D'Arcy from Winnipeg
Solution Architecture, Business & Entrepreneurship, Microsoft, and Adoption

Book Review: Agile Project Management with Scrum

Sunday, August 21, 2011 9:58 PM

I’ve learned, from conference sessions and user group meetings, that Agile is best learned in action – being part of a game or activity that explains Agile, having lively discussion with people, or (best yet) being part of an Agile project. We still get a large amount of learning from books though, and so while Agile books may do a good job explaining the methodologies and techniques, its never as good as having some context to stand it up against.

Enter Agile Project Management with Scrum by Ken Schwaber (Microsoft Press). Yes, Microsoft Press. Now some of you may discount this book on that alone, thinking this is some veiled attempt to really show how to use Scrum with TFS. You’d be doing yourself a disservice though.

First, the author: Ken Schwaber is one of the co-developers of Scrum. So in a way, you could say that the guy wrote the book on it…well, literally. I could go on about the types of projects Ken has done, but c’mon – the guy CO-DEVELOPED SCRUM.

Also, I don’t have to go over those stories because he covers them in the book. Agile Project Management with Scrum is like an epistle – a letter from one of the disciples written to a heathen PMI-embracing community, sharing the good news of the Scrum gospel.

The book centers around topical chapters that are filled with case studies. Throughout the book we get a backstory to an organization and their issue/problem/project, we see what happened in implementing Scrum, and review the lessons learned from the experience. While I’m sure the names are changed, these are based on Ken’s experiences over 20+ years in software development.

The book jumps between focussing chapters on certain roles within a Scrum project to drilling deep on key philosophies that drive Scrum, as well as dealing with situations like scaling, reporting, and estimating.

One of the biggest messages driven home is the difference between traditional control-based project management and Scrum’s empirical process control which relies on three things: visibility, inspection, and adaptation. The book lays out not just Scrum’s process, but how it differs from traditional project management and what Scrum solves by being different.

The book is relatively short – 154 pages including all appendices. If there’s one complaint, its that towards the end of the book I started skimming over the case studies to get to the lessons learned. I still think the backdrop is important to really understand Scrum’s implementation for a given scenario, it just got a little much.

People experienced with Scrum and/or Agile will find this a review, but the real-life lessons learnt have great value. Those that are trying to push Agile in their organizations will find a wealth of support and information to further their cause. Probably the most important group that needs to read this are the un-believers. Those that still cling to their Gantt charts and Microsoft Project files need to be challenged on their beliefs of control-centric project management, and this book can serve to spark those discussions.

A fantastic book that I know I’ll use as a reference and resource for years to come.

Buy it on Amazon.com

Buy it on Amazon.ca

Buy it on Chapters/Indigo


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