The collaboration that underpins agile development depends on strong facilitation methods that ensure that all aspects of development are approached in an informed, focused and inclusive manner.

That’s a bit of a mouthful, but it’s still easier said than done. The titles below are my “go to” books for understanding the breadth, possibilities and challenges of facilitation. Together they cover a wide variety of tools for both the practices and (rather badly named) ‘soft skills’ of facilitation:

Books on management, motivation and ‘soft skills’

The more I work with facilitation techniques and practices, the more I think of them as a management style for collaborative organizations. The books below have been instrumental in shaping my perspective, and have been invaluable when facilitating conversations beyond the standard agile meetings.

  • The Leader’s Guide to Radical Management – an excellent and extremely readable book which addresses the challenge creative and complex work poses to traditional management styles, by applying the tenets of agility to leadership across industries (Steve Denning, 2010 – youtube overview here)
  • Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us – a powerful book bringing together a number of studies that ultimately show autonomy, mastery and purpose to be our true intrinsic motivators, and what that means for knowledge workers (Daniel Pink, 2010 – basics covered in this RSA Animate Video)
  • Why We Do What We Do – Understanding Self-Motivation – an indepth look at intrinsic vs extrinsic motivation covering extensive research by Deci and his colleagues; forms the basis of sections of Daniel Pink’s ‘Drive’ (Edward L. Deci, 1996)
  • Leadership and Self-Deception – an unexpected, honest and refreshing insight into the seeds of conflict, and averting and resolving unnecessary conflict (The Arbinger Institute, 2006)
  • Crucial Conversations – Tools for talking when stakes are high – another conflict resolution book, presenting a useful approach for tackling the hard conversations (Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan & Al Switzler, 2002)
  • Brain Rules – very readable and highly informative book on the neuroscience of how we learn, retain information and make connections between concepts, with insight into issues such as why multitasking is a myth and continuous learning is inherent in our makeup (John Medina , 2009)
  • Improv Wisdom – Don’t Prepare, Just Show Up – lessons from Improv theatre on developing a flexible and spontaneous mindset able to respond to opportunities as they arise (Patricia Ryan Madson, 2005)
  • Complexity: The Emerging Science at the Edge of Order and Chaos – the story of the Santa Fe Institute functions as an informative introduction to the study of complex systems, which has significant relevance to software development (M. Mitchell Waldrop, 1993)