Book Review – Succeeding with Agile: Software Development Using Scrum
I have been a fan of Mike Cohn and his latest book Succeeding with Agile: Software Development Using Scrum is another great book. He blends a good mix of theoretical and practical techniques drawn from his past experiences. This book doesn’t show you how the Scrum Framework works, but it is more of a cookbook of good practices and suggestions that you can help you succeed with Scrum. So if you are new to Scrum or looking for an introduction to Scrum I suggest you read some other sources first such as the Scrum Guide (by Schwaber and Sutherland) or the Scrum Primer (by Deemer, Benefield, Larman and Vodde) and then coming back to this book for tips and advice as you implement Scrum.
I was able to relate to some of Mike’s observations with my own experience and found myself nodding my head in agreement to some of his sections on ‘objections’ and various stories throughout the book. As a result, the book felt very personable as I felt like I have been there done that. He does offer some practical advice when dealing with the various ‘objections’ that you may encounter along the way. He also points out the challenges in adopting and transitioning to agile. The following is an important quote from the book:
I’ve personally witnessed several failed agile adoptions that could have been prevented. The first was in a company that had spent more than a million dollars on its transition effort. Executives brought in outside trainers and coaches and hired five people into an “Agile Office” to which new Scrum teams could turn for advice. The company’s failure was the result of thinking that the implications of adopting Scrum would be restricted to only the development organization. The executives who initiated this transition thought that educating and supporting developers would be sufficient. They failed to consider how Scrum would touch the work of salespeople, the marketing group, and even the finance department. Without changes to these areas, organizational gravity pulled the company back where it had started.
A common theme throughout the book is that there is no ‘standard’ way of doing agile and that it must be adapted to the organizational context and project. He devotes a whole chapter, ‘ADAPTing to Scrum’ [Chapter 2] to this topic.
Although it is mainly centered on Scrum, Mike describes various other techniques and methods to produce a handbook that is thorough and complete for any Agile practitioner. Scattered throughout the book are real-world case studies drawn from the Mike’s experience helping many software organizations adopt Scrum, and ‘things to try now’ sections based on his advice offer practical, quick ways of coming up to speed fast. I really liked the chapters on New Roles [Chapter 7] and Changed Roles [Chapter 8] where he describes the 3 key Scrum roles but also identifies how the traditional roles changes to fit into an agile development framework.
I highly recommend reading this book as part of your Agile training, whether you are implementing Scrum for the first time or an experienced practitioner. It is an easy and good read.