Leaders are Readers

photo credit:  binaryape

photo credit: binaryape

I wrote a post in 2012 to serve as a reading list for my replacement of an IT Acquisition Project in 2013. I followed that up with highlights from the team’s library that had served well as guideposts for the team.

It’s time for an update. Since those two posts, a few friends have published books that I’ve found myself recommending over and over, and I’ve read (or re-read) others that belong on a short list of books to recommend to any agile practitioner.

Also a confession: I’m lazy; I want to have a few places where I can point folks two who are putting agile principles to work in their lives in IT or non-IT projects.

Here’s my top fifteen list of books for agile practitioners that didn't make the previous posts here and here.

FIRE: How Fast, Inexpensive, Restrained, and Elegant Methods Ignite Innovation by Dan Ward, 2014. Dan’s work has influenced my thinking for many years. This book is an evolution of a framework he called FIST: Fast, Inexpensive, Simple, Tiny. When my team invited industry participation to crowdsource our acquisition strategy, we shamelessly stole his work (and acronym) by calling it the FIST Acquisition Strategy Team, or FAST. We took to heart his premise that “If the implementation is hard to explain, it’s a bad idea. If it’s easy to explain, it might be a good idea.” Anyone using agile values and principles in their work will learn something they can use.

The Simplicity Cycle: A Field Guide to Making Things Better Without Making Them Worse by Dan Ward, 2015. This book captures more great ideas that influenced my team when Dan and I were both on active duty. It describes a simple framework that can help agile teams and leaders at all levels communicate the relationship between simplicity and complexity.

Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time by Jeff Sutherland and J.J. Sutherland, 2014. No one better than Jeff Sutherland to explain Scrum. Full of reminders about the “Why” behind scrum. This is a great read for beginners or experienced practitioner. One tiny thing I loved was the way he phrases the three questions in the daily stand-up, which subtly puts focus on team :

  1. What did you do yesterday to help the team finish the Sprint?

  2. What will you do today to help the team finish the Sprint?

  3. What obstacles are getting in the team’s way?

This is a great book for Scrum teams and for senior executives who want to understand how those teams could be working.

The Art of Business Value by Mark Schwartz, 2016. This book will make you think. If agile is all about “delivering value quickly,” we ought to have a good definition of what value is. There aren’t a lot of answers in the book, but there are plenty of great questions worth considering and hypotheses worth testing.

A Seat at the Table: IT Leadership in the Age of Agility by Mark Schwartz, 2017. This is a great read for IT leaders in an organization, and anyone who has a role in how the IT organization is resourced.

Coaching Agile Teams: A Companion for ScrumMasters, Agile Coaches, and Project Managers in Transition by Lyssa Adkins, 2010. This is a great resource for folks with experience with agile teams.

Agile Retrospectives: Making Good Teams Great (Pragmatic Programmers) by Esther Derby and Diana Laren, 2006. If you’re going to read one book on retrospectives, this could be it.

The Elements of Scrum by Chris Sims and Hillary Louise Johnson, 2011. One of the client’s I coached chose this book to have the team members read to gain a shared understanding of basic agile principles, practices, and ceremonies. It’s a good place to start.

Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge from Small Discoveries by Peter Sims, 2011.

The Phoenix Project: A Novel about IT, DevOps, and Helping Your Business Win by Gene Kim, Kevin Behr, and George Spafford, 2013

The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses by Eric Ries, 2011.

Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler, 2011

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable by Patrick Lencioni, 2002.

Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World by Stanley McChrystal, 2015

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey, 1989. This is one of those timeless books everyone should read. If you read it as I did when it came out, you probably internalized some of it and are putting it to use in your work and life. If you haven’t thumbed through it in ten or fifteen years, it’s worth another read.