Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Book Review: Succeeding with Agile

Mike Cohn's latest book: "Succeeding with Agile" is a "must read" for any agile developer. It's not meant to be the first book for those considering Scrum, but if you've read that first book, attended a Certified Scrum Master class or have applied Scrum for even a day, buy this book now!

Scrum is like chess. It's very simple to learn to start using, but challenging to master. It requires ongoing learning and experimentation to find what works best for your studio and culture, while avoiding the "bad changes" to Scrum practices that can embed organizational flaws.

Scrum pressures managers to focus on mentoring and coaching. It requires overcoming the inertia of "the old way", which includes people doing things for the benefit of their position and not necessarily for the benefit of the product. It involves buy-in from departments like HR, which can resist the emphasis on team performance. It demands people take ownership in areas they had no ownership and give up ownership in areas they once ruled over. It challenges the silos of discipline and the barriers of project managed "phases". It pressures us to change how we test, program, create content, review, manage, promise, motivate, etc.

It's no wonder that understanding Scrum practices is not enough and that so many Scrum teams fail to achieve their full potential. Mastery requires learning and experimentation. Learning comes from many sources including coaching, training, experience and reading books like "Succeeding with Agile".

Succeeding with Agile:
Mike Cohn is one of the founders of the Scrum Alliance and the author of two previous agile books: "User Stories Applied" and "Agile Estimating and Planning". Both these books built upon various knowledge of beneficial agile/Scrum practices and communicated them effectively. Mike is an experienced coach, trainer, product developer and writer (visit His latest book "Succeeding with Agile" is his best.

This book covers every angle of your organization from executives, HR, marketing, developers, IT and even facilities! It covers every aspect of what impacts agile teams and how to handle every conceivable challenge. It examines Scrum roles and practices in depth to help you find ways to find improvement regardless of your company's level or experience.

Part 1: Getting Started describes a number of ways that Scrum can be introduced into all types organizations. It examines a number of patterns and introduces the ADAPT acronym for adoption, which is brilliant.

Part 2: Individuals focuses on overcoming resistance, examining the changes to roles inside and outside the development team and the influences on the technical side of development. 

Part 3: Teams is the core of the book. It spends 150 of the 450 total pages on the roles, practices, dynamics and organization of teams. Solid gold advice on helping teams succeed.

Part 4: The Organization looks at the entire company structure, how it's influenced by and can continue to influence agile teams. It discusses ways that large scale and distributed Scrum teams work.

Part 5: Wrapping things up points the way forward. How do we measure how the teams are doing on a regular basis? How do we gauge how well the teams have adopted every aspect of agile adoption. This part shows us how.

The writing is conversational and engaging. The figures and tables are numerous with an outstanding style. The layout of the book includes numerous sidebars that discuss common objections, quotes from developers in the field and practical things that you can try immediately.

This is the best agile book on the market. I'm not just saying that because I've worked with Mike extensively. It is the best.


Anonymous said...

I'm curious to know how easily the book is to take in from a game development perspective. I've read the Schwaber book, and parts of the User Stories and Estimating books. Frequently I have to stop and think about how the examples given would work in my organization, and I don't always have a good understanding of how to apply the information.

Clinton Keith said...

That's the purpose of my book: to map many of these ideas to game development. It's called Agile Game Development with Scrum. Due out ~ May.

That said, SwA should be on the bookshelf of anyone exploring agile. I don't intend to cover everything to the same depth that it does!

Alena said...

But all these so to say "sacrifices" (vercoming the inertia of "the old way" etc) you mentioned lead to the one ultimate goal: result