Agile Coaching by Rachel Davies and Liz Sedley is a category A book. Books I read come in four categories. OK, that’s not true—books I buy but not read are category D. Books I start reading but somehow don’t get around to or take long to finish are category C. Most books I like are category B—I read them, like them, continue reading, but as I’m always reading some 10 books at a time, the experience is stretched… Then there’s category A. These are books where the reading experience is best described as devouring the book.
What it’s about
Well, you might guess from the title—this book is intended for the agile coach. If you don’t know what that is, just don’t read on or look elsewhere. Chances are, you’ll find this book or it’s authors’ pages, but, hey…
I met Rachel at the Scrum Gathering in Munich, a few weeks ago. We met in the dialog room, which was intended for practical advice and discussion around Scrum, and hosted a few sessions on retrospective techniques. Rachel mentioned that book she wrote, I ordered it immediately, and then was hooked. With or in the book, I mean. It’s a small book—you probably could read it in an evening, a little over 200 pages. But it is so full of practical and pragmatic advice, that I don’t know where to start…
The book sports a foreword by Sir Ron Jeffries (knight of my honor), which ends with the advice to read “one book per month about our profession. My advice is to start with this one. You’ll be glad you did.” In my experience, it always pays off to listen to Ron’s advice. If that’s not enough for you, read on.
The book is divided into four parts: Coaching Basics, Planning as a Team, Caring About Quality and Listening to Feedback. The basics cover team building and working with people, a coaching attitude and how to lead change. The most important goal for a coach is to help the team thrive without her—Rachel and Liz show you how to do that. Every chapter has at least one column titled “Liz Says…” or “Rachel Says…” where they share personal, practical experience, tips, obstacles and what helped, things like that. These columns contain a wealth of advice seldom found in that abundance. In chapter one, they share their PrOpER coaching cycle: Problem, Options, Experiment, Review, which is applied at various times throughout the book.
The second part covers agile planning, the different planning cycles from daily standup to releases, with very good ideas to keep planning visible and open. Part III, Caring About Quality, covers the definition of Done, imo the single most important concept in understanding Scrum (my interpretation: Rachel and Liz explain a “generic” Agile process, I like it more specific. But that’s just taste). The tips for TDD and clean code are concise, practical and simply good.
Don’t forget yourself
Part IV, Listening to Feedback, covers retrospectives, demos, and my personal favourite, Growing You. How do you care for yourself as a coach to be able to sustain your work and to stay a good coach? If you only have time for one chapter (10 pages), read this. It might make you change the way you organise your work. Or your life. Read this book.