Coach Dave Recommends

While there is benefit in reading about Frameworks and such, I believe that it’s more important to understand agility rather than Capital “A” Agile.

I’ve curated this essential reading list so you don’t have to continue to wonder where to get started!

Lean/System Thinking

At it’s very core, Agile doesn’t exist without an understanding of Lean and System Thinking. In order for an Organization to successfully become Agile, it needs to address the entire system, top to bottom and side to side. While many organizations believe Agile starts and ends with IT teams, they are severely limiting themselves by leaving out the other parts of the Organization. Small wins are the best possible outcome, “Agile doesn’t work here” is the more likely outcome.  Below are some great books to get you started on your Lean journey.

Agile Culture

Agile is far more about Culture and Understanding than what some have called TACO Agile – Titles/Tools And Ceremonies Only Agile. Yet many organizations care more about framework adherence, tools and vanity metrics than Culture. These books can help change that understanding.

General - Planning, Process & Others

I’d be remiss if I didn’t also include books on planning since we really do plan in Agile, many times in fact! Also included are other books that have really helped me and other Agilists in their growth and understanding.

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All
Lean
Agile
General
TheGoal

The Goal

Lean

A great novel style book that explains the Theory of Constraints, which every Agile enthusiast and practitioner should understand. Eli illustrates how a cross-functional (though not calling it that) team can solve workflow problems such as bottlenecks, handoffs and skills silos. Every workflow will have a bottleneck, this book will help you to expose and address these concerns. Foundational thinking for anyone interested in Agile.

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ThePhoenixProject

The Phoenix Project

Lean

Written in storybook format rather than the typical textbook approach, the story discusses an organization struggling with delivering a quality project in a timely manner. Surely all of us can relate to that! A great read and one to share with team members all the way up to senior leadership.

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LeanSoftwareDevelopment

Implementing Lean Software Development

Lean

One of my “go to” books on Lean. Rather than just theoretical, this book contains many examples of how to use the 7 Principles of Lean SW Development – 1) Eliminate Waste, 2) Build Quality In, 3) Create Knowledge, 4) Defer Commitment, 5) Deliver Fast, 6) Respect People, 7) Optimize the Whole.

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Flow

The Principles of Product Development Flow

Lean

If you want to dig into your processes and workflows, and really understand what’s happening at the nuts & bolts level, this book is for you. Learn all about queues and queueing theory. Understand how WIP (Work In Progress) limits and batch size can affect the rate of flow through your work systems. Please note – this is a much more advanced book and probably shouldn’t be your first book on Lean.

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ValueStreamMapping

Value Stream Mapping

Lean

If you’ve heard of SAFe, and who in the Agile world hasn’t, ARTs are based on value streams (or at least they should be). This is the definitive book on organizing around value. Highly useful for anyone who is interested in moving beyond skills silos and component based teams and component teams of teams. There is a lot more including how to understand value add and non value add time. This understanding, and efforts to reduce non value add time, is what can lead to breakthrough change in your value streams & processes.

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Accelerate

Accelerate

Lean

This book will really appeal to the data geeks! The authors did 4 years of research into what truly successful IT companies did that was different from their competitors. What made their software delivery performance so much better? Forget vanity metrics, this is a small collection of metrics that high performing organizations utilize to improve their delivery performance.

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FearlessOrg

The Fearless Organization

Agile

Every Agilist will have encountered situations where a lack of Psychological Safety is hindering, or even preventing, progress. Amy literally wrote the book, and this is it, on creating safety in an organization. Far more than adherence to any specific framework, tool, or practice, safety will move your organization into a place of unlocking human potential.

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Drive

Drive

Agile

Money is not the greatest motivator. Yet that’s the lure that’s often dangled. Daniel introduces us to the 3 factors in creating self-motivation – autonomy, mastery and purpose. Learn how these factors can lead to more engaged and motivated individuals.

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EnterpriseAgility

Enterprise Agility

Agile

If you’re interested in organizational transformation this book is for you! Sunil discusses topics ranging from Agile to Agility (there’s a difference!) the Enterprise as a Living System (CAS), Mindset, Culture, Leadership, Structure and a lot more. What I really like about Sunil’s book is that it is framework agnostic. He gives you the why’s behind the changes & practices, not how to write “perfect” user stories or execute Scrum flawlessly. Each section begins with a list of Inhibitors – what might be blocking agility today – which is extremely useful information. Highly recommended for a management or coaching book club.

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UserStoryMapping

User Story Mapping

General

One of my absolute favorite professional books. Jeff injects humor while introducing an extremely useful technique for creating a 2-dimensional backlog which, to me, is far easier to understand and use than the typical 1-n list available in ALM tools today. He also introduces the concept of “user stories as vacation photos” which really clicked with me (HA!) Story Mapping can also be extended to the Feature & Epic level creating a higher level longer term roadmap which is very useful for prioritization conversations. Lots of great usable info in this very easy to read book.

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BuildTrap

Escaping the Build Trap

General

Excellent book describing the why and the how to move from a Traditional Project mindset to a Product mindset. Dovetails perfectly to an Agile approach of experimentation rather than simply focusing on and measuring outputs. Don’t let your teams and organization become a Feature factory – focus on your customer by understanding what they value.

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EssentialScrum

Essential Scrum

General

Scrum is by far the most popular Agile framework and, for me, this is the best book in introducing Scrum. I’ve met Ken and he really knows his stuff. If you want to understand why the Scrum framework works, and not get too heavy in your implementation of it, this is the book to read.

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ThinkAgain

Think Again

General

Seriously, if you want to read only one book this year to become a better person and Agilist, this is the book I recommend. Last year I used this as the foundation for a Book Club and it amazed me how much I learned about myself and improving my skills as an Agile Coach. It’s not often you will hear me say “this changed my life”. But for this book I will.

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ToyotaKata

Toyota Kata

General

This technique is the backbone of TPS (Toyota Production System) implementation of Continuous Improvement. Inspect the current state, describe the “ideal” state (it may never be attained but it’s a North Star) and then define the “next target state” along with an experiment or two to know if you’re moving closer to the ideal state. Easy to understand and really useful technique for change of all sizes (individual, team, department, etc)

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5 Dysfunctions

The FIVE Dysfunctions of a Team

General

Understand the top 5 reasons teams struggle to come together and perform. Learn what you can do to bring them together to become successful. Extremely useful information for anyone who wants to be part of, or help form, highly effective teams.

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BadassCoaching

Extraordinarily Badass Agile Coaching

Agile

Bob Galen's new Agile Coaching book is great! Learn about the Agile Coaching Growth Wheel which extends upon the X-Wing model foundation many coaches utilize today. Follow through the example conversations which illustrate situational switching of stances during a Coaching Arc (conversation). Full of ways to take your coaching level to "badass".

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Actionable Agile Metrics

Actionable Agile Metrics for Predictability

Lean

For a number of years colleagues and peers have recommended this book to me. Why did I take so long to read it? Amazing book to help you understand the flow in your teams and programs. Use the Lean metrics WIP, Cycle Time and Throughput to understand what is hampering your predictability and ability to deliver value.

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Coaching Habit

The Coaching Habit

General

Excellent book to elevate your coaching skills by using questions. And not just any question, something that is targeted to get people to think. Michael introduces 7 questions and methods to make asking those questions a habit. Wonderful advice that I now use often.

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Practical Kanban

Practical Kanban

Lean

Kanban is an up & coming workflow management system. It is far more than simply standing up a board and visualizing work. Fantastic, useable information that you can begin to use immediately. Dr. Leopold describes behaviors and tools such as Blocker Clustering to go beyond the basics.

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