Book Club: Essential Scrum, by Ken Rubin
Every Thursday, I’ll be briefly reviewing a book that I find to be interesting, engaging, and valuable for Agile Faculty. Because the Agile Faculty mindset values exploration, curiosity, and multidisciplinarity, these resources will come from a variety of different areas that speak to a wide range of interests, including higher education, faculty development, Agile and Scrum, design thinking and creativity studies, and social innovation. And I’ll throw in a little bonus review of a piece of fiction or non-fiction I’m reading just for fun.
Today’s Book Club review is Essential Scrum: A Practical Guide to the Most Popular Agile Process, by Ken Rubin. Last week’s book, Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time, but Jeff Sutherland, is a useful text that covers the philosophy behind Agile, role of empirical control theory in Scrum, and the Scrum process itself, which is very accessible to those not in the tech industry. If you are looking for a more technical, software development-driven look at Scrum, Rubin’s book is the place to start. It’s a textbook for Scrum, published by Addison-Wesley through leading Scrum consultant Mike Cohn’s Signature Book series.
Rubin covers all aspects of Scrum in detail, supported by strong visuals and examples from his consulting work. He spends time explaining the foundations of Scrum and Agile principles that apply to iterative software development, offers chapters on every Scrum meeting and Scrum role, and really drills down into software-specific topics such as product requirements, technical debt, and product planning at multiple levels. It’s everything you ever wanted to know about Scrum from a technical perspective if you’ve never been introduced to Scrum before.
One of the things I really like about Rubin’s approach is the visuals. Though the text can get far down in the weeds sometimes and perhaps be not as interesting for non-technical people, he built a visual vocabulary for aspects of Scrum that really helps concepts make sense across the book. And, even better, Rubin makes his “AGILExicon” available for free on his consulting firm’s website. I’ve used his icons, with attribution, in a number of presentations I’ve given to faculty and students about Scrum, and the vivid icons really help capture the roles and the processes of Scrum very well.
So it you are looking for a one-stop text for the technical understanding of Scrum, I do recommend Rubin’s Essential Scrum – but treat it as a textbook to dip in and out of. There are shorter overviews out there if you aren’t interested in digging into the weeds. And there are other great texts that do deeper dives into aspects of the Scrum framework, especially related to the Scrum roles Scrum Master, Product Owner, and Agile Coach. I’ll review some of those more targeted texts in the future.
Completely Unrelated Bonus Review
Since watching The Martian a few years ago, I’ve been very interested in near-future science fiction related to space travel. I did go through a period as a child when I was convinced I was going to go to the Air Force Academy and then become an astronaut – thought this dream was totally fueled by one too many viewings of the movie Space Camp. Anyway, if you are interested in similar hard science scifi, I unreservedly recommend Neal Stephenson’s Seveneves (2016). The book explores what happens to Earth and humanity after a space rock hits and breaks up the moon. It follows the stories of several people, including a roboticist on the Space Station and her father, a geneticist, an Elon Musk-like entrepreneur, a Neal deGrasse Tyson-styled scientist, and the president of the United States. It’s a thick book – Stephenson has a penchant for diving into the minutiae of the technology being developed and used by the characters – if that’s not your style, it’s pretty easy to skim through those parts, but I found them fascinating. You don’t find out what the title means, or even how to pronounce it, until the very end, but it’s totally worth the journey to get there.