Book Review: Being Agile

This is book review of Mario Moreira‘s 2013 book Being Agile: Your Adoption to Successful Adoption of Agile. Don’t let the date fool you, this book has aged like good wine.

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Beginning to read Moreira’s book in February 2019 I expected to find antiqued agile recipes since the book was release already in 2013. To my surprise the book felt fresh and none of the concepts presented felt deprecated in time. From my experience as Agile Coach, the book contained nothing where I would have said “Wrong!” but many points where I went “Wow, interesting way too look at this…”.

Such wow-moments for me were when Moreira passionately writes about the differences of doing and being agile or when he uses an interesting real life metaphor relating agile journey. His simple visual tool for talking with leadership about agility and the way he looks at organization’s roles (inside and outside agile core) is also worth mentioning. Moreira’s own Agile Deployment Model “Readiness, Implement, Coach, Hone” is elegant in its simplicity.

Moreira also introduced me to a few things I didn’t know previously, such as VFQ-Model and Agility Path, so those were interesting. The chapters on metrics, surveys and customer profiles were especially good and approached with a new angle. Mapping organizational readiness with a survey based of agile principles was also new to me in this form, quite nice indeed! The quotes before the chapters were spot on, almost all of them new to me, which is surprising because I am the biggest quote geek ever. Case studies in the last chapter were nice bonus.

The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.
Albert Einstein

From the raw page count the “readiness assessment” part is mostly interacted with and actual implementation and coaching parts are more succinct. I admit at parts he could have gone deeper. For me such part was coaching. He does mention coaching many times and even lists different coaching activities (eg. in-session coaching, grooming in-house talent, coaching circles) but yet doesn’t really explain how to do that in practical terms. In other areas that didn’t annoy (or disappoint) me but here it felt somewhat shallow.

However, this is not a coaching book, per se, so we can find coaching advice elsewhere. We also must remember Moreira does make a solid case for an Agile Coach role already in 2013, when the role was still non-existent (at least in Europe)! Kudos for that level of forward thinking.

Moreira writes well, and clearly articulates from a position of experience. The book is divided into 24 chapters, and each is readable as a single. His style is succint and to the point, which I like. Especially informative were the many diagrams, purposeful and clear. (Btw, the only error I could spot in the whole book was in one diagram, namely Fig. 12-1, where instead “Scrum Team” should have read “Dev Team”…but that’s small potatoes)

Moreira clearly has chosen his writing style to be slightly prescriptive, as he uses many bullet points to list preferred (or expected) manner of things. I suspect this might not be to everybody’s liking. I believe though his angles cater most practical and philosophical needs. I like that when Moreira talks “outside of agile”, he tells readers which discipline he’s borrowing from. When he eg. is talking about waste, value-added work and non-value added work, he refers the source being lean thinking.

I read the book in three days, whilst making study notes of each chapter. This book is unlike any other agile book. It’s prescriptive, sure, but it also allows one to fill in the gaps with own thinking. I think this book just made me a better agilist and this I can’t say from every agile book. I feel somehow “more rounded” and “more confident” than before, hard to describe it actually, and this happens seldom so I’m intrigued by my reaction to the book. I guess the book confirmed some of my assumptions and painted an overarching and understandable landscape of agile.

These kind of books make one feel alive again and cement the relationship with one’s craft.

Needles to say I loved the book, and will be re-visiting it often. These kind of books make one feel alive again and cement the relationship with one’s craft. Thank you Mr Moreira. Five stars.

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