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Agile Book Reviews: Business Agility Edition

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Agile Book Reviews: Business Agility Edition

These are some of the important books that have shaped both my thinking and my writing. They all contain some interesting ideas.

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I read a lot. Not all of it is related to Agile or business management, but enough is. Below are some of the important books that have shaped my thinking (and writing). Not all of them a great (as you can see from my rankings), but they all contain some interesting ideas. This group of reviews will focus on those books that relate to business agility.

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1. Reinventing Organizations by Frederik Laloux: 5/5

This is the book I wish I had written. If you’re looking for some great case studies and a very seductive description of the future of Agile organizations, look no further. This is a comprehensive examination of fluid and Agile organizational structures intertwined with case studies of organizations that have adopted them. If you read this book, you’ll start to think of organizations as organic ecosystems rather than machines. I particularly like the elegance of the organization classification model, though Laloux acknowledges the complexity of it and the fact that organizations may exist within multiple classifications at the same time.

It’s not perfect by any means; it doesn’t really delve into some of the structural problems that some of these organizational models face, and there’s an overly spiritual language for my liking, but these are minor quibbles.

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2. Wirearchy by The Wirearchy Community: 4/5

If you’re interested in the formation of social networks (either organic or structural) within organizations, this is a great ebook. I particularly found the chapter showing the step-by-step visualization of a traditional hierarchy to a network organization helpful.

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3. Essence of TameFlow by Steve Tendon: 3/5

This booklet is a novel examination of the necessary business structures and engagement model for the modern enterprise. TameFlow is a very simple explanation (although using rather flowery language) of aligning individuals to common goals across four flows (operational, financial, informational, and psychological). What’s missing from the book is the extraordinary evidence to back up some of the extraordinary claims case studies and more depth on how to align the flows would be helpful for the introductory reader.

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3. Principles of Scientific Management by Frederick Winslow Taylor: 2/5

In 1911, Frederick Winslow Taylor published The Principles of Scientific Management, which outlined ways in which worker productivity could be increased. By studying labor-intensive repetitive activities in detail (for example, loading iron from steel mills into a rail car), each individual action can be simplified — improving productivity and reducing error. Even fatigue was an attribute to be improved (by recommending rest breaks to help laborers to recover) in order to improve productivity. Compared to previous ways of working, scientific management required a higher manager-to-worker ratio — and, by today’s standards, would be considered micro-management. Worth reading if you’re a student of history, but not really otherwise.

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4. An Essay Upon Projects by Daniel Defoe: 3/5

In 1697, Daniel Defoe (of Robinson Crusoe fame) wrote a series of essays on the topic of projects. This is a truly fascinating read and provides great insights into how these grand projects (be they nation-building or war machines) were funded. Defoe was highly critical of the “projectors” — what we would call investors — but recognized that many projects had left a positive legacy on the world.

book reviews ,agile ,business agility

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