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Part 1: Agile planning books round-up

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Book review In the last couple of articles I wrote about the problems addressed by agile planning, and the sometimes problematic nature of the approach itself. Perhaps it's not so surprising that for such a relatively new subject, much has been written about it.

The following books are either specifically about agile planning, or are about agile project management and therefore have something to say about planning as well. They're presented here in the order that they fell off my overcrowded bookshelf:

  • Agile Estimating and Planning
    Mike Cohn; Prentice-Hall, 2005

    This book has an XP flavour because it talks about user stories and project velocity. But its wisdom can be applied to just about any agile project. It begins with an outline of the purpose of planning - what makes a good plan, and what makes planning agile. There are also chapters on why planning fails, and why, by contrast, agile planning (ostensibly) works.

  • Planning Extreme Programming
    Kent Beck and Martin Fowler; Addison-Wesley, 2000.

    If any book is really going to have an XP flavour, it's this one. This title explains the XP "planning game" in detail, and basically describes how to plan an XP project - assuming you're into that sort of thing. Unfortunately, this book seems to have gone out of print recently, but may be available second-hand – the web is your friend.

  • Managing Agile Projects
    Sanjiv Augustine; Prentice-Hall, 2005.

    Near the end of this book, Augustine rightly disparages the myth of the "perfect plan":

    "This perfect plan, as the legend goes, lists every task for every required milestone. It identifies all dependencies between said tasks. It uncovers all risk and levels all resources. It yields nearly perfect level of effort estimates within + or -1 percent of the final figures. The lure of the perfect plan concept is strong. Its attraction gets even stronger when risk is high and projects are complex."

    Truth be told, I found this book to be rather a dry read. I also got the impression that the author was repeatedly trying to tell me how clever and knowledgeable he is: with comments like: "Communities of practice are human kind's natural system for the ownership of knowledge and its management," instead of just saying: "Like-minded people tend to learn from each other."

    Once I realised this, I found the book quite fun to read, but for the wrong reason. If you're prepared to get past sentences like: "Organic teams require the design of holographic structure to reproduce the bureaucracy's stability and management of work while avoiding its stated dysfunctions", then you might extract some value from this book: but I was too busy laughing (yes, I know that says more about me than it does about the book...)

  • Agile Software Development, Second Edition
    Alistair Cockburn; Addison-Wesley, 2006.

    This book is primarily about the people side of agile development, although it does have a few tidbits here and there about agile planning; e.g. a discussion of the effects of plan-driven projects. There's a Reg Developer review by Pan Pantziarka here.

Check back in a couple of weeks for Part 2 of this agile planning books round-up.

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