Recommendations: Agile Software Development

Last modified on March 10, 2012   About this page

Agile Software Development

Kanban by David J Anderson
Kanban Kanban is an informative book, but one that could be more tightly written. I learned a lot from reading this book, but the presentation sometimes made it harder than it could have. It clearly explains the basics of Kanban and how to apply it to software developments well as both how a Kanban approach differs, and can be used to support, Agile methods such as Scrum. The anecdotes and examples in the book help you to understand how to apply Kanban in real projects in organizations of varying sizes, and the takeaways section at the end of each chapter has a concise summary of what the chapter discussed. On the other hand, some of the anecdotes were a bit long and rambling, and contrasted sharply with other very well focused sections. This would have been a much better book had the author either kept the anecdotes briefer, or started the longer anecdotes with some more guidance about what we might expect to learn from the subsequent story. If you are willing to skim a bit (and occasionally backtrack) you can get a lot of value from this book if you want to learn about Kanban. This is a good book. It could have been a much better one.

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The Lean Startup by Eric Ries
The Lean StartupIf you are familiar with Lean or Agile software development you have probably heard many of the concepts in this book. Eric Ries explains how to use the techniques of lean production including testing, feedback, and other key agile development enablers at the business and organizational level to innovate. The book emphasizes that the key to getting better at what you do is to have goals, test, measure, and use techniques like "5 Why's" to understand problems, This book will help you to understand understand that being lean is an organization-wide process. An enjoyable read, filled with stories from both Ries' consulting and startup experience and filled with references to sources for more information, this book can help you to understand how to innovate, whether you are working on a project of starting a company. Business people will learn more about lean engineering, engineers will learn how lean applies to the business. (These comments are based on an advanced review copy of the book)

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Better: A Surgeon's Notes on Performance by Atul Gawande
Better: A Surgeon's Notes on Performance While Gawande stays clearly in the domain of medicine, there are lessons in this book to be learned by those working in any craft that combines technology, personal skill, and human interaction. Better is a good read for anyone seeking to understand performance and how important the individual and collaboration are in a profession one often thinks of as the being dominated by individual practitioners with highly specialized skills. What was especially interesting to me was how this book brought to mind parallels with what seems to be a vastly different practice: Software development. The stories of practice in rural India seemed to make a case for the value of "generalizing specialists," the discussion of infection prevention was an echo of the value (and difficulty) of getting a team to be disciplined in using a few simple practices. Almost every chapter found me making notes about parallels to software development. I suspect those in other fields that require both individual skills, judgement, and collaboration might find the same thing. This wasn't unexpected, as I had first read The Checklist Manifesto, but that book was explicit about the parallels. If you are interested in health care, want to understand how to apply skills more effectively, or simply just like a good story, Better is good, Gawande mixes anecdote, data, and an almost suspenseful presentation style to make what could be an academic discussion approachable and entertaining. For a more detailed review see my blog

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Continuous Delivery: Reliable Software Releases through Build, Test, and Deployment Automation by Jez Humble and David Farley
Continuous Delivery: Reliable Software Releases through Build, Test, and Deployment Automation This book will help you to understand that the secret to quality software, reliably deployed, is to take a cross-functional approach. You will walk away from this book with an understanding of how to start implementing a continuous deployment pipeline, and you may also find yourself writing down a list of things to try, and tools to use. While not a tool-centric book, the authors provide many examples of tools to help you implement each phase of the process. Since no one book can cover every aspect of every step in the development process, the authors point you to many excellent resources if you want to learn more. While the authors have experience in, an a pre-disposition for, Agile techniques, the principles described in this book apply to any organization, whatever the process, though if you take the approach to heart, you will find yourself becoming more agile. This book covers every aspect of the development process from requirements, design, and coding, to acceptance testing, deployment and operations. While having a lot of material, the book is well organized and written. It's not a quick read, and you'll want to have a notebook or post-its handy to capture the idea it helps you to generate, but if you are interested in improving your deployment process you will find this book valuable, whether you are a developer, tester, release engineer, or someone who manages people in those roles.

