainstream, though the number of companies that do it well is more limited (I will post about that sometime). I’ve helped introduce it to a few companies now and don’t think I could go back.

Here’s a few of my favourites, there are literally hundreds of agile books out there, but this lot should cover the basics. The following books focus more on the the process side than the technical practices. That’s a subject for another post.

Anything by Henrik Kniberg

Seriously, these are by far the best books i’ve found for introducing people to agile and lean. They are short, easy to read and full of real world examples. Best of all he doesn’t have a huge chip on his shoulder over which is best, unlike the originators of the various methodologies. Read these before going to the primary sources.

As well as this lot, he’s done some nice presentations on team organisation and agile metrics. Well worth a look on his blog.

Succeeding with Agile (Cohn)

A great book for taking you beyond the primary sources and putting agile into practice in the real world. Useful chapters on transitioning to agile and how traditional roles map (or don’t) to agile ones.

Scrumban (Ladas)

What could be better than Scrum or Kanban? Both. The author has a bias to Kanban and his tone annoys me, but this provides an interesting insight in how to gradually transition from one to the other.

Agile Retrospectives (Derby, Larsen)

A handy book describing many of the exercises and games you can use to generate insights and solutions during retrospectives and prevent them becoming stale, which is a real danger if you run them regularly.

Primary Sources

These are the original books for Scrum, XP and Kanban. They are all opinionated, somewhat dismissive of other approaches, revolutionary in their time, and perhaps overly prescriptive. The books on XP and Scrum in particular suffered from this. I think there was good reason for this at the time as its too easy to pick a couple of practices and say ‘we’re now doing Scrum’, and thereby miss the whole point of the exercise. As a team gains experience with agile they they will naturally find their own way. The mindset matters more than the specific practices.

There are also other lesser known agile methodologies, such as Crystal and DSDM, should you wish to look deeper. Given the sheer number of books on agile, you could be reading for years…

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