Book Notes: Becoming Agile in an Imperfect World - Ahmed Sidky and Greg Smith

Agile principles are discussed, explained, and then demonstrated in the context of a case study that flows throughout the book and bring agile from a real world perspective.


Title: Becoming Agile in an Imperfect World
Author: Ahmed Sidky and Greg Smith
Themes: Agile, Career, Cases, Technology, Management
Year: 2009
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
ISBN: 163835412X, 9781638354123
Pages: 408

Many books discuss Agile from a theoretical or academic perspective, but Becoming Agile takes a different approach and focuses on explaining Agile from a case-study perspective. 

The case study is based on a mixture of the author's real-world experiences and discusses the cultural realities of deploying Agile and how to deal with the needs of executives, managers, and the development team during migration. 

This book also focuses on the importance of adapting Agile principles to the realities of your environment. In the early days of Agile, there was a general belief that Agile had to be used in all phases of a project, and that it had to be used in its purest form. 

Becoming Agile shows you practical techniques and strategies to move from your existing process to an Agile process without starting from scratch. The author discusses employee motivation and establishing incentives that reward support of Agile techniques.

The author brings three aspects on why he believes agile initiatives seem to plateau:

"... First, agile development is frequently initiated as a grassroots movement to develop better software—it is seen as a “developer thing.” Consequently, development managers and customer organizations are often not on board. This is a mistake, because dramatic improvements from agile development require a different mindset on the part of both development managers and the organizations for which the software is being developed..."

"... Second, some companies have made serious missteps in applying agile—perhaps by developing an unmaintainable code base or creating an unsupportable set of expectations in the minds of development teams or customers. Sometimes an agile implementation follows a simple recipe that is a bad fit to the company needs; sometimes the implementation is perfect for some people in the company (developers, for instance), but it doesn’t take into account the needs of others (testers, for example)..."

"... Finally, agile development might be considered a silver bullet—a quick and easy fix to problems that plague software development. In this case, the hard work required to make agile successful is ignored, and when companies come to the realization that agile is not going to be as easy as they anticipated, all too often commitment dissipates..."

The book is full of simple tools that will help people think clearly; it is about readiness, chartering, specifying, estimating, assuring quality, product demonstrations, retrospectives, and so on.

Chapters of the Book:

1. Agile Fundamentals and a Supporting Case Study
   Moving to agile
   The story of Acme Media

2. Getting Started
   Are you ready for agile?
   The fitness test: all about readiness assessments
   The importance of obtaining executive support
   Improving buy-in by creating a core team
   The mindset of an agile leader
   Injecting agility into your current process
   Selecting a pilot project

3. Kicking Off
   Feasibility: is this project viable? 
   Aligning the pilot team with the project

4. Populating the Product Backlog
   Feature cards: a tool for “just enough” planning
   Prioritizing the backlog
   Estimating at the right level with the right people

5. Enough Information for Scheduling
   Release planning: envisioning the overall schedule
   Iteration planning: the nitty-gritty details

6. Building The Product
   Start your engines: iteration 0
   Delivering working software
   Testing: did you do it right?

7. Embracing Change
   Adapting: reacting positively to change
   Delivery: bringing it all together
   The retrospective: working together to improve

8. Moving Forward
   Extending the new process across your company

Greg Smith is an agile coach, trainer, and senior project manager at GS Solutions Group. Greg also partners with the Project Management Institute (PMI) to bring agile knowledge into the project management community.

Dr. Ahmed Sidky guides organizations during their transition to agile software development. His research includes a value-based agile measurement index, known as the Sidky Agile Measurement Index, and a process framework for the adoption of agile practices. Dr. Sidky developed Dr. Agile, an online readiness assessment tool that helps guide organizations aspiring to adopt agile practices. 

Thank you! I hope you enjoyed!

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