Verifying Motivators
The Certification Debate

Prioritized Reading List

Prioritized_reading_list_1Jim Highsmith recently posted a reference to a CIO Magazine article entitled “30 Books That Can Make You a Better Leader”.

Jim was floating the idea of an APLN recommended reading list which I think would be a great resource and discussion point for the group. I hope it happens and have volunteered to help get it started.

In the mean time, it got me thinking about what books I would recommend. The CIO Magazine’s recommended list was...

1 Adler: How to Read a Book
2 Boyatzis & McKee: Resonant Leadership
3 Kotter: Heart of Change
4 Bridges: Managing Transitions
5 Buckingham: First Break all the Rules
6 Dotlich, Noel and Walker: Leadership Passages
7 Conger: Winning ‘Em Over
8 DePree: Leadership is an Art
9 Frankl: Man’s Search for Meaning
10 Friedman: The World is Flat
11 George: Authentic Leadership
12 Ghandi: the video
13 Goleman: Working with Emotional Intelligence
14 Hammerschlag: The Theft of the Spirit
15 Jamison: Nibble Theory
16 Katzenbach: The Wisdom of Teams
17 Lencioni: Death by Meeting:
18 Machiavelli: The Prince
19 Mackenzie: Orbiting the Giant Hairball
20 Marquardt: Leading with Questions
21 O’Toole: Creating the Good Life
22 Patterson: Crucial Conversations
23 Rousseau & Cranston: The Social Contract
24 Shafir: The Zen of Listening
25 Jaworski: Synchronicity
26 Useem: Leadership Moment
27 Wallis: Two Old Women
28 Whyte: The Heart Aroused
29 Ishiguro: Never Let Me Go
30 Michalko: Thinkertoys

Which contains many greats and lots I have not read, but will certainly look out for now. My top 30 for agile project leadership would be:

1. Anderson: Agile Management for Software Engineering
2. Augustine: Managing Agile Projects
3. Avery: Teamwork Is an Individual Skill
4. Bennis: On Becoming a Leader
5. Boehm, Turner:  Balancing Agility and Discipline: A Guide for the Perplexed
6. Brown, McCormick, Thomas: Anti Patterns in Project Management
7. Buckingham, Coffman: First, Break All The Rules
8. Cockburn: Agile Software Development
9. Collins: Good to Great
10. Covey: The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness
11. DeCarlo: Extreme Project Management
12. DeMarco, Lister: Peopleware, Productive Projects and Teams
13. Goleman: Primal Leadership: learning to lead with Emotional Intelligence
14. Highsmith: Agile Project Management: Creating Innovative Products
15. Immelman: Great Boss, Dead Boss
16. Kouzes, Posner: The Leadership Challenge
17. Larman: Agile and Iterative Development: A Manager's Guide
18. Lencioni: Five Dysfunctions of a Team
19. Lewis: Project Leadership
20. McConnell: Rapid Development: Taming Wild Software Schedules
21. Palmer, Felsing: Feature Driven Development
22. Pinto: Project Leadership: From Theory to Practice
23. Poppendieck: Lean Software Development: An Agile Toolkit
24. Reinertsen: Managing the Design Factory
25. Royce: Software Project Management, A Unified framework
26. Schmaltz: The Blind Men and the Elephant: Mastering Project Work
27. Schwaber, Beedle: Agile Software Development with Scrum
28. Semler: The Seven Day Weekend: Changing the way work works
29. Smith, Reinertsen: Developing Products in Half the Time: New Rules, New Tools
30. Thomsett: Radical Project Management

However, I wonder how realistic is it that aspiring leaders will sit down and read 30 books? Not everyone has the time to read as much as they may like to. I think a more useful (and challenging) activity would be to create a list of only 3 books to recommend. This is a more realistic target for most people and forces some hard decisions about what to select.

So, prioritizing our reading backlog, what are the highest priority books for our next reading iteration? I would offer the following:

1) Reinertsen: Managing the Design Factory – Although not an agile book, I believe it covers the mechanics and theory of iterative development better than any of the agile texts. Cumulative flow diagrams, queues, knowledge-worker tendencies (gold-plating, estimating anomalies, etc) all get great treatment and clear descriptions. A classic gem everyone in the agile world should read.

2) Kouzes, Posner: The Leadership Challenge – Great for understanding the roles and activities leaders should aspire to. It covers guidelines for leadership practices and is all backed up with years of research and a variety of case studies and real life anecdotes.

3) Immelman: Great Boss, Dead Boss – Once you understand what you are supposed to do and how you are supposed to do it (the first two books) Great Boss, Dead Boss will explain why individuals and teams behave as they do and how to create productive work places. It is written in the story style of “The Goal”, which not everyone enjoys, but contains a wealth of extremely valuable insights into team dynamics.

Obviously, this is just my top three; please tell me what you think. What three books would you recommend as the best for agile project leadership, and why?


Scott Hughes

That's a long list. I don't think I can read all of those books, but I'll try to read a few.

Scott Hughes


I've read some of the books here, and I definitely agree that they should be there. I would like to suggest an addition, however. It falls more into the inspirational category than the factual, and isn't really a project management or agile book. The title would indicate a leadership book, but I think it goes quite some distance beyond that. I would highly recommend this book to anyone (although, yes, it would be especially beneficial to those in a leadership position).

Secretan, Lance: ONE The Art and Practice of Conscious Leadership

Mike Griffiths

Hi Olivier,

Thanks for the suggestion of "ONE: The Art and Practice of Conscious Leadership". This is a book that I had not come across before, but from your recommendation, and reading the Amazon reviews, it look like a great read. I will add it to my next book order!

Many thanks

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