Author: Portia Tung
Publisher: Pragmatic Bookshelf
Audience: Anyone who has worked on an agile project or is thinking about trying it
Reviewer: Lucy Black
A novel approach to teaching lessons about using Agile techniques. Is it effective?
This book's cover look's a bit different to most of those in my reading pile and its blurb confirms that it is indeed different. Instead of a book you read cover to cover, or consult a table of contents and dip into, Portia Tung has constructed an interactive "agile adventure" where the reader, taking on the role of an agile coach, faces choices of how to proceed through the story. There are eight different endings and you fail or succeed depending on your choices. Of course as this is a book you can rewind the story - see where you went wrong and try again, thereby learning some useful lessons.
The challenge as presented on the book's back jacket is:
Management is ready to disband your new agile team and outsource your project. Can you save The Dream Team?
The role you adopt is that of Jim Hopper, who works as an agile coach-consultant who is hired by companies to help them get started with agile with varying degree of success. The company in this scenario is an online dating business Love Inc and the eponymous Dream Team, whose developers come from a waterfall background have been experimenting with agile methodology for 18 months and have run into problems - progress has ground to a halt and morale is at rock bottom. You have just five days to turn things around.
Having learnt about Jim Hopper on the first page of the story, you next meet the team and at the end of this section face the first choice point: you can continue the adventure straight away or you can review a confidential report by another consultant or review and email describing the goals of your mission and you decide which page to go to next accordingly.
Sometimes in the story you'll find yourself on the same path whichever choice you make, but other times the choices really do diverge.
If you resist the temptation just to find out the "right" path by page turning, consider the options Jim Hopper faces and make your own well thought out decisions you should learn a lot - about the agile process and about how to motivate a team to follow it - and follow it in spirit rather than just paying lip service to it.
Part II of the book consists of five appendices. The first is "Who's Who", a cast list to help you if you forget which character has which role in the various teams in the story. Appendix 2 is also fiction - it is Jim Hopper's LinkedIn profile with his background and testimonials.
The next two are more generally useful - a Glossary of key concepts and terms and a list of other books and resources on agile methodology, many of which are free downloads. This complements the two free downloadable books referred to in "How to Use this Book" for complete beginners to the topic. See Related Reviews for other books you might like to consider.
Finally there a list of the tools ad exercises that appear in the story - including a Kanban borrd, a project evaluation questionnaire and both current and future reality trees. This is provided to help you locate the takeaways from the story.
So is this a useful addition to your bookshelf? While I don't think it should be your first or only book on the topic I enjoyed it and found it gave me new insights and strengthened resolve to follow the agile path.
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