The Essential Books on Agile

In the years before the publishing of the Manifesto for Agile Software Development, there was lots of experimentation with different techniques that would eventually coalesce into agile techniques – co-located teams, JAD/RAD workshop based design, extreme programming, use of more visual based design tools, etc.

In the years since, Scrum has come to dominate agile and the principles of agile have spread far into the corporate world. Sadly in many cases ‘agile’ just means having a daily stand up, while still forcing the team to work fixed scope and time. This only reinforces one of my early observations about agile – that its main feature is keeping the development team in a constant state of near-deadline.

The Most Agile Man in the World

While there are some very thoughtful critiques of agile, we are for better or worse going to continue to see its expanded use, and it can be especially powerful when it comes to product development, so it is important to understand it well.

Lean UX: Applying Lean Principles to Improve User Experience

I am actually going to start with Lean UX by Jeff Gothelf because one of the challenges with agile projects is the penchant and pressure to start writing code without enough design. Lean UX provides a framework of thinking and tools for experience design that works well with agile development processes, provided the design team is allowed to get several sprints ahead of the development team. The core of Lean UX is lean (shock!) – making just enough artifacts or just enough fidelity to be able to test them with real users and to communicate with the development. No BRDs, FSDs, fully annotate wires, comps with redlines, etc.

Scrum: a Breathtakingly Brief and Agile Introduction
The Elements of Scrum

These two books on Scrum by Chris Sims and Hillary Louise Johnson are my favorites for getting started in Scrum. Clear and concise, with examples and humor, they do a great job of imparting the essentials in a short read. The biggest learning with agile comes in the doing, not the reading, so getting you started on your journey quickly is invaluable.

Agile Project Management with Scrum (Developer Best Practices)

Ken Schwaber is the father of Scrum, so who better to learn from than he. What I really like about this book is not just the clear explanation, but the case studies, lessons learned and advice on transitioning teams to Scrum that are included in this book. Being able to hear stories of what other teams struggled with will better prepare you to manage your own team through a transition to Scrum if they are not already pros with it.