October is here which means more fall fairs, festivals and fun. At Excella, we are particularly excited for one of our biggest fall events: AgileDC!
AgileDC 2017 will bring together Agile practitioners from the government, non-profit, and private sectors to share knowledge, expertise, and experiences. AgileDC has become the largest community organized Agile conference in the Washington DC Metro Area. This year’s AgileDC theme – OF THE PEOPLE, BY THE PEOPLE, AND FOR THE PEOPLE – is fitting as all aspects of the conference were organized and financed by Agilists in the community, and all proceeds will be donated to charity.
This year, a record ten Excellians were selected to speak at AgileDC. In preparation for the event, we asked each of our speakers to recommend a book that every Agilist should have on their reading list.
Headed to the conference? We’ll be giving away a complete set of the books – so drop by our booth for more info!
Excellian Book Recommendations
Mark Grove, Agile Coach; Trent Hone, Agile Xpert
Turn the Ship Around by David Marquet
In this book, Captain L. David Marquet (ret) describes the techniques he used to create empowered leadership aboard the nuclear submarine USS Santa Fe. The key principle Marquet espouses is to, “Move the decision-making to where the information is,” a concept crucial for all organizations seeking greater effectiveness, whether they develop complex software or are preparing for the challenge of undersea warfare. Marquet walks through the two-year process of embedding this idea into his submarine, framing the story with the concepts of clarity, competence, and control. One of his most significant steps was establishing a dialog around intent – instead of subordinates asking permission for an action, they expressed their intention. This subtle shift was powerful; it changed the perception of command hierarchy and provided superiors the chance to provide feedback, rather than direction. This triggered increased competence through direct and immediate feedback; it improved clarity, because subordinates had to understand the objective in order to state intent; and it shifted the nature of control, from top-down direction to empowered, bottom-up initiative. This technique, and others Marquet describes, illustrate how to foster a new culture through deliberate action and effective leadership. His story provides valuable insights into how to alter the mindset of an organization and create more effectiveness, initiative, and resiliency. It is a valuable read for anyone interested in leadership, operational effectiveness, or organizational change.
Brian Sjoberg, Agile Xpert; Julie Wyman, Agile Coach
The Fifth Discipline by Peter Senge
This book opened our eyes to the new skills we need to acquire; and ways in which we can help organizations become learning organizations that harness the true potential of all that come together under a shared vision. The five disciplines are: systems thinking, building shared vision, mental models, team learning, and personal mastery. Building a shared vision, team learning, and personal mastery are easy to understand and Mr. Senge lays out the importance of each and how to activate them. Systems thinking, the fifth discipline, integrates the others.
The book helps you learn about tools that can unlock deep misunderstandings in individual, team, or organizational mental models which typically make the organization worse because they only treat symptomatic issues, without realizing unintended effects. By utilizing these tools, people can see cause and effects, and delayed effects that go unnoticed many times. However, when these become noticed through systems thinking tools, root issues become evident and can thus be fixed for the greater good of the learning organization. We really can’t recommend this book highly enough as it is a great read for anyone within an organization or those helping organizations.
Daphne Puerto, User Experience Designer Consultant; Fadi Stephan, Certified Scrum Trainer and Agile Coach
Lean UX: Designing Great Products with Agile Teams by Jeff Gothelf and Josh Seiden
Lean UX is one of the first books that helped us see how the design process can be followed to get the most value out of a software product investment. Jeff Gothelf writes a clear step-by-step process to help any team get started with design in an Agile environment, including guidance on leading culture change through these efforts. The second edition was published last year and is updated with newer tools, including design sprints, which Excella has incorporated into our project work. We recommend this book to any practitioner who wants to make a meaningful impact through technology.
Fadi Stephan, Certified Scrum Trainer and Agile Coach
Agile Testing: A Practical Guide for Testers and Agile Teams by Lisa Crispin
Many teams struggle with fitting testing activities inside of a Sprint. They typically focus primarily on coding activities in a Sprint, either leaving testing activities to run in dedicated testing Sprints after the coding Sprints, or running coding and testing Sprint in parallel. However, in Scrum, the output of every Sprint is a potentially shippable product increment. This means the product increment should be well tested within the Sprint and ready to be delivered. In “Agile Testing”, Crispin and Gregory define agile testing and illustrate the tester’s role using examples from real agile teams. They teach you how to use the agile testing quadrants to identify what testing is needed, who should do it, which tests to automate, and what tools might help. The book explains how to apply a testing strategy to gradually get a team to start testing from day one of the Sprint and deliver a true product increment at the end of each Sprint.
Jaap Dekkinga, Agile Coach
Extreme Programming Explained: Embrace Change by Kent Beck
This book gives a clear explanation about how XP practices should be formed and executed, and how to start implementing XP in your organization. Scrum and Kanban don’t prescribe any engineering practices; XP does and complements your chosen workflow management technique. I believe organizations can really benefit significantly from the XP engineering practices, particularly test-driven development, the focus on automated testing, pair programming, simple design and refactoring. XP really helps us take a new perspective and understand the ‘why’ behind concepts.
Paul Boos, IT Executive Coach
The Mindful Coach by Doug Silsbee
“The Mindful Coach” offers a view into several aspects that coaches need to follow. While there are many views on coaching, this book invites you to see coaching through the lens of a coach – an invited helper that holds the client accountable, while retaining expertise on why to hire one. If you are a coach or a person looking to hire one, the information in this book is invaluable.
Richard Cheng, Certified Scrum Trainer
The Phoenix Project by Gene Kim
“The Phoenix Project” (based on “The Goal” by Eliyahu Goldratt) is the best book I’ve read in terms of modern day IT challenges. The book is written as a fictional novel, which leads to a very easy yet compelling read. Anyone who has ever worked in IT will understand the struggles presented in the Phoenix Project. Some of the challenges explored in this novel include an overload of work, technical debt, competing priorities, struggling business, and bottleneck and constraints. This book takes a contextual dive into agile, lean, and DevOps ideas, and how those ideas need to be implemented in an organization on the brink of disaster.
Daniel Davis, Software Development Xpert
Practical Object-Oriented Design in Ruby by Sandi Metz
“Good design is about the preservation of future decision-making ability”, Metz writes. This line really sticks with me, due to its importance on how we build modern software. Since we can’t see into the future, the best we can do is retain the ability to decide later on. If you’ve struggled to write maintainable code or hate dealing with needlessly overcomplicated abstractions, “Practical Object-Oriented Design in Ruby” is an excellent guide to finding the right balance between design and pragmatism. Metz outlines different design principles, why they’re important and how to best implement them. This book is full of examples, illustrations and (compared to other design books) is refreshingly short. Definitely a book every Rubyist should own!