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Succeeding with Agile: Software Development Using Scrum [Paperback]

Mike Cohn
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Book Description

Oct. 26 2009 0321579364 978-0321579362 1

Proven, 100% Practical Guidance for Making Scrum and Agile Work in Any Organization


This is the definitive, realistic, actionable guide to starting fast with Scrum and agile–and then succeeding over the long haul. Leading agile consultant and practitioner Mike Cohn presents detailed recommendations, powerful tips, and real-world case studies drawn from his unparalleled experience helping hundreds of software organizations make Scrum and agile work.


Succeeding with Agile is for pragmatic software professionals who want real answers to the most difficult challenges they face in implementing Scrum. Cohn covers every facet of the transition: getting started, helping individuals transition to new roles, structuring teams, scaling up, working with a distributed team, and finally, implementing effective metrics and continuous improvement.


Throughout, Cohn presents “Things to Try Now” sections based on his most successful advice. Complementary “Objection” sections reproduce typical conversations with those resisting change and offer practical guidance for addressing their concerns. Coverage includes 

  • Practical ways to get started immediately–and “get good” fast
  • Overcoming individual resistance to the changes Scrum requires
  • Staffing Scrum projects and building effective teams
  • Establishing “improvement communities” of people who are passionate about driving change
  • Choosing which agile technical practices to use or experiment with
  • Leading self-organizing teams
  • Making the most of Scrum sprints, planning, and quality techniques
  • Scaling Scrum to distributed, multiteam projects
  • Using Scrum on projects with complex sequential processes or challenging compliance and governance requirements
  • Understanding Scrum’s impact on HR, facilities, and project management

Whether you've completed a few sprints or multiple agile projects and whatever your role–manager, developer, coach, ScrumMaster, product owner, analyst, team lead, or project lead–this book will help you succeed with your very next project. Then, it will help you go much further: It will help you transform your entire development organization.


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Praise for Succeeding with Agile


“Understanding the mechanics of an agile process is just not enough. Mike Cohn has compiled a superb and comprehensive collection of advice that will help individuals and teams with the intricate task of adopting and adapting agile processes to fit their specific challenges. This book will become the definitive handbook for agile teams.”

Colin Bird, Global Head of Agile, EMC Consulting


“Mike Cohn’s experience working with so many different organizations in the adoption of agile methods shines through with practical approaches and valuable insights. If you really want agile methods to stick, this is the book to read.”

Jeff Honious, Vice President, Innovation, Reed Elsevier


“Mike Cohn has done it again. Succeeding with Agile is based on his experience, and all of our experience, with agile to date. He covers from the earliest days of the project up to maturity and offers advice for the individual, the team, and the enterprise. No matter where you are in the agile cycle, this book has something for you!”

Ron Jeffries,


“If you want to start or take the next step in agile software development, this book is for you. It discusses issues, great solutions, and helpful guidelines when scaling up in agile projects. We used the guidelines from this book extensively when we introduced agile in a large, FDA-regulated department.”

Christ Vriens, Department Head of MiPlaza, part of Philips Research


“If making the move to agile has always baffled you, then this book will unlock its mysteries. Mike Cohn gives us all the definitive, no-nonsense guide to transforming your organization into a high-powered, innovative, and competitive success.”

Steve Greene, Senior Director, Program Management and Agile Development,


“Mike Cohn is a great advisor for transforming your software organization. This book is a distillation of everything Mike has learned over the years working with companies that are trying to become more agile. If you are thinking of going agile, pick up this book.”

Christopher Fry, Ph.D., Vice President Development, Platform,


“Whether you’re just starting out or have some Scrum experience under your belt, in Succeeding with Agile, Mike Cohn provides a wealth of information to guide you in your quest toward continuous improvement. Throughout the book, concepts are reinforced with practical everyday advice, including how to handle objections and thought-provoking ‘things to try now.’ An extensive list of recommended readings round this out to be a must have book.”

Nikki Rohm, Studio Director Project and Resource Management, Electronic Arts


“The first steps along the path of improving your software process with Scrum are hard, and every step reveals new challenges. In Succeeding with Agile, Mike Cohn shows how other organizations have followed this path, how you can learn from them to have a successful implementation of Scrum, and put your organization on the path of constant improvement and delivery of value.”

Johanes Brodwall, Chief Scientist, Steria Norway


“I began to recommend Mike Cohn’s new book as soon as I began to review it. It seems that as soon as someone asked me a question about some corner of agile development, I would realize that I had just read something excellent in one of Mike’s chapters. I am so glad the book is finally out so I can stop saying, ‘Mike Cohn has a great new book coming out soon that will talk about this problem.’ Now I can say, ‘Mike’s book is out! Get it!’”