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Lean Architecture: for Agile Software Development by James Coplien and Gertrud Bjørnvig
Lean Architecture: for Agile Software Development When I received my review copy of this book, I had high expections. And I was not disappointed. As a C++ programmer in the early 90's Coplien's Advanced C++ Programming Styles and Idioms was a source of interview material when looking for programmers. It's a good bet that this book may fill the same role for those looking to see if candidates for architect roles understand what it means to be an architect in a Lean or Agile Organization. This book dispels the myth that Agile and Architecture don't go together and explains the balance between Agile architecture and too much Big Up Front Design. This book emphasizes the importance of frequent collaboration between stakeholders in defining a good architecture and helps you to understand the importance of architecture to the success of agile projects. With code examples throughout, this book emphasizes that architecture and coding must go together. After describing some general principles of how architecture can add value to an agile project, the authors explain the Data Context, Interaction (DCI) architecture, which provides an framework for building lean architectures. My one minor complaint is that the transition between the general discussions of lean architecture and the focused discussion of DCI was a bit abrupt. But this was a minor distraction from an enjoyable and informative read. Rich with citations and historical context, this book will be useful for anyone who is struggling with how to build systems that need to support complicated user interactions.

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Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel Pink
Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates UsThis is one of those books that describes something extremely obvious and intuitive that at the same time goes against what you were taught was "common sense." This would be a good book just for the survey of the (long) history of the study of the theory of motivation. It also concludes with a number of things you can do to create an environment that encourages mastery (as opposed to simply meeting goals) in your work and school. As an agile software developer I had a few aha! moments when you understand how agile practices really encourage flow and create environments where teams and individuals can be highly productive. As a parent, this book re-enforced that the way children approach learning and problems is something to be viewed with awe. If you're a manager, this book will encourage you to think about how teams work and how some common practices are counter-productive. It's a quick read that will get you thinking and learning.

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Measuring and Managing Performance in Organizations by Robert D. Austin
	
    Measuring and Managing Performance in OrganizationsIf you thought that performance review processes and incentive systems are often flawed, but wanted to understand why, Austin's book will give you a model to understand dysfunctional measurement processes, and a path to understanding how to avoid the dysfunctions and really help organizations and teams perform in a way that improves quality and gives customers what they want. Though the core of this book is an economic model, the book is quite readable and enjoyable. While this book was written before many people had heard of agile or Scrum, the model in the book also helps you understand why the approach of self-organizing teams that agile methods advocate can be very effective. Many of the conclusions in this book seem like common sense, but like many things, common sense is not synonymous with common practice, especially among people want to measure things. If you manage people consider reading this book to get a deeper understanding about incentive systems in addition to Behind Closed Doors: Secrets of Great Management which will help you to learn how to effectively manage people day-to-day to improve performance

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Manage Your Project Portfolio: Increase Your Capacity and Finish More Projects by Johanna Rothman
Manage Your Project Portfolio: Increase Your Capacity and Finish More ProjectsPortfolio management sounds neither compelling nor agile, yet in this book Johanna Rothman explains not only the importance of portfolio management, but also how portfolio management and agile development approaches enable each other. By a combination of guidelines, stories, and references Rothman teaches you how to define a mission, prioritize your product development plan, and enable your organization to get more done while reducing technical debt, and enhancing flexibility. This is an approachable and engaging book that will appeal to project managers, technical leads, and anyone interested in understanding how to develop and execute a consistent project strategy.

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The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande
The Checklist ManifestoThis is a book written by a surgeon, talking about how doctors, structural engineers, pilots and others use checklists to manage complexity and manage risk. While reading it, I kept thinking of all the things the scenarios he described has in common with software projects, and how the checklists reenforced the same values that agile software teams hold dear. Gawande illusrates how checklists help people be more creative, more productive and solve problems by allowing people to focus on the novel parts of a problem. What I especially liked was the recurring theme of how complex problems are best solved by teams and not heroic individuals, and how processes, like those guided by checklists can help foster teamwork. This is an easy to read book that helps you understand what all complex endeavors have in common, regardless of profession, and gives you one approach to managing this complexity. Read it if you want to understand how to write good checklists and use them effectively, and to address the negative perceptions colleagues have about processes and checklists.

