The beginner’s Agile and Lean library

There is a lot said online about Agile and Lean. The distinction between the 2 would be a post on its own, but I would like to present here a few books which are a very good introduction. A lot of them are specifically geared towards software development, but most of the practices and principles can be adapted to other areas as well. The best examples is that a lot of the lean principles actually come from the car manufacturing industry.

 Suggested reads

Kanban: Lean from the Trenches, Henrik Kniberg. This is not a textbook, but a real world use of kanban by the swedish police. This is a very easy read, with loads of pictures to help you visualise and understand what this book is about. Just by reading this book, you will learn a lot about many aspect, practices and artefacts of lean and agile. If you read only one, I would suggest this one, as it does not delve too much into theory but follows a project from start to finish, which helps understand what agile and lean are about. After reading it, you will probably want to dig some parts deeper, and other books will become interesting.

Lean: An Agile toolkit, Tom & Mary Poppendieck. A classic, this book will provide you with a set of tools and principles that constitute the core of lean: eliminate waste, decide as late as possible, empower the team… Even only keeping this principles in mind and forgetting the details will go a long way in making your team, product or company better. If you want to know more about lean after having read Lean from the Trenches, I wholeheartedly recommend that one.

Scrum: The Elements of Scrum, Chris Sims & Hillary Louise Johnson. This book is a very easy read as well, specialised in Scrum. You will learn about the roles (product owner, scrum master…), artefacts (backlogs, charts) and practices (stand up, demo…). I followed a Scrum Master training after having read this book, and although I still did learn things during the training and enjoyed the practical aspects, this book taught me the majority of the theory.

Further reads

Hardcore theory: The Principles of Product Development Flow: Second Generation Lean Product Development, Donald G. Reinertsen. This book is just amazing. If you read it, I would strongly suggest to buy a dead tree version, as I found myself going back and forth a lot between chapters to refresh my memory. This is the only book I own for which I bought a dead tree version after having bought the ebook version. Basically, the goal of this book it to put a financial value on everything, which then allows you to compare practices by having a common measurement. You can read this book at many levels. Again, the principles are great to remember (to name just one, the main one I believe: the cost of delay. For everything you do, ask yourself the question of how much the extra delay will cost the company), and only for that this book will teach you a lot. If you are not scared of sentences like ‘The arrival queue in Kendall’s notation can be modelled by a M/M/1/∞ where M is a Markov process’, this book will move from great to fantastic.

About delaying commitment: Commitment – the book, Olav Maassen, Chris Matts, Chris Geary. A nice graphical novel specifically about the value of keeping your options open up to the last responsible moment. You will follow a project from its impending doom to its shining success, thanks to good lean practices. On top of learning about keeping your options open, you will learn about a few lean practices as well.

The Mythical Man-Month: Essays on Software Engineering, Frederick P. Brooks Jr. : I have not read that one yet, but this is a classic referenced a lot which I will read at one point. According to wikipedia, this book is widely regarded as a classic on the human elements of software engineering.


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