Linda Rising, Coauthor with Mary Lynn Manns of Fearless Change: Patterns for Introducing New Ideas


“The title says it all; this is an astonishingly insightful and pragmatic guide to succeeding with agile software development. If you only read one agile book, this is the one. I want to give it to all my clients now!”

Henrik Kniberg, Agile Coach, Agile Alliance Board Member, Author of Scrum and XP from the Trenches


“Mike Cohn blends thorough theoretical knowledge with practical hands-on techniques. This is another great agile book from Mike. It will help your team, your department, or your whole organization Succeed with Agile.”

Matt Truxaw, Application Delivery Manager, Kaiser Permanente IT, Certified Scrum Master


“Mike Cohn’s new book is the definitive guide for companies transitioning to Scrum. Its contents are practical and easily accessible. Get it, read it, and apply it!”

Roman Pichler, Author of Agile Product Management with Scrum


Succeeding with Agile is at once enormously practical, deeply insightful, and a pleasure to read. It combines great ideas with stories and examples from around the software industry and will appeal to a wide range of readers, from those looking to adopt a new company-wide agile process to developers who just need to improve the way a team is running a single project.”

Andrew Stellman, Developer, Project Manager, and Author of Head First PMP, Beautiful Teams, Applied Software Project Management


“Adopting agile methods is hard enough on a greenfield web app in a small company. Transforming an enterprise is another matter. This book captures challenges like the ones we faced and offers insight and, more importantly, practical approaches.”

Michael Wollin, Senior Development Manager, Broadcast Production Systems, CNN


“Mike Cohn has put together a fantastic book of guidelines to not only start the Scrum implementation, but to turn your entire corporation into an agile community. I have already implemented many of the recommendations included in this text and have seen a positive influence on the support for Scrum within our organization.”

James Tischart, CSM, CSP, CTFL, Vice President, Product Delivery, Mx Logic, Inc


“In Succeeding with Agile, Mike Cohn has scoured and sifted through the collective experience and lessons of not only scores of different projects, teams, and organizations from his own agile experience, but also from the experience of countless others. He provides real-world stories from the trenches, useful data and studies, and invaluable insights into what has and hasn’t worked well when adopting, adapting, and scaling Scrum. What I like best about the book is where Mike provides wisdom on several different alternatives and approaches and the circumstances in which each is most suitable.”

Brad Appleton, Internal Agile Consultant at a Fortune 100 telecommunications company


“I believe Mike Cohn’s book will answer many questions and issues that people and teams struggle with in terms of how to improve collaboration, communication, quality, and team productivity. I especially appreciate and agree with Mike’s statement that ‘there can be no end state in a process that calls for continuous improvement.’ This is hard work and it requires persistence, teamwork, and good people. I plan to make Succeeding with Agile mandatory reading within my organization, just like we did with his book on Agile Estimating and Planning.”

Scott Spencer, Vice President Engineering, First American CoreLogic, Inc.


“Mike Cohn has done it again. This comprehensive study of agile software development provides numerous techniques and methodologies to achieve success. I enthusiastically recommend this book to anyone who wants to start using agile or wants to improve their software development process.”

Benoit Houle, Senior Development Manager, BioWare (a Division of Electronic Arts)


“There’s no doubt that Mike Cohn’s new book will become the reference on how to run software projects with Scrum. The book is very carefully crafted and avoids the trap of giving you the one, simple recipe to all your problems. Though mainly centered on Scrum, Mike draws on various other techniques to produce a handbook that is thorough and complete. This is not a hasty mash-up supported by just an ...

About the Author

Mike Cohn is the founder of Mountain Goat Software, through which he provides training and consulting on Scrum and agile software development. Mike specializes in helping companies adopt Scrum and become more agile as a way of building extremely high performance development organizations. In addition to this book, he is the author of User Stories Applied for Agile Software Development, Agile Estimating and Planning, and books on Java and C++ programming.


With more than 25 years of experience, Mike has previously been a technology executive in companies of various sizes, from start-up to Fortune 40. He has also written articles for Better Software, IEEE Computer, Cutter IT Journal, Software Test and Quality Engineering, Agile Times, and the C/C++ Users Journal. Mike is a frequent speaker at industry conferences and is a founding member of the Agile Alliance and Scrum Alliance. He is also a Certified Scrum Trainer, having cotaught the first Certified ScrumMaster class with Ken Schwaber in May 2003.


