Ed’s Agile Manager Booklist

I often get questions on what books and articles to read when starting down the path of being an Agile Manager, ScrumMaster or Agile Coach. Inspired by Joel Spolsky whose book list launched me into an exciting endeavor of learning and exploration as a newly minted Software Engineering Manager in 2003.

December 7, 2010

Recommended Agile Books

Scrum and XP From the Trenches
Henrik Kniberg – Free e-book that explains in a very visual way how one team implemented Scrum + XP. Highly recommended.


Collaboration Explained: Facilitation Skills for Software Project Leaders, Jean Tabaka – Excellent book for team leaders and facilitators of Agile meetings how to make them suck less. The appendix at the end contains extremely helpful agendas to common Agile meetings (XP, Scrum, Project Chartering Meetings, and even Crystal Clear).


User Stories Applied, Mike Cohn – The book that got me started on Scrum. The classic primer on how to implement Scrum and Extreme Programming starting with requirements first. Very simple and helpful examples of how to write user stories.


Agile Estimating and Planning, Mike Cohn – Mike’s second book, much more detail on how to manage an Agile project with metrics and the best treatment on how to estimate user stories available.


Succeeding with Agile, Mike Cohn — Mike’s third book. Very good treatment on patterns for introducing Scrum into the enterprise, with helpful advice on common problems (Scaling, Working with Non-Agile Teams, Distributed Scrum, Reducing Technical Debt).


Agile Retrospectives, Derby/Larsen – Great resource for ScrumMasters and teams alike. I’m on my second dog–eared copy of this book. Very useful and pragmatic tools for how to run an agile retrospective. Keeps things from getting stale.


Extreme Programming Explained, Kent Beck – The original book on how to “do” Agile. Quite useful for developers and team leads for implementing sustainable development.


Innovation Games, Luke Hohmann – How to facilitate and run market research through facilitating serious games with your customers. Pairs very well with agile teams from the marketing side.


Lean Software Development – An Agile Toolkit, Poppendieck – Applies Lean principles to software development. Helped the Agile community to see the link between Agile and Lean.


Agile Project Management, Jim Highsmith – Great resource for Agile Product and Project Managers. I use his “Vision Box” and “Project Data Sheet” on every project.


Manage It, Johanna Rothman – Very pragmatic book for managing Agile/Iterative/ and non-Agile projects.


Fearless Change, Mans and Rising – Good book for learning how to introduce change in organizations.


Fit for Developing Software, Mudridge and Cunningham –  Automated Acceptance Testing is necessary for all successful Agile projects. This book shows one tool for doing it. More recently, projects I’ve been on have been using cucumber for executable specifications.


Agile Project Management with Scrum, Schwaber – Microsoft Press book about Scrum, from one of the co-creators. The best intro to Scrum. Ken’s earlier book has a lot of theoretical stuff about complex adaptive systems, which is interesting but not essential for running a Scrum project.

I now actually recommend reading this free Scrum Guide about Scrum from Schwaber and Sutherland instead of the book above.


The Lean Startup. You’re using Agile. Now learn how to use combine it with customer development and lean thinking to build a sustainable business and eliminate the waste of building the wrong thing.


Software by Numbers, Mark Denne and Jane Cleland-Huang – A book that applies discipline to the marketing side of product development.  The concept of a Minimum Marketable Feature became fundamental to Kanban.


Refactoring, Martin Fowler – An essential discipline for Agile Developers to maintain a readable, extensible, clean code base. Martin focuses on excellence and readability of code that is the only hope for eliminating toxic technical debt.


Continuous Delivery, Jez Humble — Like having an experienced ThoughtWorks tech lead by your side, this book takes you through the essential technical practices and why, with the aim of having always releasable code. The treatment of code pipelines is a very important contribution to Agile Software Development.


Agile Articles and Blogs

For Product Owners:

For Managers

    Leadership Agility – Joiner. Provides a staircase to get from heroic to post heroic management.


    A Metric Leading to Agility – Ron Jeffries


    Appropriate Agile Metrics – Hartman Dymond



    How to measure anything – Douglas Hubbard. Recommended to me by Esther Derby, this book provides a statistical framework for measuring the unmeasurable.

For UX Folk

Other Software and Business Books I liked

      • Project Retrospectives: A Handbook for Team Reviews,  Norm Kerth – The first book on retrospectives, at a point when people thought it was crazy to write a book on such a specific topic. My go-to book for mid project and end of project reviews. Written at a time when all software projects were multi-year efforts and often resulted in broken relationships, many lost nights of sleep, and the team needed healing. The book caters to this need. However, its treatment of data collection and activities to support analysis are useful for even iteration retrospectives, with some modification on timing.
      • Facilitator’s Guide to Participatory Decision-Making, Kaner, Lind, Toldi, Fisk and Berger — Sam Kaner’s handy go-to book on facilitation patterns and practices. Very easy to read, make copies of and distribute to groups you are facilitating. Includes his much lauded and copied “decision making diamond” which is a useful model for teaching facilitation skills to others.
      • Requirements by Collaboration, Gottesdiener — Ellen Gottesdiener’s book on requirements workshops, from a time when RUP was in fashion and people got together for a week to hash out the requirements. Very useful text on facilitation and collaboration in general. Contains useful activities to prepare for, conduct and wrap up facilitated analysis activities.
      • The Mythical Man Month, Brooks — Classic text on software engineering. If you get one thing from the book, it’s that late software projects are made later by the addition of extra people.
      • Practical Perforce, Laura Wingerd
      • The Manager Pool, Olson — Written around the dot com bust, this is a handy book for managers of software projects trying to make sense of their role in the world. Best for team leads and project managers. It helped me wake up to the fact that I was not in control, and that this job is not the last job I’ll have, so I better treat the developers I work with well.
      • Peopleware, Demarco & Lister — Why Microsoft had private offices for all their developers. One of my favorite books about the human side of software development. Very handy for discussions on effective team space, although it goes a little heavy into the “bring back the door” philosophy. The principles are sound and still apply today.
      • The Art of Project Management, Berkun — My favorite text about traditional Microsoft style development. One of the best treatments of managing the design phase of a waterfall development project — if you have to develop this way, then pull this text, it will help you survive.
      • Rapid Development by Steve McConnel — Handy “pre-Agile” (at least for me) text on developing software with rapid feedback. Started me one a path to rapid application development, which involves showing early prototypes to users with the philosophy “Build one to throw away, you will anyway.” Useful treatment of the (at the time) catalog of best practices for accelerating a software development project.
      • Getting to Yes by Fisher, Ury and Patton
      • The elements of User Experience by Garret
      • The Leadership Challenge, Koures and Posner
      • Good to Great, Jim Collins
      • Built to Last, Jim Collins
      • Getting Things Done, David Allen
      • 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Covey
      • Thinkertoys, Michael Michalko
      • The Trusted Advisor, Maister
      • The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni
      • Back of the Napkin,  Dan Roam
      • The Design of Everyday Things, Donald Norman

Lean Books

    • Lean Thinking, Womack and Jones
    • The Toyota Production System, Taichi Ohno
    • Managing the Design Factory, Don Reinertsen
    • Understanding A3 Thinking, Sobek and Smalley
    • Learning to See, Shook and Rother
    • The Toyota Way Fieldbook, Liker and Meier
    • The Kaizen Event Fieldbook, Hamel
    • The Kaizen Event Planner, Martin and Osterling
    • Flow in the Office, Implementing and Sustaining Lean Improvements, Venegas

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