December 12, 2011

Yet Another Agile Reading List

I'm often asked for an agile reading list and each time I wish that I had already blogged it. What's kept me from doing it so far is that I tend to write a somewhat new list each time depending on the requester's level of experience, unique situation, and context. Such a list is also likely to change over time, but that shouldn't stop me from posting it -- this post is my thoughts at this point in time. My thoughts are likely to change.

That said, and without further ado or proof reading, here is an agile reading list.

I could make this easy for me and just say read Cohn's signature series plus the Beck signature series. That'd keep you busy for a while and cover the topic pretty well.

But I can put a little more effort into this. Don't let this long list scare you. Start with this 1st block, then supplement with some of the others. I'm writing this from the point of view of helping a total agile novice get started.

Most importantly, you need to understand the agile values: and and either or or

Here are some links about agile in general and two specific agile processes, XP and Scrum, and one lean/agile approach called Kanban. Just read as little or as much of these as you desire to get the gist of what it's all about:

You need a good understanding of the Scrum process since it's the market
share leader right now. I've been advising people to find the Scrum book with the fewest number of pages, but there are so dog gone many Scrum books, which one is the shortest? Maybe that's not useful advice. So, how about this... Succeeding with Agile: Software Development Using Scrum by Mike Cohn. Subscribe to Mike's blog.

I think I'll throw in from my friend Peter Saddington. I haven't read it, but it sounds short. :-)

Subscribe to my blog :-).

These next few are a bit old, but you need to have read something by "Uncle Bob" and Alistair. You could substitute some other book by them if you wish:
Agile Software Development, Principles, Patterns, and Practices by Robert C. Martin.
Agile Software Development by Alistair Cockburn.

These eXtreme Programming books are great and short and solidly apply to Scrum:
Planning XP by Beck.
XP Installed by Jeffries.
XP Explored by Wake.
Don't get the original white XP Explained book by Beck. It's talks about Load Factors and Ideal Engineering Days which I don't recommend.

If you want to broaden beyond Scrum and XP, read about Crystal Clear and the other Crystal methods by Alistair Cockburn.

Now we move beyond the basics into some specifics. First, let's take a look at the Product Owner related literature:

Agile Estimating and Planning by Mike Cohn.

User Stories Applied: For Agile Software Development by Mike Cohn.

Here are some great posts from my colleague on The Product Owner:

The Product Owner role in agile is a big job. And very important. Many say it can't be filled by just one person because no one has all the necessary skills. They say you often need a team of people with diverse skills and responsibilities to do the job well. I tend to agree. Here is some food for thought:

Next, someone on your team needs to understand retrospectives in depth. If you don't get what you need to know out of the above books, this one is wonderful: Agile Retrospectives: Making Good Teams Great by Esther Derby. Subscribe to Esther's blog.

Here are some more assorted topics:

Agile Testing: A Practical Guide for Testers and Agile Teams by Lisa Crispin. Subscribe to Lisa's blog .

Read Beck's TDD book, Fowler's Refactoring book, Evans' Domain Driven Design book, and Williams' Pair Programming book.

At some point, you might need to know what people mean by Lean as it applies to software. Poppendieck wrote the books on it:

Implementing Lean Software Development: From Concept to Cash
 by Mary Poppendieck

Leading Lean Software Development: Results Are not the Point by Mary Poppendieck.

Before reading Poppendieck, it might possibly be better to read The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement by Eliyahu M. Goldratt, a delightful book. We also have his Theory of Constraints (ToC) text. Goldratt is becoming a very important person to have read, at least for lean/agile consultants.

However, if you read Goldratt, you must also read The Principles of Product Development Flow by Reinertsen. Reinertsen takes exception with the over simplified or at least naïve implementations of ToC (et. al.).

ToC brings us to the kanban process which is gaining popularity. Kanban by David J Anderson is a wonderful book,but lacks specifics on how to do the metrics when the rubber meets the road. Subscribe to the kanbandev yahoo group.

There are books on scaling agile: Practices for Scaling Lean & Agile Development by Larman and Vodde. And Scaling Software Agility, Leffingwell.

Sadly, I cannot recommend this book, even thought I have a chapter in it: XP 2003 Proceedings.

Finally, find a local agile/lean/scrum user group to attend and make connections. I can tell you all about the ones in Atlanta and can connect you to people who know all about the ones in Ohio and Chicago and RTP, NC.

There are probably a thousand other folks with their own agile reading list. I wouldn't mind it at all if you were to post your list here or link from here to your site.


  1. Here's a good book to add to the list: Scrum Product Ownership by Robert Galen. It's not an intro to agile. It's a good, thorough book on product ownership. It's full of good advice and tips and warnings against certain dysfunctional behaviors. The book contains some typos and passive voice that will annoy some people.

  2. Management 3.0 by Jurgen Appelo is the most important book for anyone leading or managing IT knowledge workers.

  3. Ah, here's a good short, quick, easy to read intro to Scrum: "The Elements of Scrum" by Sims and Johnson. It includes some extra stuff that you really should do if you are using Scrum. I liked that. Well written.

  4. Specification By Example by Gojko Adzic should be in this list as should The Cucumber Book by Wynne and Hellesoy.