For more information, visit


Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great reference Oct. 14 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book has it all. As a veteran scrum master, my challenge in the last few months was to convert a team with little or no agile experience to scrum.

The most useful part for me were the Objection tabs that helped me counter recurring arguments from team members and stakeholders against the methodology with solid arguments for.

The Things to try tabs are a gold mine of ideas.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The title says it all - Le titre dit tout Sept. 8 2011
By Patrick
A must have in your personal library.
An excellent wrap of everything you need to know to be successful (hence the title) with Agile. The "additional readings" suggested at the end of each chapter make it even more desirable.

Un "must" pour votre bibliothèque personnelle
C'est un tour d'horizon complet de tout ce que vous devriez savoir pour réussir avec l'Agilité. Les lectures supplémentaires suggérées à la fin de chaque chapitre rendent ce livre encore plus nécessaire.
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Good overview of more advanced subjects not covered in introductory books on agile and scrum practices. Highly recommended if you are implementing agile practices for your team, your oganization or if you are an agile coach.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Good for beginners Sept. 27 2010
Precise and relevant. The book is meant for both beginners but also have usefull tips for those having difficulty with thier implementations of the methodology.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.7 out of 5 stars  59 reviews
40 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Insightful, practical and a good read Nov. 5 2009
By Andrew Stellman - Published on
I've read many, many books on software teams and building software, and I've written several myself, and I've come across very few books that do as good a job as Succeeding with Agile: Software Development Using Scrum. This book gives great -- and very readable! -- advice, not just for people using Scrum (or even Agile development), but for anyone who is looking to improve the way their team builds software. Mike Cohn deserves a lot of credit for putting together a great book.

If you've tried to change the way that your team builds software, then you know that it's not easy. All too often, even a change that seems simple or straightforward turns into a royal mess, alienating the team and irritating everyone involved without actually making a difference to the final product. That's why "Succeeding with Agile" stands out as a terrific book.

"Succeeding with Agile" is at once enormously practical, deeply insightful, and a pleasure to read. It combines great ideas with stories and examples from around the software industry. It will appeal to a wide range of readers, from those looking to adopt a new company-wide agile process to developers who just need to improve the way a team is running a single project. Mike Cohn does an impressive job of showing readers the ins and outs of agile practices. But what really makes this book stand out as one of the best in the field is the way it explains how to make change happen in the real world. The extensive advice Cohn gives readers will ring true for anyone who has attempted (successfully or not) to convince a group of people that there's a better way of building software.

The ideas in "Succeeding with Agile" are adaptable to work in a wide range of personalities, teams and organizations. Changing the way a team builds software is a difficult business. Mike Cohn points out the pitfalls and obstacles, and shows you multiple paths around them so that you can choose the one that best fits your team. Anyone -- programmer, architect, tester, project manager or someone who just needs to work with a software team -- who wants to learn about how to improve the way that software is built in a company will find a wealth of real-world, practical advice that's easy to read.

(A few other things to note about Mike Cohn: Jennifer Greene and I interviewed Mike in our book, Beautiful Teams: Inspiring and Cautionary Tales from Veteran Team Leaders, and were extremely impressed and entertained with what he had to say. And if you haven't seen his blog -- [...] -- you should definitely check that out as well. He's got a lot of knowledge and real-world experience with improving the way teams build software, and it comes out in his writing. You should do yourself a favor and take advantage of this gem.)
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars OK for Generalists and a Good Read - Not Practical May 21 2013
By Shawn Brock - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I bought this book because of the suprisingly large number of positive reviews, but I was disappointed. I've read multiple blogs, books, and sermons about Agile and the common theme I've seen is they deal in generalities rather than specifics. This book falls into the same trap. While it does cover some of the road blocks and objections you will encounter implementing an Agile approach, it fails to give real, practical advice. That is, because it is general enough for most people, it really isn't specific enough to help most real people make real changes in real situations. Understand, there is not a one-size-fits-all solution, but I was hoping there would be more in-depth ideas on how to deal with real world problems.

