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In many cases, the end of the year gives you time to step back and take stock of the last 12 months. This is when many of us take a hard look at what worked and what did not, complete performance reviews, and formulate plans for the coming year. For me, it is all of those things plus a time when I u...
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Book Review: Essential Scrum
A Practical Guide to the Most Popular Agile Process, Addison-Wesley Signature Series (Cohn)

This book's title Essentials Scrum: A Practical Guide to the Most Popular Agile Process, is a perfect description of what this book is. It covers every essential that you need to know about the scrum process, and the book is written to every role in the scrum process.

After a nice introductory chapter to Scrum, which includes the history of how Scrum came to be, the book breaks down into four parts. They include Core Concepts, Roles, Planning, and Sprinting. I have listed each part below along with the chapters found in each one.

Chapter 1. Introduction

Part I. Core Concepts
Chapter 2. Scrum Framework
Chapter 3. Agile Principles
Chapter 4. Sprints
Chapter 5. Requirements and User Stories
Chapter 6. Product Backlog
Chapter 7. Estimation and Velocity
Chapter 8. Technical Debt

Part II. Roles
Chapter 9. Product Owner
Chapter 10. ScrumMaster
Chapter 11. Development Team
Chapter 12. Scrum Team Structures
Chapter 13. Managers

Part III. Planning
Chapter 14. Scrum Planning Principles
Chapter 15. Multilevel Planning
Chapter 16. Portfolio Planning
Chapter 17. Envisioning (Product Planning)
Chapter 18. Release Planning (Longer-Term Planning)

Part IV. Sprinting
Chapter 19. Sprint Planning
Chapter 20. Sprint Execution
Chapter 21. Sprint Review
Chapter 22. Sprint Retrospective
Chapter 23. The Path Forward

The author's advice on when to use Scrum is a refreshing one. He is not one of the many Scrum zealots, mindlessly regurgitating Scrum mantras. He gives a nice overview of where Scrum works and where it doesn't in the introduction of the book. He also presents a realistic view on how difficult Scrum is. Scrum is not easy and the author makes that very clear.

One of the coolest parts of this book is the visual icon language used to create the diagrams. The diagrams in this book are some of the best I've ever seen. They really help to put the topic being covered with words into a visual context for better understanding.

The author's writing style is great, which makes the book an enjoyable read. Along with the visual icon language I would have to say this is the most descriptive book about Scrum I have read. Meaning the ideas were really drilled home in a very clear way.

The chapter on agile principles is great. The author really does a great job of comparing agile practice to plan driven practices and highlighting the difference. By the end of this chapter you have a great understand of the "why" agile practices are done and how Scrum implements them.

I was also glad to see the chapters on Multilevel Planning , Portfolio Planning, Envisioning, and Release Planning. When it comes to explaining how Scrum fits into the rest of the enterprise, many of the Scrum books I have read have a short blurb on Scrum of Scrums, and then move on back into topics only suited for small team development. These chapters take Scrum beyond small team development.

I like that the book has a really nice glossary for quick look ups of buzz words that may be new to you.

If you have to pick just one Scrum book, make this one your pick. If you are looking to learn Scrum, definitely start here. If you are a Scrum Master, this is the book to take your team through during training.


Essential Scrum: A Practical Guide to the Most Popular Agile Process

About Tad Anderson
Tad Anderson has been doing Software Architecture for 18 years and Enterprise Architecture for the past few.

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