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97 Things Every Programmer Should Know by Edited by Kevlin Henney
97 Things Every Programmer Should KnowI contributed to this project, which both by the content, and the process by which it came to be, provides evidence that software development is about collaboration. craftsmanship, and careful attention to detail. This book is a chance to learn from the experiences of people who've worked hard not just at writing good code, but at creating good software systems. Some of the advice may be things you already know. Some items may be surprising. Read this book to learn, be challenged, and to understand why programming isn't just about languages and syntax.

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Adapting Configuration Management for Agile Teams: Balancing Sustainability and Speed by Mario E. Moreira
Adapting Configuration Management for Agile Teams: Balancing Sustainability and Speed This book is a good guide to both CM and Agile principles, and it demonstrates how to use software configuration management to enable your team to be more agile. This book can guide you to understanding how to manage releases in an agile environment, and how to apply basic CM concepts like build and branching successfully. While not a replacement for a book on your agile method, this book is a primer on agile for those with a traditional release management background, and and a primer on CM for those who understand agile. After reading it you will have enough background to be productive, and a good sense of what you need to learn more about. In addition, this book covers topics such as how to leverage cloud service providers for infrastructure, how to leverage SCM to make off-shore development less painful, and how to evolve your SCM process in an agile (incremental) fashion. With a good structure that allows you to navigate the book quickly, and a good use of metaphor to describe concepts, this book will help a release managers, project managers, developers and architects use the SCM process to get the most out of their agile teams. (I was a reviewer of the manuscript, this review is based on the final edition.)

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Agile Retrospectives: Making Good Teams Great by Esther Derby and Diana Larsen
Agile Retrospectives: Making Good Teams Great Teams often think about how to improve because they don't think that they have the time. Agile Project Retrospectives gives you the information you need to plan for a short, effective retrospective. The book isn't a replacement for a book like [[ASIN:0932633447 Project Retrospectives: A Handbook for Team Reviews]], but it can give someone interested in running a retrospective a good understanding of the goals, a framework of how to structure the retrospective, and a menu of exercises to apply at each phase. This book isn't magic; an effective retrospective takes thought and planning. But this book gives you the tools you need to facilitate an efficient and effective retrospective. Every project manager, scrum master, and technical leader should have a copy of this book. You'll not only want to read it; you will refer to it often.

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Adrenaline Junkies and Template Zombies: Understanding Patterns of Project Behavior by Tom Demarco, Peter Hruschka, Tim Lister, Suzanne Robertson, James Robertson, Steve McMenamin
Adrenaline Junkies and Template Zombies: Understanding Patterns of Project BehaviorThis book contains descriptions of 86 common organizational behaviors described in a concise and entertaining way, using stories, guidelines, and metaphor. This approach makes it easy for you to identify with similar situations in your present or past organizations, and remember them. Managers, developers, and students of organizational behavior will enjoy reading this book and want a copy around for reference. Those with more experience will find that the patterns resonate with them, and those newer to software development will get an idea of what to expect in team dynamics. Like may great books, you'll have learned much from the experience of the authors while being entertained and amused.

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Behind Closed Doors: Secrets of Great Management by Johanna Rothman and Esther Derby
Behind Closed Doors: Secrets of Great ManagementThis is an excellent work that guided me though my first formal management experience. The book weaves its lessons into a story which helped you to understand how to apply what you learned. Like many important books, it explains some simple rules that can be difficult to execute in practice. The downside of reading this book is that you may realized that you're not being managed well (or have not been in the past) and you can no longer live in blissful ignorance. All technical managers at all levels should have read a copy of this book. The section on having one on ones by itself is worth the price.

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Practices of an Agile Developer: Working in the Real World by Venkat Subramaniam and Andy Hunt
Practices of an Agile Developer: Working in the Real WorldA Pragmatic, method agnostic, guide to the essential practices for an agile team. The book covers the whole lifecycle form planning to design and coding, showing you how to balance the agile dogma with practical considerations. The book also addresses common misconceptions about agile practices. People new to agile will benefit from the book, but those who have been working using an agile method will get a lot from a fresh look at why they are using agile practices.


