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Book Review: Becoming Agile in an Imperfect World

Title: Becoming Agile: …in an imperfect world
Authors: Greg Smith and Ahmed Sidky

Rating: 4 Stars (more info)

Overview: “Becoming Agile” is a good book that focuses on organization transition to Agile from an existing traditional methodology. On the whole, the book is a wonderful case study of an Agile pilot project, with detailed examples of how to plan, estimate, and implement, and adapt an Agile project.

What I Liked:

  • The authors spend time point out that Agile is more of a mindset and not a set of practices and processes.
  • This mindset is enforced by the Agile Manifesto value and principles.
  • There is good discussion about the paradigm shift required to go from a plan-driven mentality to value-driven mentality.
  • Emphasis on an incremental Agile adoption (vs all-at-once) approach to how to focus on changing select practices that will provide the most benefit.
  • The inclusion of an agile-readiness assessment, to assist with the identification of key change areas.
  • The authors share their extensive experience with Agile adoption, providing many real-life examples.
  • I enjoyed their tradeoff matrix (page 145-147) that helped to show how a project can determine what is important to them between factors such as resources, schedule, scope, and costs.

What I Didn’t Like:

  • The readiness assessment tool is contained in the book, but it also states that it can be found online. Unfortunately, the URL is a professional business card for one of the authors and no assessment is available to view or download. How hard is it to have an Excel file available for download? It makes me think the tool has zero value, especially if the author won’t even make it available.
  • The case study implements a five day period between iterations that allows for such activities as demos, load testing, conducting the retrospective, and finish testing. I don’t agree with this suggestion, but could see how one could visualize a day or two between sprints to conduct the demo and retrospective. However, I strenuously object1 to allowing basic testing to be finished during this period and the teams are not meeting the most simplistic version of “definition of done”.


  • “The team will be busy enough reacting to the change; they don’t need any additional hassles from the process.” (p. 102)
  • “Code is worthless if it does not support the customer’s needs.” (p.209)

1 Yes, this is a reference to Demi Moore’s character from “A Few Good Men”. I personally find the movie to be a 90’s classic with memorable and quoteable dialog.

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