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:
- Facilitator’s Guide to Participatory Decision-Making – a facilitation classic, this comprehensive book covers a variety of methods and practices as well as case studies of real scenarios, with particular attention on handling difficult dynamics to ensure the focus remains on collaborative outcomes (Sam Kaner, Second Edition 2007)
- Agile Retrospectives: Making Good Teams Great – mentioned frequently throughout this blog, it’s a must-have that covers facilitation skills for retrospectives, the principle of ‘Inspect and Adapt’ in software development, as well as plenty of activity ideas (Esther Derby & Diana Larson, 2006)
- Gamestorming – A Playbook for Innovators, Rulebreakers and Changemakers – the first facilitation book I bought, which inspired an entire focus shift; covers how facilitation ‘games’ work, an excellent explanation of how metaphor works in meetings, and even basic drawing skills, in addition to an extensive array of interactive games (Dave Gray, Sunni Brown & James Macanufo, 2010)
- Visual Meetings – How Graphics, Sticky Notes & Idea Mapping Can Transform Group Productivity – another great facilitation book, with insight into the role visual elements play in facilitating, and a variety of formats for different scenarios (David Sibbet, 2010)
- Facilitator’s Pocketbook – surprisingly useful little book covering preparation, skills required, varying techniques according to group maturity, as well as some session templates (John Townsend & Paul Donovan, 2nd Edition 2009; publisher’s extract)
- Collaboration Explained: Facilitation Skills for Collaborative Leaders – comprehensive workbook-like investigation into collaboration for high performing teams; tackles facilitation practices from the view of the various agile meetings, as well as the skills required and challenges faced (Jean Tabaka, 2006)
- Agile Software Development – The Cooperative Game – an indepth exploration of cooperative games and how agile principles embrace these for both learning and delivering excellence; includes an interesting addendum on the creation of the Agile Manifesto (Alistair Cockburn, Second Edition 2007)
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)
Tom Catalini (@tomcatalini) said:
A great list – some of my favorites and many new ones to explore. Bookmarking and updating my Amazon Wish List now… Thanks for sharing!
Cara Turner said:
Thanks for visiting – glad that you found the list valuable!
sharna sammy said:
This is really great! Thank you. I have my eye on Brain Rules.
Another 3 good books are: Everyone communicates, few connect by John Maxwell; Writing that works by K. Roman & J. Raphaelson; The Element by Sir Ken Robinson. These are more intrinsic motivational books. Except – Writing That Works – this is a bit more practical advice on writing.
Thanks for your recommendation on books – its valuable.
Patricia Ryan Madson said:
You are my shero today for mentioning IMPROV WISDOM. Thanks for seeing its value to those who are facilitators. I appreciate that you’ve found tools that help your purpose. Warmest appreciation to you, and may all of your improvisations turn out well!