Implementation Patterns by Kent Beck
Implementation PatternsThe title is misleading, as the book really isn't a Patterns book, and it's not a detailed handbook. This is a good terse summary of principles to apply when writing code that others will need to work with. While the book is light on details or examples, reading it can help you consider what coding and micro design conventions to apply to make your code more readable. This is a good companion to Bob Martin's Clean Code as Martin and Beck, excellent coders both, sometimes make opposite recommendations about the same situations. These contrasts drive home the point that rules for good code need to be considered, not just accepted without thought.

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Clean Code by Bob Martin
Clean CodeThe book is a great guide to the basic qualities of good code. While many of the guidelines were familiar, reading the book helped me reconsider some rules that I had followed out of habit, but which no longer make sense. Like many good books even if you know and agree what it says, reading the book can help you explain "the obvious" to others. Clean Code has all the qualities of a classic book. Bob does not just a list of rules for "good" code. He explains why following the rules makes for better code, and provides several examples of how following the rules make arguably good code (like JUnit) better. Buy this book if you write code or manage people who write code. This is a must read if you are developing a coding standard for your team. Even if you don't accept all of Bob's guidelines, reading this book will help you think about what standards make sense for your team.

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Manage It! Your Guide to Modern, Pragmatic Project Management by Johanna Rothman
Manage It! Your Guide to Modern, Pragmatic Project ManagementManage It! will help you understand how to manage projects effectively, taking into account the needs of the people working on the project as well as the needs of the business sponsors. In this regard Johanna Rothman follows in the steps of authors like Jerry Weinberg by showing you how to set up a project environment that helps software developers be more effective and thus be better able to deliver value to their customers. This book has pragmatic advice on how to make progress and issues visible, how to plan a project, and most everything else you need to help a project come to a good conclusion. This book is unique in that while it discusses the benefits of agile lifecycles, it shows you how to make progress in a variety of software lifecycles, and gives advice on when to use the various lifecycles she discusses. Buy this book if you want to be a more effective project manager (or technical lead who works with project managers), or if you want to be more agile but are not sure how.

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The Inmates are Running the Asylum by Alan Cooper
The Inmates are Running the AsylumThis a classic book that anyone who build computer systems should read. Some of the specific examples are dated, though many caused me to nod in acknowledgment, especially his observations about alarm clocks and TV remotes, Inmates describes goal directed design, the concept of Pesonas, ideas which, whether they make sense for your project are not, are ones that you should be aware of. This book also explains what "polite software" is and emphasizes the market advantages to good interaction design. Even if this book doesn't change the way you work, it will help you think about the relationship between interaction design and programming. Among the interesting points Cooper makes are Customer Driven isn't aways the best model (customer influenced is better), and neither is Engineering Driven; software designers should go beyond customers say they want and help them to understand what they need. There were a few things towards the end of the book that struck me as just wrong. For example Cooper says that most developers don't believe that they are the best people to test their code. Most Agile software developers would challenge that point. Agile developers would also challenge the recurring theme that the engineering team can't make the leap to understanding the customer enough to build good interaction design. He ignores the value of a specializing generalist, which is an important concept in today's projects. Regardless, this is a book that anyone building software systems should read, if only to understand the concepts underlying interaction design.

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Implementing Lean Software Development by Mary and Tom Poppendieck
Implementing Lean Software DevelopmentImplementing Lean Software Development is an essential resource if you want to understand the value of lean software development. It explains the theory of lean manaufacturing and how it applies to software development. It contains practical advice for implementing Lean and anecdotes to help you to understand the value of Lean. This is a great addition to the library of any agile developer or project manager.

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Wicked Problems, Righteous Solutions by Peter DeGrace and Leslie Hulet Stahl
Wicked Problems, Righteous SolutionsA Wicked Problem is a problem where some of the solution space lies within the problem space; the problem is only fully understood after it is solved. Thsi book describes how many programming problems fall into the catgegory of wicked problems and how waterfall softwarae development practices are not well suited to these kinds of problems.This book explains how agille approaches are more suited for many software development projects. In addition to all of this, this book had many excellent references.


