Read Me First

Many moons ago, I set out a “Read Me First” list for software developers. I’d now like to revise the list to include Jeff Sutherland’s new book “Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time.”
I’ve been an agile developer since, well, before there was a manifesto. I’ve been Apache Agile, Extreme Programming Agile, and, nowadays, on the Nimble AMS product crew, we use Scrum with all the trimmings:

  • Autonomous Team
  • Stories, Epics, and Sprints
  • Planning Poker
  • Visual Workflow
  • Reviews and Retrospectives

(Though, in my heart of hearts, I still lust after Kanban. To be honest, I was looking for Kanban book, when I stumbled across Sutherland’s. I’m still going to try and read Kanban in Action, but Scrum ADTWHT has an audible version, and, well, them that know me know, I strongly prefer listening to books.)
Sutherland’s book is helping me gain a new respect for Scrum, and also helping me see some places where our own practice can be improved in small but significant ways.
The book is full of hard advice and riveting anecdotes, including how the FBI uses Scrum to keep us safe, and how Scrum brought us ATMs and prescriptions by mail.
The core chapter of the book focuses on the “why” behind core Scrum practices.

  • Teams
  • Time
  • Waste is a Crime
  • Plan Reality, Not Fantasy
  • Happiness
  • Priorities

A key theme of the book is that Scrum isn’t just for manufacturing or for software, it’s for planning and managing any process subject to constraints: Weddings, Black Ops teams, Frontline News Correspondents, Home Improvement Contractors — you name it!
Best of all: Sutherland’s book is totally boss-friendly. If you have, or if you are, a manager, CTO, or CEO that doesn’t really get what Scrum is about, but would be willing to learn: This is the book for C-Level folks.
If you have another team in your organization that is struggling: This is the book for launching or improving a team.
If you, like me, sometimes feel frustrated by Scrum: Get yourself this book, read it, and then feel better about how you get things done.
Here are some of my favorite take aways:

  • Teams. Pull the right lever — Individual performance can vary 10x. Team performance can vary 1000x.Focus on the team.
  • Time. Demo or die — At the end of each sprint, show something to stakeholders that’s done and can be used.
  • Waste is a Crime. Do it right the first time — When you make a mistake, fix it right away. Fixing it later can take you more than TWENTY times longer than if you fix it now.
  • Plan Reality, Not Fantasy. Know your velocity — Understand exactly how much work your team can complete and remove barriers that slow down your team.
  • Happiness. Get better every day and measure it — At the end of each sprint, pick one small process improvement, or Kaizen, and make that the most important thing to accomplish in the next sprint.
  • Priorities. Make a list, check it twice — List everything that could be done, and prioritize it. Put the item with the highest value and lowest risk at the top of that backlog, and then the next, and then the next.


So click on over to Amazon, try the sample, and then read the rest as soon as you can!
Oh, and here’s the new and improved “Read Me First” syllabus for software developers, regardless of platform or temperament, in sequential order.
(1) The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People
(2) The Four Disciplines of Execution
(3) Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time
(4) Refactoring: Improving the Design of Existing Code
(5) Test Driven Development by Example
(6) Code Complete: A Practical Handbook of Software Construction, Second Edition
 (OK, sure, it’s number three of six. But, hey, the list is a backlog, with the highest value, lowest risk item first.)
Though, if you are already using Scrum anywhere in your enterprise, whether you know nothing, or think you know it all, trust me and read this book next.

Pro Tip - For more about Scrum and software project management, checkout A Tale of Two Teams.

Ted Husted is a release engineer for Nimble AMS. “It’s my job to make sure that we ship everything that’s done, but not before its ready.” ​

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