I just finished my February book from my 2010 tech book reading list, so I thought I would share some thoughts on Lean Software Development: An Agile Toolkit by Mary and Tom Poppendieck before moving on to my March book, Clean Code by (Uncle) Bob Martin.
Rating - 1/2 (out of 5)
Prerequisites – This book doesn’t assume any prior knowledge, but it helps if you’re familiar with some basic Agile concepts. If you’re like me and prefer to have some mental hooks in place before starting a non-fiction book, then also take a few minutes to read the wiki summary page first.
- Easily Consumable – Unlike the vast majority of technical books, this one is well structured, concise, and well written. The authors package up the information in 7 easy principles and 22 tools which neatly correspond to chapters and subsections. Weighing in at a slim 180 pages, many of which contain easy-to-read project anecdotes, business novelettes, and case studies, the book can easily be read in the span of a week.
- Broadly Applicable – This book is all about concepts and principals that can can be applied incrementally to almost any scenario. In other words, you can still get value from it even if you don’t have the desire or the freedom to change your current development methodology.
- Management Genre – It has been a while since I’ve read Dante, but I’m pretty sure that at least one of the inner circles of hell is dedicated to making developers recursively read management drivel until they beg for mercy. While this book is very developer-centric and arguably has potential to greatly improve the quality of life for the average developer, it is still firmly grounded in the business-management genre and thus may inevitably irritate developers in a number of subtle ways.
- Too Vague at Times – While the focus on broadly applicable principles has its strengths, it could also be frustrating for someone who is looking for a more concrete and instructional guide to help them overhaul their Software Development Lifecycle. This book is probably best used in conjunction with other more detailed and prescriptive resources.
- Potentially Out-Dated – Despite being written in 2003, this book remains remarkably relevant. However, it is not at the forefront of Lean-inspired thinking these days and does not take into account the lessons learned from the front-line agilistas over the last 7 years. Based on some preliminary research, it appears that the current Lean-inspired trend is focused around Kanban, which you can find out more about here and here.
Conclusion – As long as none of my negative bullet points are deal breakers for you, then I would go ahead and recommend reading the book. If your bookshelf already over-floweth or you can’t justify spending another penny on tech books, then this might be a good one to “thoroughly browse” cover to cover at your local bookstore over a series of lunch breaks.
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