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Bookshelf


I use this page to share what’s on my professional bookshelf. Reading is an important part of growing your skills as an agilist.

Instead of just providing a list of books, for each one I’ve read I will try to provide some info to help you decide if it’s worth reading, like who I’d recommend it for and what key insights I had when reading the book.Don’t worry, lots of the books here are easy and quick to read.

If like me you are a slow reader, I recommend getting a kindle. I can’t believe how much faster I read on a kindle. Plus it’s easier to lie in bed holding a kindle, than a heavy non fiction book. I’ll indicate below which of the books are available on kindle, luckily most agile books are on kindle these days.

 

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni (available on kindle)
Recommended for: Anyone trying to understand how teams and organisations work, or more likely don’t work. Essential reading for ScrumMasters, Coaches and Managers.
Key Insights: Wow, my organisation has all of these dysfunctions, no wonder we don’t get anywhere (note, I don’t work there anymore…)
Rating:Highly recommended. Very easy to read, principles taught through a fictional story.

 

Positivity by Barbara Fredickson
Recommended for: Anyone finding themselves unhappy in life or at work. Barbara shows scientific evidence about how we can impact our own happiness, but adopting a more positivity approach. She gives some tangible steps to do this in your own life.
Key Insights:
I read this at a time I was very positive (after recently switching job), so I found I could relate to the findings. Since then I have been more conscious about how I am affecting my own mood by what I choose to focus on.
Rating:
Good read, lots of scientific evidence. I found it a bit repetitive though.

 

Leadership and Self Deception by the Arbinger Institute (available on kindle)
Recommended For:
Anyone trying to understand how to work with others and reduce conflict. Good for Coaches, ScrumMasters, Managers
Key Insights: This was a life changing book for me. Realising exactly how we create situations for ourselves, and do things that make things worse when we think we are helping. I will read this again and again.
Rating:
Highly recommended. Like the Five Dysfunctions book it’s an easy read with the principles taught through a story.

 

Anatomy of Peace by the Arbinger Institute (available on kindle)
Recommended For: It’s the sequel to Leadership and Self Deception, so applicable to the same people: ScrumMasters, Coaches, Managers
Key Insights: Instead of focusing on dealing with things that go wrong, we need to focus more of our energy on making things go right.
Rating: Very good, but not as groundbreaking to me personally as the first one, equally easy to read.

 

Coaching Agile Teams by Lyssa Adkins (available on kindle)
Recommended For:
ScrumMasters, Coaches, even Agile Managers. Especially good if you are used to being a controlling Project Manager. Lyssa shares how to let go, and still get the best from your teams.
Key Insights: Sometimes the team is not ready for problems to be solved. Don’t try solve things for the team, before they’ve even realised it’s a problem. Very freeing to realise doing nothing could be the best thing to do.
Rating: Highly recommended, especially for ScrumMasters who are ready to really empower their teams.

 

User Stories Applied by Mike Cohn (available on kindle)
Recommended For: Product Owners or anyone involved in writing user stories
Key Insights: This is probably ‘the’ book on user stories. If you are new to them and want to know how and why they work, this is the book for you. It includes details on how to split stories.
Rating: I think this book is mandatory reading for any Product Owner. Even if you don’t read the whole thing, it’s a great reference manual when needing technique for particular types of stories.

 

Agile Testing by Lisa Crispin and Janet Gregory (available on kindle)
Recommended For: Testers on agile teams or in fact any team members, as well as ScrumMasters or Managers helping testers transition into an agile team.
Key Insights: Testers are not redundant in agile teams, as some people think, but the way they work does need to change. The book addresses a lot of the concerns I have heard testers new to agile teams raise.
Rating:
Highly recommended, especially for traditional testers trying to understand their role in an agile team. Great as a reference manual to refer back to as needed.

 

Succeeding with Agile by Mike Cohn (available on kindle)
Recommended For: Anyone trying to adopt agile at an organisational level, i.e. more than one team. Essential reading for ScrumMasters or Coaches of large agile implementations.
Key Insights: I haven’t read the book cover to cover, but did into chapters as something comes up. Some good stuff in here about dealing with Architecture across multiple teams, and other good patterns for enterprise level Scrum.
Rating: Highly recommended if you are  looking at doing agile long term and across multiple teams.

 

Agile Software Development with Scrum by Ken Schwaber and Mike Beedle
Recommended For:
This was the first book on Scrum. It’s a bit dated now, e.g. it doesn’t include retrospectives, but interesting to read to see how it all started. Good for trainers, coaches or ScrumMasters.
Key Insights: This is the book where I understood the difference between defined and empirical process and how we have been applying the wrong process model to software.
Rating:
Interesting, but it wouldn’t be the first book I’d recommend you read on Scrum

 

The Leader’s Guide to Radical Management by Stephen Denning (available on kindle)
Recommended For:
Manager’s of agile teams, or any managers wanting to understand a better way of working. Also great for agile coaches who need to persuade management about a new way of working.
Key Insights:
I’m not alone! The things I’ve always believed in my gut about how to manage people are real. I wish this book had been written along time ago.
Rating:
If I was a manager who knew nothing about Scrum I would say this was recommended reading. However given that I’ve already drunk the Scrum Kool-Aid, they is very little new information in this book.

 

Crucial Conversations by Kerry Patterson (available on kindle)
Recommended For: Absolutely everyone! But especially if you have a tendency to lose it when you have high tension discussion
Key Insights: Too many to list. I think I read this book at a very appropriate time. I had some massive insights about why I breakdown in certain situations, and often resort to tears. With the understand I now have about what’s happening I am able to be in better control of my feelings.
Rating: Must read book!

 

The New How by Nilofer Merchant (available on kindle)
Recommended For:
Product Owner, Executives, Senior Managers, anyone involved in company strategy
Key Insights: No wonder we all fail miserably on strategy when you look at it from this point of view and understand that the people setting the strategy have no involvement in the execution, and the people executing have no involvement in setting strategy.
Rating: Very useful, they first really book I’ve ever read on corporate strategy. Made a lot of sense, just need to figure out how to get our executives to read it.

 

Drive by Daniel Pink (available on kindle)
Recommended For:
Managers, HR, anyone involved in motivating staff, renumeration and incentives
Key Insights: Why are we still doing performance management this way, it has been proved not to work for knowledge workers. Incentives are extremely dangerous, stop using them.
Rating: Must read book for anyone involved in employing others. If you don’t have the time, at least check out the video on TED.

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