Scrum and XP from the Trenches

Henrik Kniberg (2007)
Review date: July, 2008
Summary

A zero-overhead book on how a Scrum master governs his implementation of the Scrum framework. This book doesn't try to explain any Scrum theory. It really and honestly tells the story of how a couple of teams do their Scrum. In fact, all chapters start with "How we...".

17 chapters spread over roughly 130 pages provide for a concise treatment of the contents. Nonetheless, the book treats all aspects of Scrum, beginning with Sprint planning, ending with more complex issues such as multiple Scrum teams and different team locations. In between, topics such as time estimating, daily stand ups, team room arrangement, and retrospectives are covered.

All chapters follow, the same structure. Without going into details about any particular Scrum activity, the author explains how his team performs the activity, some alternative approaches he has tried and why they failed (unfortunately this is not always explained), and some additional insights. Simple in reading, lots of information, and yet easy to absorb.

Opinion

First of all, this book must be awarded for its 0% bullshit factor. Its chapters are short, and really focus on the issues. This kind of book is perfect for speed reading. You read everything, don't miss a thing, and get everything. In other words, this is a reading-friendly book.

What can we say about the contents then? Let's start with the minus side, since it's short. Once in a while the author says something like: "We have experimented with thing Z and done X, Y, W. In the end we decided that Y was the best way". Initially I found this a bit disturbing, wanting to know more about the reasons for deciding on a particular solution. After reading a couple of chapters, I got the impression that this kind of referencing was used less frequently. Maybe I just got used to the style. This is pretty much the only negative thing I have to say.

The positive things will differ from reader to reader depending on the experience with Scrum. There will definitively be some ahas!

Personally, I found the discussion of the following topics interesting:

  1. internal versus external quality. It's easy to find texts on quality that define it in terms of a dozen variables, but plainly: internal quality = good code, external quality = bells and whistles in the UI (my interpretation) are rarely found.
  2. Planning poker. Solves the problem of collective time estimation. Maybe this is widely known and obvious to everybody, but we don't use it on my team.
  3. Motivation of why to have a sprint demo.
  4. The catchiest description of TDD EVER! Goes like: TDD is hard, most people will not get it :) So true, so insightful.
  5. Quality, testing, and acceptance.
  6. Firefighting teams. Yes, such are needed sometimes, and they help in starting shielded sprints.

This list is rather personal, based on my experience with Scrum, but I'm sure that any reader will find his/hers pet chapters.

Finally, this book can be downloaded for free, but I almost suggest that you buy it to give the author support for a fine piece of work.

Who should read this book

The best target audience is people who have worked with Scrum for a while. In such cases this book will give new angles on things and may inspire some changes. Both Scrum masters and team members will find this book usable. A must read!




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