The intersection of technology and leadership

Book Review: Balancing Agility and Discipline

Balancing Agility and Discipline

I haven’t lived through as many methodologies that Boehm and Turner have, and as a result, their book offers an insights into what the industry has been through. For those who’ve only worked in an agile manner, it demonstrates some of the drivers of more rigorous process driven methods, and for those who’ve only worked in the latter style, shows what a more lightweight process brings to the table.

They even offer a model for you to assess to what degree you need to blend the two for your particular situation. I appreciate the model is driven through a risk analysis of your current situation, and they even acknowledge, albeit briefly, how you might move your organisation towards more agility or less when needed.

You definitely won’t agree with everything they say, yet don’t let that blind you to other important things they do have to say. For example, straight from the onset, I don’t see agility and discipline as two opposing forces. Perhaps agility and defined process is more appropriate. I also find it hard to believe some of the situations they describe, such as when the developer working in a waterfall style tracks how much time they spend, to the minute, designing, coding, on the phone, in meetings, etc. I think all developers I know struggle with a weekly timesheet, let alone tracking activities down to every minute of every hour.

Summary: Every agilista should read this book to gain a bit more of a balanced view of their world.


  1. Derek Organ

    sounds interesting, shall have a read. Getting the balance right can be tricky in my experience. I think the bigger the company the less agile you become which is well known. Often though small companies need more disipline as by there nature they are less disiplined.

  2. Adrian

    I haven’t read the book, but read the authors’ paper of the same title. I found it woefully misinformed and commented on my blog here.

    The authors attempt to assuage agile proponents by saying something like “when we say discipline, we’re not saying agile is not disciplined”, but …” and then continue to use the term.

    Perhaps their book is more balanced. Somehow I doubt it. I’ll wait until I can borrow a copy…

  3. Patrick

    Derek – thanks for your comment and I hope you learn something from it. As Adrian points out, some of what they say appears misinformed. I personally think there are some gems still in there.

    Adrian – I hope that you do get a chance to read the book. I haven’t seen the paper though I hope it’s progressed since then. Good luck!

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