Agile Medication Revisited

I recently was asked by a friend to provide a book recommendation for executives that want to learn about Agile fundamentals.

Here is what I offered as guidance. This has everything to do with OpenSpace Agility, which is a method of introducing Agile change that focuses on principles and stops well short of prescribing practices. Here we go: The question from a friend….

“If you were to recommend just one book on Agile/Scrum Methodologies, what would they be?

“This is for a client CEO to give to his senior leaders. Looking for intro to principles and practices especially as it relates to driving innovation, digital UX design, and collaborative, high-performance culture.”


People (and especially those very “busy” formally authorized leaders) often want A-B-C prescriptions that relieve pain, now. The problem of course is that the actual root causes of the pain do remain. Right? This is an especially acute condition across the wider world of Agile today. The focus on practices eventually becomes a very big problem.

If and when the core underlying principles (which actually power those practices) are ignored, expect troublesome side effects. Ditto for the ignoring the Agile values, which power those Agile principles.

Michael, I cannot offer you a design-thinking book however I can tell you that core-values and supporting principles are far more important that practices where Agile is concerned. This is true regardless of the context of where the work is performed (software work, or “agile beyond software” aka “Lean-Startup applications.”)

The core of the Agile thing is expressed in the Agile Manifesto. Teach them that. I’m concerned that if you hand them an Agile-practices book your client will not be served. Practices change. Principles don’t. This teaching is harder to deliver than a practices-gospel. It’s also much harder to receive. In service to my clients I offer them the Agile Manifesto as the definition of Agile we plan to use for the time being. If they are new to Agile thinking, start the discussion here and then lead them to a more mature conversation when they have digested these core fundamentals. The Manifesto is 15 years old and it still applies. There’s a reason for that.

Agile Manifesto

Here are some resources:

Understanding the Manifesto…/ref=cm_cr_arp_d_viewpnt_rgt…

The following book review is typical of those seeking immediate pain relief (medication) via an A-B-C prescription of practices. It just doesn’t work that way. There is no standard Agile implementation. As a leader, you are responsible for doing the hard work of creating a space where your people can define, tailor and customize your own program. That is the essence of effective agility. There is no pill you can take for this.

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See it?
This is the awkward message of OpenSpace Agility: if your Agile implementation is to have any chance of success whatsoever, you and your organization must take total responsibility for it. You must customize and tailor everything to fit your context. This requires some awkwardly honest conversations. The OpenSpace Agility method creates a space where these very awkward and very responsible conversations can actually happen.

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