Agile Bookshelf and an Agile Mindset

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Agile Bookshelf and an Agile Mindset

There is an ever-growing list of books in the world today, but how do we find the ones that impact us? We had our product owner, Diane H Leonard, GPC, STSI and another one of our trainers–Erich Leonard, STSI–come together to discuss the books that have influenced his outlook on Agile.


Agile Bookshelf and an Agile MindsetFive books that have helped Erich in his Agile journey through both the nonprofit and for profit world–and his thoughts on them.


The Innovator’s Dilemma by Clayton M. Christensen

To start off, one of his favorite books is the Innovator’s Dilemma by Clayton Christenson. They talk about how established organizations are challenged by innovative organizations. It gives a set of ideas, thoughts, and theory around how an established company can still innovate. It advocates sustainable innovation as a concept that they can use to stay ahead of some of those up-and-coming competitors and how that actually looks. The book goes through some case studies and it’s just a really interesting book That is more than 20 years old but it still rings true today in the agile space.


The Fifth Discipline by Peter M. Senge

Another book that’s connected in some ways to Christensen’s book is the fifth discipline by Peter Senge. This book is eye-opening for Erich. His background in engineering and systems engineering intrigues him to the idea that the fifth discipline a company should have is systems thinking.  The book mentions personal mastery and its importance as a discipline in order to achieve good mental models, which leads to creating a shared vision that people can all rally around. 


The book also speaks on team learning and the fact that a team needs to be a learning organization. The organization as a whole needs to be a learning organization in order to thrive. The book explains that when you bring all four of those disciplines that are described in the book together you get systems thinking. 


These last two books are heavy on theory, and so the next few tend towards action implementation.


The Lean Startup by Eric Ries

The Startup Way by Eric Ries

Spoken about in tandem because of their shared authorship, he explains that the first book focuses on “build, measure, learn.” This is an idea about running experiments as an organization. Build something–build a service for your clients, and then measure how that service is performing. Learn from that measure and continue to either update the service or build a new one. This idea cuts to the heart of what it means to be Agile. Ries takes the concept to a place where you start with the simplest form of a service, and build your way up from there. The second book is more of a tool kit for the thoughts and practical concepts introduced in the previous book. The ideas in this book are actionable and are perfect for someone who wants to learn something and do it with relative quickness and structure.


Accelerate by John P. Kotter

This is a great book for those that are coming to it with experience from larger companies. Erich explains that he comes from a fairly large company context, and that the book addresses the hierarchical structure of organizations. Accelerate brings together the hierarchies and Agile teams, even though it sometimes seems like an elephant can’t move as quickly as a mouse. The book explores how a group of people might attempt just that–making a giant move like an ant.


You can see them talk about these books on YouTube here:


We would love to hear the books that have created an impact in you, write some of your favorite books in the comments! 


Learn more about what Agile in Nonprofits can do for you here