agile42 Summer Reading List 2013

Dear friends of agile42,

summer is upon us at least in the Northern hemisphere (and if you’re living in the Southern part of the world you shouldn’t complain either) and we have decided to use our community newsletter for something different. Even for Agile practitioners there is a vacation time, not only for relaxing with the loved ones but also for keeping up with new thoughts and ideas.

We have therefore asked our coaches to help us compile a “summer reading list” of titles that would be appropriate in an agilista’s bag while heading for the beach or a solitary retreat (or even a city escape as witnessed in this NYC Subway photo by Bent Myllerup)! This eclectic list reflects the different styles of approaches of a complex profile like the one shared by our coaches: we have heavily technical books, communication techniques and a sizeable selection of economic and military history. You can rule by yourself if their recommendations meet your style (most links point to the book page on Goodreads where you can check details or obtain the title through your favourite bookseller).

"Summer Reading" by Damian Gadal

Communication and coaching

Andrea Tomasini, agile42 founder and strategic coach, starts with our most obvious suggestion: What We Say Matters: Practicing Nonviolent Communication by Judith Hanson Lasater & Ike Lasater is a book all coaches have decided to read and practice in our everyday activities inside and outside the company.

Paolo Perrotta explains his choice for Facilitator’s Guide to Participatory Decision-Making by Sam Kaner:

At times it reads a bit like a patterns book for facilitators. Useful to stick a name onto facilitation techniques. Large format, not much text density, easy to browse through. A bit dry at a first glance, sometimes disturbingly close to a textbook or a slide deck – but it more than makes up for that by focusing on a traditionally fluffy, “soft skill”-related subject and grounding it in clearly defined, pragmatic advice. The kind of book that makes me go from: “Oh, facilitation – I can do that” to: “I didn’t realize how much I suck at this”, and hopefully from there to: “OK, now I know how to do it right”.

Gitte Klitgaard Hansen adds The Go-Giver: A Little Story About a Powerful Business Idea by Bob Burg & John David Mann: “a book about giving in all that you do… Business and private…”

On Business

A few books take a different approach instead at the business world and organisations.

Ralf Kruse suggested Peak: How Great Companies Get Their Mojo from Maslow by Chip Conley with these words:

a great book on motivation, relationship and satisfaction. The book puts the needs of employees, customers and investors in the context of a simplified Maslov pyramid, which is from my perspective a great view on the needs, helps to reflect what is important in this this relationships to motivate and make the difference. Chip describes the topic mainly through stories out of his experience leading, developing, creating and managing the boutique hotels Joie de Vivre. The stories help to give the topic concrete insights and stories from non-software help me a lot to get new insights from this different perspective. It was in my bag last summer and this makes it to my recommendation of the summer reading list.

Niels Verdonk recommends The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement by Eliyahu M. Goldratt and The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable by Patrick Lencioni. “Since they are both written in the form of a Novel, I think they make great beach or pool side reading.”

Martin von Weissenberg’s holiday book is The Company: A Short History of a Revolutionary Idea by John Micklethwait and Adrian Woolridge:

The authors argue quite successfully that the limited liability company is the most influential idea of modern times, and I think this book serves as a good reminder of why and how people organize themselves and find resources to carry out even large enterprises. Also, the book is quite entertaining and small enough to fit in a beach bag.

Manny Segarra also suggests Leading Change, John Kotter’s eight-step process for managing change.

Learning From the Military

Throughout history, any standing Army has always been one of the biggest and most complex organisations seen in action. It’s no surprise that Management Change looks at the military world as a source of discussion and ideas.

Ralf Kruse suggests Turn The Ship Around!: How to Create Leadership at Every Level by David Marquet stating “I think it is a great reading. The approach is quite similar to our, written from first hand experience and commanding a submarine is a different angle of view than product/software development.”

Our Kanban professional Gaetano Mazzanti instead suggests a title popular in the Lean community The Art of Action: How Leaders Close the Gaps between Plans, Actions and Results by Stephen Bungay, another book about the parallels between military and business strategy/tactics:

It starts from Bungay’s studies about the Prussian army in the 19th century. I liked the first part a lot (explaining the “problem”, that is the gap between plans, action and results) I am a bit concerned about the solutions he is proposing, but it’s still too early to tell. Definitely worth reading I would say anyway.

And Lasse Ziegler also recommends Corps Business: The 30 Management Principles of the U.S. Marines by David H. Freedman.

Agile and Technology

Let’s not forget our roots…

Bent Myllerup recently finished The people’s Scrum: Agile Ideas for Revolutionary Transformation by Tobias Mayer: “I do not agree with Tobias on everything he writes in this book, but I have a lot of respect for him and find this book important in the sense of being agile. It is a must read.”

And we should add our own, free to download, contribution: written by Andrea Tomasini and Martin Kearns, Agile Transition: What You Need to Know Before Starting is our first ebook for the agile42 community.

Written by the agile coaches of agile42, Agile Transition shares some fundamental knowledge to support many of the observations and conclusions that the authors have identified within organizations that have transitioned to a more agile approach to work. The authors share their failures and learnings in organizations transitioning to embrace agile, and they share their experiences of what is required to succeed.

In terms of solid technology tools, Stefano Rago recommends The Cucumber Book: Behaviour-Driven Development for Testers and Developers, “much more than just an introduction to TDD with Cucumber, it left me with an open, pragmatic and fresh mindset. This book inspired a lot of the best practices and approaches that form the foundation for my team’s work.”

And to top it all up, Roberto Bettazzoni suggests a solid video presentation by Ian Cooper: TDD, where did it all go wrong freely available from Vimeo. Watch it with a glass of your favourite and enjoy your summer!

Please leave comments and additions below!

All the Best,
The Agile coaches and staff of agile42

Photo by Damian Gadal –