The intersection of technology and leadership

Book Review: Agile Adoption Patterns

Agile Adoption PatternsI will confess at the outset of this review that I did not buy the Agile Adoption Patterns book, rather it was sent to me by the author (Amr Elssamadisy) whom I’d met a few years ago at XP2006. I intended for my review to be as independent as possible but wanted any readers to recognise the potential for bias given the context. The history of the book is an interesting one, combining the author’s own experiences with that of many agile practitioners derived from workshops that he ran at many agile/xp conferences over the course of several years. The benefits for the reader is that it captures the lessons learned of a collective crowd from a number of different contexts, something difficult for a single person to achieve on their own. One side effect of this is that the practices are a little self selecting with many of the practices biased towards XP and Scrum practices (and less of those originating from FDD, DSDM or lean).

I ended up reading this book twice before writing this, although the first time I simply flipped through it lightly to get a feel for the book. I remember distinctly thinking, ‘Yet another book on agile practices? Do I really want to spend more time reading through it?’ The second time, with much more time on a train, I’m glad I did as the author spends a lot of effort setting the context for how to go about using the book.

Given the content, I do feel the title of the book slightly misleading as it talks less about patterns in which people successfully (or unsuccessfully) adopted agile as a whole. Though a good book at what it does, I think it would have been better called, “A framework for adopting agile practices” or “Patterns of agile practice adoption” given its emphasis on the practices and less so on the principles behind them. For me, I find it’s important people recognise the difference between practices (good for beginners during the Shu learning phase) and principles and values (better for the Ha and Ri learning phases) and I’m a little disappointed that little of this seemed emphasised. Of course, this book is not targeted at seasoned agile practitioners, so it fits the audience. I think it bothers me that people thinking that adopting practices alone automatically makes them agile especially when you consider sustainable agile in organisations.

Structurally, the author lays the book out well, setting the context and history of the book and the intended audience. Although he mentions it’s not useful for advanced practitioners, I do think there is value as a means of diagnosing smells in practices for teams that already implement the individual practices. To get the most of out, I would recommend they simply jump to the practices they’re using to see if they recognise any signs of the smells described.

I like the format and I do believe this book contains a lot of useful information although suffers from a small set of problems. One of them is that it suffers the same problem many other pattern books do – it’s a great reference over time, yet a little too repetitive to read in one sitting. Another is that I think this is a great reference for people starting, yet leaves a gap about what to do when you get some of the practices implemented. Often I find some practices are great intermediate practices (iterations and time boxing as a way of developing rhythm) yet doesn’t detail what people should do to ensure agile is sustainable in the long term (dropping practices, and developing their own). My only other issue, as minor as it feels, is that the aesthetics of the book feel really dated, with many of the diagrams and the cover feeling like a textbook I would have used for university.

On the plus side, the author presents a simple, clear and step framework for people to follow when looking at a wealth of agile practices. It’s not prescriptive, and gives a balanced perspective by describing the benefits and the possible less desirable side effects of an individual practice and highlighting the impact of wrongly applying a practice in the wrong context. This is a great addition to the large body of literature on agile that will prove useful for early adopters.

1 Comment

  1. Amr Elssamadisy

    Hi Patrick,

    First of all, thank you so much for taking the time to read the book – twice – and then writing the review. Let me first start by agreeing with some of the issues you brought up: (1) the patterns catalog is not good for reading in one sitting, (2) the aesthetics are a bit outdated – graphics have never been my strong point 🙂

    I would like to point out a couple of points where you make valid comments, but I had something else in mind when I was writing the book:

    First of all, the focus on Agile values and principles – or lack thereof – is really not the point at all. Being agile should never be the point. That’s why there is a huge focus on first getting clarity on business goals and/or process smells. As long as you are continually improving business goals and removing painful smells, the values and principles will show up by themselves. And if not, no problems – you’ve met your goals. The focus are not Agile practices, they are a means to an end, the focus is improving business goals (and hence the title).

    Secondly, the lack of telling the reader what to do to make things sustainable. You may of missed it, but it’s really quite simple, you run your adoption as an Agile project. You create a backlog of goals, iterate through them by adopting and adapting practices, revisit regularly if you’ve met your goals (or not), and then tweak your practices. That’s how to keep things sustainable – again practices are a second order issue.

    Thanks again for taking the time and effort Patrick – Amr

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

© 2024 patkua@work

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