For example, the author discusses requirements and estimating to some extent. But, he does not deep dive into any specifics about ideas for managing complex projects and the real need to forecast. He acknowledges challenges exist and says "you can't really know", which is true - but there has to be a way to arrive at some order of magnitude (and then trim scope/etc later on). Instead there is a note at the end of the section labeled "What to try now". It then offers a basic idea like, "stop using project management software and put your stories on notebook sheets on a scrum board." Ok - that's great, but it's one idea in a larger project, we cannot just pull the plug on one aspect of the project without thinking of the impact along the rest of the way. If we were on a small project being created from scratch - some of those ideas might work, but that's not realistic in most companies. So maybe that is meant to come from another book and this should not have been called "Succeeding With Agile", but rather it should have been called "Getting Started with Agile" - which is really what this book is.

Unfortunately for me, this book did not really shed much light on anything I had not heard or read in some other place. If you're looking for a primer to get you over the basic ideas, this is a solid book. But, if you're trying to execute anything but a small project from scratch with minimal dependencies, this is not going to help you "succeed with Agile".
23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Book Jan. 9 2010
By W. Menner - Published on
Great content. Great layout. Extremely well-written.

This book is written for people who already have some understanding of Scrum or other agile methods. As such, the book is well-timed. Agile methods have been around long enough that many people and organizations have adopted them and now find themselves dealing with nuances not covered in other literature. So, Cohn fills this void, providing experience-based ideas and solutions for the difficult (but rewarding) efforts that must be made to successfully adopt agile methods.

Part I builds the case for agility by citing positive results from experience, research, and surveys. It goes on to provide "tools" (ideas) for developing the awareness, desire, and ability (skills) that are critical for successful agile adoption. How do you adopt agile methods throughout an organization? Do you "start small" with pilot programs and spread the wealth? Or, do you "go all in," converting your entire organization to agility at the same time? What factors are most important?

In Part II, Cohn contrasts traditional organization and project roles with the roles of Scrum and provides strategies for making the transition and overcoming potential resistance. He also draws from extreme programming to provide insight into the technical practices that developers must learn to maximize the benefits of agility. Cohn then extends his treatment of individual concerns to teams in Part III. How do you structure Scrum teams? What is the nature of teamwork in Scrum? How does leadership manifest itself on Scrum teams? What does a Scrum team's work flow look like? How do they plan? How do they address quality?

Cohn tackles organization-level concerns in Part IV. How do you scale Scrum to large, multi-team projects? What if your teams are distributed across significant geographic distances? How do you handle working with other non-agile teams? What changes might your HR, facilities, and program management staffs need to make? Cohn tackles all of these issues and more.

Also important to note is Cohn's community-driven approach to agile adoption that emphasizes methodology creation (organizations or teams fitting a process to the specific needs of their industry and projects, i.e., one size doesn't fit all) and continual improvement (not getting complacent with best practices). Another interesting book feature is the many "Things to Try Now" call-outs that concisely state Cohn's advice.

In my classroom at JHU, I teach the fundamentals of agile methods from an academic perspective. Also a practitioner, I share my agile experiences to help students apply the material to their projects and organizations. But, my experience pales in comparison to that of Mike Cohn, who has spent several years discovering the nuances of successful agile adoption through his hands-on work helping a large number of organizations transition to agile values, principles, and practices. This book allows me to pass these nuances along to my students. It will also allow all readers to achieve a deeper understanding of the success factors associated with agile methods.

(If you are completely new to Scrum and agile methods, I recommend starting with Ken Schwaber's "Agile Software Development with Scrum" and "Agile Project Management with Scrum." Then read Mike Cohn's "User Stories Applied" and "Agile Estimating and Planning." Follow this up with "The Art of Agile Development" by Shore and Warden. Then read Mike Cohn's "Succeeding with Agile." Of course, there are many other good books on agile methods, but this strategy should serve you well.)
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Keep this book on your desk Dec 5 2009
By Hubert Smits - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Mike Cohn has been taking notes during his Scrum classes, notes from all the questions and answers from his students. As a Scrum trainer I recognize many of the questions, and I admire Mike's answers. Mike has seen a lot of project situations, a lot of Scrum implementations, in very different organizations, and he shares his insights, tips and practices freely in this book. I admire how he brings his personal experiences, and references to materials from others together, 'elegant' is probably a good word for his approach. The book is so packed with information and experience that you will want to go back to it time after time, like an Agile-Coach-in-a-Book. If you're serious about implementing Scrum then keep the book handy, and refer to it often, it will kick-start your search for the answers to your implementation obstacles.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If you have to pick one agile book, this is it. Aug. 8 2011
By John A Chapman - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Succeeding with Agile is comprehensive, insightful and a pleasure to read. When my coworkers ask me about learning more about agile and Scrum, I tell them that this book is the best place to start. It is a wonderful mix of theory, application, insight and advice.
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