Continuous Integration: Improving Software Quality and Reducing Risk by Paul M Duvall
Continuous Integration: Improving Software Quality and Reducing RiskThis book is an excellent overview of why Continuous Integration is important and about more than just compiling frequently. The book helps you to understand why to do CI, what you can do beyond building, and how to do it. In addition to general principles, the book points you to some excellent tools and resources. This book is an excellent companion to Software Configuration Management Patterns; it provides teriffic information that support the build patterns in that book.

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Release It! : Design and Deploy Production-Ready Software by Michael T Nygard
Release It! : Design and Deploy Production-Ready SoftwareThis book helps you to understand why creating production ready code requires work at many levels: creating the deployment architecture, operations scenarios, and just plain writing code and testing. The book covers issues that every architect, developer and release engineer should know. The book has principles, patterns, and resources to help you identify production problems, prevent them, and survive them when all else fails. One of the better features of the book is the stories that help you to understand issues and demonstrate that Nygard's lessons are based in experience. The lessons are (as the name of the series suggests) pragmatic, and each chapter leaves you with enough information to make changes to improve your application. In books of this sort there is a balance between "principles" that are timeless and "how to" techniques that you can use immediately. This book is biased slightly towards Java, and contains a few references to current tools, there are enough general principles that there is little in the book that will date it. As I read the book I found information about many topics that arose in each project that I have worked on, as well as things that I felt that I needed to learn more about. After I finished the book I felt energized to do things better. If you build enterprise applications buy this book to learn how to build more production-ready applications. If you already know the lessons in the book, buy a copy or two for your colleagues who may not so that your life will be easier and you can get fewer late-night phone calls about a system you helped build.

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Ship it! A Practical Guide to Successful Software Projects by Jared Richardson and William Gwaltney
Ship it! A Practical Guide to Successful Software ProjectsIf you need a good overview of what it takes to deliver software, give this book a look. It is easy to read, clearly written, and covers the important stuff. The book is geared at people who are less than experts, and as such covers some of the topics very briefly, but the book has some excellent pointers to other sources. The authors do a great job of collecting pointers to resources where you can learn more; you will want to keep the book around as a reference for them. The authors talk about a form of agile development that emphasizes tracer bullet development and a feature-based (as opposed to time boxed) approach to setting a delivery schedule. I tend to think that time boxed approaches are more useful, but the other good information in the book still makes sense if you use any approach to developing software. The authors also have some very practical advice on tool selection. The tools and infrastructure section of the book have pragmatic advice on how to implement the patterns in the Software Configuration Management Patterns book, and I wish that the authors had referenced the SCM Patterns book, if for no other reason than to help establish a common vocabulary in our domain. Over all, this is worth a read to learn (or reenforce) some of the basics about keeping a project running well. And if you already know everything in the book, buy a copy for your colleagues who don't!

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Agile Estimating and Planning by Mike Cohn
Agile Estimating and PlanningThis clearly written book provides insights into some common and vexing problems about how to do estimation and planning. This book helps you to prioritize what you want to build as well as as how long it will take to build it. The facts are complimented with stories from Mike Cohn's experience, which makes this book entertaining as well as informative. Much of the information in the book sounds obvious, but since few projects get estimation, scoping and planning right, it's pretty clear that it's only obvious in retospect. This book is a must have for people who are running agile teams and those who play the role of product owners. It will remain a useful reference througout the project. Even those on non-agile teams will find the chapters on selecting and prioritizing features useful.

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Testing Extreme Programming by Lisa Crispin and Tip House
Testing Extreme ProgrammingThis book explains, in detail, the value of having a tester role on an XP project. Much of what is written on XP focuses on the role of developers in writing tests, and this book will help you understand the value that testing professionals can add to an XP, or other agile, project. The function of a tester changes when a team applies XP; In the spirt of lean software development, this book shows you how to apply the skills of testers in a new environment. One minor flaw in the book is that it is targeted at testers. While testers need to understand how to apply their skills to an XP environment, others such as Coaches, programmers and project managers also need to understand the value of testers. Get this book to understand how testers can improve your XP project.

