Minimum Reading List for an Agile Transition

Welcome! I hope you enjoy your agile transition.

Some people think they can transition to agile by absorbing the vocabulary from the “ether.” When I help those people, they discover they are missing key concepts. You will need to read and practice significant changes for your agile transition.

This is a minimum reading list. This is not everything you could read, not at all. This reading list is in addition to my talk, Agile Projects, Programs, and Portfolio: No Air Quotes Required. After the talk, I will post the slides here.

I hope, with the help of readers and commenters, that you will help me add books and articles over time. However, I would like to keep the main page to a minimum reading list. The page does people no good if it's overwhelming.

Thank you.


You should read the Scrum Guide on However, that's not enough to learn how to use Scrum. (Well, not in my opinion.) Read a Scrum book. There are plenty out there. I read the original Schwaber and Beedle book: Agile Software Development with Scrum (Series in Agile Software Development).


When I first started doing agile, I knew I couldn't do more than one thing at a time. It turns out I did know about kanban, I didn't know the name. David Anderson's Kanban book will tell you more than just the name.


Iterations and increments are not enough. If you don't incorporate the engineering practices and keep your code clean as you develop your features, you will not succeed. You need to do learn how to do this. The (classic) book I have is: Extreme Programming Explained: Embrace Change, 2nd Edition. I have the first edition. Yes, I am linking to the second edition. Let's embrace some change here.

Project Portfolio Management:

One of the problems when you transition to agile is that you must commit to doing one project at a time, with one project team. No multitasking. You can learn to flow work through teams. This is difficult for many managers. My book, Manage Your Project Portfolio: Increase Your Capacity and Finish More Projects explains how.

User Stories:

Mike Cohn's book User Stories Applied: For Agile Software Development is a classic.

I also like George Dinwiddie's handout about how to make user stories smaller.


Mike Cohn has another classic: Agile Estimating and Planning.

Information Radiators:

I like Ron Jeffries' article Big Visible Charts. You could read everything Ron has to say. If you disagree with him, put aside your disagreement for now, and try what he says for a month or two. Once you've tried it his way, really tried it, and removed all your obstacles so you can try it, then you might have the experience to disagree with him.


Agile Retrospectives: Making Good Teams Great. I wish I had a penny for every time I suggested this book. They really should pay me for this, but they don't. Oh well. If you only get one retrospective book, get this one. It's awesome.

Other Reading

You might consider reading Manage It! Your Guide to Modern, Pragmatic Project Management if you don't know how to charter a project, or if you don't know how to use iterations, or work incrementally. Or, if you don't know how to be a servant leader project manager.

If you want to be a servant leader manager, read Behind Closed Doors: Secrets of Great Management.

If you want to get into the mindset of learning through experimentation, read Eric Ries' The Lean Startup: How Today's Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses. It's not just for software.

Tobias Mayer has created a terrific resource site that is more than a minimal reading list. See

General Notes About My Recommendations

If you have taken training from a trainer, and you have his or her books, terrific. Use their book(s). If you have bought other books, wonderful. I have about 75 or 80 books in my agile library. Yes, my agile library. As I said, this is the minimum reading you should do. If you have other, better books, that is wonderful. There are many other books I wanted to tell you to read.

For example, you could go to the Pragmatic Bookshelf, buy any of the agile books there, and be very happy. No doubt about it. I wanted to point you to the original texts, the ones I read at the start of my agile journey. Is that the right thing? I don't know. I'm working on providing the minimal reading list. As with providing a minimum viable product, (MVP), this is a difficult thing to do.

16 thoughts on “Minimum Reading List for an Agile Transition”

  1. Harry Nieboer

    Hi Johanna,

    Like your (still a bit long) list. I would add Lean from the trenches by Henrik Kniberg is a book that helps people seeing kanban and scrum combined . All managers love the book.
    A new one is then book on Story Mapping by Jeff Patton. Finally he wrote a book and it is well worth reading. As you might suspect, Jeff has some things to say to people “doing Agile” . A book that radically changed my thinking about agile is Specification by Example by Gojko Adzic. Basically anything from Gojko is worth reading.

    1. Hi Harry. I’m concerned my list is long.

      I’m glad you commented, because I respect both Jeff and Gojko. I’m not going to add their books above, because I do think my list is already too long. Sigh. However, for people who want to read more, I can highly recommend these two books also.

    1. Hi Earl, well, I did learn about Scrum many years ago. I would not suggest Rubin’s book. I would suggest a different Schwaber book, if I decided to update the books.

      I wanted people to realize that there is value in some of the original books. There are many Scrum books. I have not read Rubin’s books, so I do not recommend Rubin.

  2. Christo Martens

    Hi Johanna,
    Have you read ‘This is agile’ a book by Sander Hoogendoorn. This is an easy to read book that describes a lot of agile aspects, without focussing on a specific agile approach. It answers questions for all kind of roles that are involved in agile projects. With the use of examples, the author makes the agile essentials clear.

    This book, which is also available in German and Dutch, is to my opnion a great book to start with.

    1. HI Christo, another book I have not read! I am wondering, even with my extensive agile library, if there are more books I have not read 🙂

      I’m considering putting the books I wanted to put on this list but didn’t want to add to a MVP 🙂

  3. Mike Engstrom

    2 additional books that I usually recommend are Coaching Agile Teams (Lyssa Adkins) to help Scrum Masters and Agile Product Management with Scrum (Roman Pichler) to help Product Owners.

    1. HI Mike, I can see I am going to have to do something about this list.

      First, I think I’m going to do a rev, where I add the updated books I would suggest now, as in 2014 :-). Then, “Here are books and articles that you should read for coaching, product owners, product managers, middle managers, etc.”

      Maybe do a MVP, and then a roadmap reading list. Just like a real product… Thanks so much.

  4. Hi Johanna. I’ve started a journey on transforming an existing big retail corporation software development team to an agile delivery team. It’s been an interesting first year. My project manager recommended a book called “The E-Myth Revisited” which is a business related book. But I found that it’s main point, creating systems, has been very valuable in my journey to transforming this team. It’s not specific to agile, but I’m finding that the idea of creating a system has really taken me to the next level in my journey. So I offer this as a suggested book to add.

    1. Hi Lepine, Well, believe it! I am fallible, as fallible as the next human. I think of Deming as required general management reading, not specifically for an agile transition. Maybe that’s me being naive, eh?

    1. Hi Gebhard, You and I do not understand agile in the same way. The way I understand agile, it is more professional and leads to less of what you call maintenance. I’m not sure what you think is agile.

  5. Hello Johanna,

    Enjoyed your session this morning at Agile 2014 and glad you liked my turquoise shirt! 🙂

    Another book I recommend is “Future Search” by Marvin Weisbord and Sandra Janoff. It deals with getting everyone involved in developing vision and clarity around the future.

    1. Hi Charles, thanks for being there. So glad you liked my session. (Grin!)

      I have not yet read Future Search. I will put it on my reading list. Thanks for this one. I like learning about new books.

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