Agile Book Review: Succeeding with Agile by Mike Cohn

I’m going to give you the punch line first: this is definitely the best agile book on the market today!

If that is all you wanted to know, then you can leave now.  If you want to know why I believe this, then feel free to read on.  In the next few paragraphs I’ll explain why I give this book the highest possible marks.

It took Mike Cohn over 2 years to write this book.  It was definitely worth the wait.  The book is written in a very easy going, conversational style.  Unlike most technical books it is extremely easy to read.  It is also different in one other major way: it is not a book for beginners!  It is designed for people who already have a little agile knowledge, perhaps by taking a Certified Scrum Master course or maybe by reading another book on Scrum.  I consider this a VERY GOOD thing!  There are enough books on the market for beginners and there are even classes for them.  There are very few books for intermediate to advanced agilists and certainly no books as good as this one.

I’ve been a full-time agile/scrum trainer and coach for over 2 years and have been an agile practitioner for over 10 years and I still learned things from this book.  I didn’t learn things I should have known, rather I learned different ways of looking at and presenting various agile concepts.

I felt enlightened when seeing data showing agile to have 16% higher productivity than other projects and get to market 37% faster (Michael Mah – QSM Associates).

I also loved his ADAPT model for agile/scrum adoption.  No, I won’t tell you what ADAPT stands for (yet).  Go read the book!

I found myself nodding when reading about organizational gravity from other areas of the business.  I also found myself writing it down to use those words in future courses!  This section alone was worth the price to me.  OK, I have to admit I was one of a fortunate few people to receive free copies Mike Cohn asked the publishers to send.  I feel honored by that, but I can assure you it didn’t affect my review.  I respect Mike, but I have to look at myself in the mirror every morning.  If I write something I don’t believe it will haunt me and I will feel like I didn’t live up to my company’s values at all (especially the first one)!

I think his patterns for agile adoption are right on and noticed some I needed to beef up in my presentations.

I saw all of this in the first 60 pages of the book!  The rest of the book is every bit as good.

If you want to get better at Scrum, then buy this book.  It won’t replace the use of a good Scrum coach but it can give you some useful pointers to help you start making progress.  A coach will help you understand why you have certain issues and help you tailor things from the book to fit your specific needs.  Remember, if you get a Scrum coach, be willing to pay a bit extra to get the best – a Certified Scrum Coach.  They have been there, done that and have the certification to prove it!  Read more about why you want to use a Certified Scrum Coach and then go enage with one to help you out!

OK, I’ll toot my own horn and remind everyone for the umpteenth time that I am a Certified Scrum Coach!  I do this a lot because I think it is important for people to recognize there are certain individuals who have invested a lot of time and effort to become certified in order to give potential clients extra confidence before hiring them.  I am obviously proud of this achievement for myself, but if you don’t choose me as a Scrum Coach, then at least choose someone available from the Scrum Alliance list of Certified Scrum Coaches.

Until next time I’ll be using some of the tidbits from this book to help when Making Agile a Reality® for my clients!

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  1. We have been reading Succeeding with Agile in our project management book club. What is impressive about this book, is how unique and big picture focused its wisdom is. The stats in the first chapter are great. The next few chapters are for large, multi-team organizations to transition to Scrum, however for us, a small boutique web agency, much did not apply. Starting in Ch 7 – New Roles, it started to pick back up.

    Bottom line: This book is really the first book that talks about the leadership needed from high-level execs to provide a fertile environment for Scrum.

Bob Hartman

Known as Agile Bob, brings over 30 years of experience and broad industry knowledge cultivated by serving in almost every role in the software industry including developer, tester, documentation writer, trainer, product manager, project manager, business analyst, senior software engineer, development manager and executive. Over the past 15 years Bob has grown from being an early adopter of Agile to his current status as a Certified Scrum Trainer® (CST) and Certified Enterprise Coach℠ (CEC) and an expert in training, coaching and mentoring across all areas of Agile development. Bob is a popular speaker, having spoken at numerous major conferences, seminars, workshops and user group meetings where his engaging style, holistic view of development and personal anecdotes are always well received by attendees.

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