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Extreme Programming Explained : Embrace Change (2nd Edition) by Kent Beck and Cynthia Andres
Extreme Programming Explained : Embrace Change (2nd Edition)This is an excellent book about how to develop software quickly in the face of changing requirements, and the definitive description of what Extreme Programming is. The second edition reflects the experience of doing XP for the 5 years since the first edition came out. This edition clearly explains the relationships between principles, practices and values, which is a frequent topic of discussion in the XP community. Extreme Programming Explained, 2nd Edition is really about the human side of programming; With this book Kent Beck has earned a seat next to Jerry Weinberg as someone who understands how to apply an understanding of human nature to the problem of how to build software effectively. Get this book if you want to apply XP in your organization, or even if you simply want to improve your practices; there is much to learn from the XP approach, even if you can not, or will not, apply it fully.

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Pair Programming Illuminated by Laurie Williams and Robert Kessler
Pair Programming IlluminatedThis book answers many common questions about Pair Programming and supports the answers with data and stories. This is a very readable book, and will be an excellent resource for anyone trying to implement pair programming, or convince others of its usefulness in appropriate situations.


Questioning Extreme Programming by Pete McBreen
Questioning Extreme ProgrammingIn this book McBreen gives a well reasoned discussion of what XP is and is not, when it works and when it might not work. The book is positive about the merits of XP, when used in the right setting. This book will be valuable to anyone who is considering changing their development approach, even is they are not considering Extreme Programming. Both enthusiast and skeptics alike will find the material in the book thought provoking.

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Planning Extreme Programming by Kent Beck and Martin Fowler
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Extreme Programming Installed by Ron Jeffries, Ann Anderson and Chet Hendrickson
Extreme Programming InstalledExtreme Programming Installed describes how to implement XP practices with practical advice based on experience. Buy this book when you are ready to implement XP for your team.

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Artful Making: What Managers Need to Know About How Artists Work by Rob Austin and Lee Devin
Artful Making: What Managers Need to Know About How Artists WorkThe principles that this book discusses: Release, Collaboration Ensemble and Play are extremely relevant to creating effective software teams. The principles are inspired by observing how theatre companies work, but they also have a basis in lean manufacturing. If you work as a software developer or manager and have ever worked on a theatre production (community theatre or at school) a light will go on immediately. If you haven't The data that the authors provide about lean manufacturing practices and software development will convince you that there is a lot that we can learn from this metaphor. The theatre examples will be helpful in explaining how the principles work if you need to communicate them to a manager who does not understand software development. Buy this book and place it along side your books on agile software development; you will want to read it and refer back to it frequently.

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Test Driven Development: By Example by Kent Beck
Test Driven Development: By ExampleThrough examples and a collection of patterns, this book explains what test driven development is, and what it is for. Every agile developer should read this book.

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Lean Software Development: An Agile Toolkit for Software Development Managers by Mary Poppendieck and Tom Poppendieck
Lean Software Development: An Agile Toolkit for Software Development ManagersThis is an excellent discussion of how the principles of Lean Manufacturing apply to Software Development. The authors explain why the usual metaphor of software as manufacturing is not quite right, and why the metaphor of Lean Manufacturing is. It is well written and will be useful to refer to as a reference.

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Agile Software Development with SCRUM by Ken Schwaber and Mike Beedle
Agile Software Development with SCRUMExcellent book that explains Scrum, one of the more popular agile development techniques. The approach in this book is very pragmatic. The authors discuss what Scrum is and how to apply it in various environments.

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Waltzing With Bears: Managing Risk on Software Projects by Tom DeMarco and Timothy Lister
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Agile Software Development Ecosystems : Problems, Practices, and Principles by Jim Highsmith.
Agile Software Development Ecosystems : Problems, Practices, and PrinciplesAn excellent survey to the principles of agile development approaches such as Extreme Programming , SCRUM, and others. The book mixes discussions of the core ideas with interviews with some of the founders of the Agile Alliance .

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