5 Books about Agile to Read in 2021 – Book #1
‘The Age of Agile: How Smart Companies are Transforming the Way Work gets Done’, Stephen Denning, 2018.
Since the pandemic disrupted the world, organisations worldwide have been turning to the principles and practices of Agile to help them adapt and pivot to meet the needs of an increasingly challenging business context. We’re excited to be running PRINCE2 Agile courses throughout the year to provide the foundation needed for Agile Project Management success. We’d love to see you on our courses but, if you’d rather do some reading-up on your own first, we’ve created a list of 5 books we recommend would be a great starting point.
Steve Denning has written several business books about Agile management, leadership and innovation. He writes regular blogs for Forbes.com – we quite often give you links to these valuable quick reads on our Twitter feed, so watch out for that!
The Age of Agile
Don’t make the mistake of thinking ‘The Age of Agile’ is about IT or software development. Yes, it references those disciplines but its value extends far beyond. Steve Denning is demonstrating what it takes to create true ‘business agility’ – any business, any sector, any job role. There’s no doubt that the dominance of the internet and the necessary digitisation of businesses is giving customers more access to information and so more power. Steve Denning suggests this is comparable to the Copernican Revolution in astronomy.
If your history is as bad as ours, you may need a reminder here! Copernicus caused a bit of a stir back in 1539 when he suggested the earth revolves around the sun. There are implications from this – if the sun is the centre of the universe and not the earth, then the importance our 16th.century peers were placing on mankind (the divine right of kings and so on) needed to be adjusted!
For years, businesses have focused on themselves as the centre of their operations – they’ve been thinking in what Denning calls a ‘firm-centric’ way; creating products and services and then encouraging customers to buy them. Here’s a quote from the book:
‘It is no longer enough for the firm to do its best for the customer within the constraints of its own internal systems and processes. Now, if customers are not being delighted, the firm needs to adjust those internal systems and processes to generate better customer outcomes. Slogans like “the customer is number one” are no longer slogans. They are the unforgiving reality of the post-Copernican marketplace. Now, the customer truly is number one. If internal systems, processes, goals, values, or culture are getting in the way of making that a reality, they must be changed. The customer—collectively—is now the boss.’
The PRINCE2 Agile course includes learning about both Kanban and Scrum, encouraging an overall understanding of agility within the PRINCE2 framework. Denning himself proposes ‘The Law of the Small Team concerns a mindset, not a specific set of tools and processes’.
Get work done
This book covers the application of Agile principles from the perspective of organisational structure and systems, strategic agility, the importance of culture and ‘management traps’. Denning explains Agile both as a mindset and as a process for workflow. He takes us through the practices, principles and the values of Agile, using stories from the real-world. You’ll find both practical examples – of what it means to work in sprints for instance – and intellectual challenges around key topics such as how to align your teams to be more effective in delivering around their shared goals.
As the title of this book reminds us, an Agile approach is about ‘transforming the way work gets done’. Denning highlights the importance of the word ‘done’, pulling out the transformative power of how an Agile approach helps ‘teams get work fully “done,” not just “almost finished”.
We’re amidst a revolution. This book was written a long time before the pandemic, and now the transformation of ‘internal systems, processes, goals and values’ is more pressing than ever. Organisations are re-evaluating how they do business, together with the efficiency and effectiveness of their systems and workflows. PRINCE2 Agile is a great start.
Get work fully “done,” not just “almost finished”
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