Five books every ScrumMaster should read

This is a new series by agile42 coaches to help you build your Agile library (bookshelf or virtual that is!) It follows up on the great success of last year’s Summer Reading List that included an eclectic selection of titles ranging from business books to military history.

This first installation of Top Five Books is devoted to the key role in the Scrum process – the ScrumMaster. We have interviewed our colleagues and here’s a (difficult) selection.

Books, photo by RLHyde

Mike Cohn, Succeeding with Agile Software Development

As a ScrumMaster you don’t only need to know what Agile and Scrum are but also how to adopt them. Mike Cohn’s Succeeding with Agile gives you a good starting point on how to work with individuals, teams and the organization as a whole. On the individual level it provides with practical tips for overcoming resistance and help people to a new role. Not only it explains why small, self-organized and cross-functional teams are important but also gives you hints at the team level about creating teams, fostering teamwork and leading such a team. At the organizational level Succeeding with Agile provides the basics for scaling Scrum and dealing with the existing functions of an organization like HR or PMO, and with other projects. If you plan to succeed with Agile and Scrum this is the one book you should read.

Lyssa Adkins, Coaching Agile Teams

One of the most important duty of a ScrumMaster is to be the “team coach”… but what does “team coach” mean? What is “coaching”? In our opinion this book gives you the best definition of “team coach” you can read. It contains not only the vision and the definitions of “Agile coaching”, but also the practices, the advises, the approach, the everydays tricks and the practical actions that every coach must know.

Derby and Larsen, Agile Retrospectives: Making Good Teams Great

Retrospective is a key ceremony for any Scrum Team, maybe the most important, surely the most difficult to prepare and lead. This book is the best font of knowledge and inspiration for activities about team retrospectives. It gives a clear vision of all aspects concerning the ceremony and the ways to help team get continuously better. It’s also a good reference guide for a ScrumMaster who wants a easy to use and well explained catalog of activities. Every coach in agile42 have used this book as a source of inspiration.

Geoff Watts, Scrum Mastery: From Good To Great Servant-Leadership

The ScrumMaster role is one of the most misunderstood and underestimated roles of the Scrum framework. In his book Geoff not only will guide you through the process of deeply understanding what are the characteristics of a good ScrumMaster, and why those characteristics are important to perform in that role, but will also drive you with practical advice for becoming a great ScrumMaster. So if you want to learn how to go beyond the basics of facilitation and teaching the process to your teams, and if you want to elevate your focus from complying to the process to understanding and interiorizing the principles, as well as guide your team to higher level of performance, you shouldn’t miss this book. Geoff has over ten years of Scrum coaching experience and will guide you through his book using many interesting stories that will make the reading engaging and will make you reflect on your own experience. You will learn how to develop a stronger Servant-Leadership and that will allow you to increase the performance of your team.

An extra comment by Andrea Tomasini, agile42 strategic coach: “I enjoyed the reading and the structure with which Geoff is presenting all the cases, I strongly recommend his book to all ScrumMasters I coach.”

Sam Kaner, Facilitator’s Guide to Participatory Decision-Making

Besides being the “team coach” a ScrumMaster is a facilitator of collaboration. For most ScrumMaster’s out there this is where they have the least amount of experience. This books provides the ScrumMaster with the understand what facilitation is and how to do it. It contains the tools and models one needs to become an effective facilitator of collaboration. 

Other suggestions

(great books that didn’t make the cut…)

  • Dan Pink, Drive
  • Jean Tabaka, Collaboration Explained
  • Lencioni, 5 Dysfunctions of a team
  • Daniel Kahneman, Thinking, Fast and Slow
  • Marshall Rosenberg, Nonviolent Communication
  • Laura Whitworth et al., Co-Active Coaching
  • Stephen Denning, The Leader’s Guide to Radical Management


Photo by RLHyde –