Re-read Saturday

This week we began our re-read of Coaching Agile Teams by Lyssa Adkins (SPaMCAST Amazon affiliate line buy a copy).  The entire title is Coaching Agile Teams; A Companion for ScrumMasters, Agile Coaches, and Project Managers in Transition published by Addison-Wesley Signature Series copyright 2010. I am re-reading my Kindle version of the book. The front matter includes Forwards by Mike Cohn, Jim Highsmith, Acknowledgments, Introduction, and a section titled, About the Author. The main body of the book is in three parts comprised of 13 chapters. It is indexed — useful for reference books! I estimate 16 or 17 weeks to complete the re-read depending on my travel. Note: The Kindle edition of the book has not been updated and will not run on the Paperwhite Version 10 models, so we will re-read it on the iPhone and Laptop — I did not have a happy chat with Kindle support on this issue.  Wake up, Addison-Wesley!


Completing a re-read is always bittersweet. Today we say goodbye to a friend, Why Limit WIP: We Are Drowning In Work. The final chapter is the Epilogue and interwoven are our final notes.  Next week we lay out the logistics for our next re-read of Coaching Agile Teams by Lyssa Arkins


The votes are in!  The next three books for Re-read Saturday are:

Coaching Agile Teams by Lyssa Arkins 

Extraordinarily Badass Agile Coaching by Bob Galen 

Team Topologies by Matthew Skelton, Manuel Pais, and Ruth Malan 

While Bob Galen’s book topped the poll, we will re-read it after Coaching Agile Teams so that I have a chance to read it first (so I can actually call it a re-read).  Thanks to everyone who participated in the selection process.


The bottom line to chapter 10 of Why Limit WIP: We Are Drowning In Work is simple (assuming you have been re-reading along); too much WIP interferes with learning. Without the time or inclination to experiment, the best scenario is learning by accident.  In Chapter 10, the author discusses how knowledge workers learn. The model is:


As a coach, I spend a lot of time helping people communicate. Having been involved in helping teams and teams of teams get stuff done I am amazed at the amount of effort that goes into “communication,” how much of that effort is directed to messaging, and how little to actually coordinate and improve products. I recently got an email from a new reader of the blog. The question boiled down to whether it was normal for a whole team to spend three days generating slides and practicing for a sprint review. I will share a version of the response in a few weeks, but the basic answer was no. In that organization, the Sprint Review had stopped being a tool for collaboration and communication and a high-pressure messaging event. Unfortunately, while this might be a bit extreme, messaging and talking at people is often confused with communication.


I have compiled quite a list of books to choose from to kick off year 7 of Re-read Saturday.  There are a number of classics that I have well-thumbed copies of and quite a few of the suggestions I have not read yet. Since I want to read the books on the list I haven’t yet gotten to read and since I make the rules :), they qualify for an appearance on Re-read Saturday.  Thanks to Christine Green, Jon M Quigley, Luigi Buglione, Anthony Mersino, and Susan Parente for contributing to the list. Please vote for the three books you are most interested in being re-read. 

The poll will remain open until 0000 UTC on June 6th. I look forward to your input! 

This week’s chapter of   Why Limit WIP: We Are Drowning In Work opens with a quote from The Dalai Lama linking effective self-discipline with awareness of consequences. The chapter, titled Awareness, speaks to me of redemption. Awareness is a precursor to shedding helplessness and ignites the desire to act. I have spent a large part of my career participating, influencing, and/or leading change. Struggle is a common thread in nearly all of these efforts when entrenched leaders push back against ideas that bubble up from teams or other levels of the organization. Whether from fear or myriad other reasons, there are consequences for everyone involved. Learned helplessness, as noted in Chapter 7, or a dawning awareness that there are other possibilities creates an impetus for change. Whether change creates better processes, products, relationships, or changes in the workforce (that means people leaving) boils down to agency.

Being able to experiment and evaluate the results is a working definition of agency that I have found useful to apply as a change agent. If team and leaders are not allowed to evolve how they are working there can’t be any seachange within the organization. Conversations with colleagues have led me to believe that many (a great plurality) organizations allow a limited form of agency in which minor changes can be made but most changes need approval and then approvals of the approval. Whether this is a reflection of fear or entrenched organizational bureaucracy it is almost never codified as policy. I recently sat in on a company-wide meeting. The executive giving the briefing extolled how the organization embraced change and provided teams and leaders with the space to make stuff happen (they had a snappier catchphrase). After laying out the agency people had to drive change, they rattled off approximately three paragraphs of caveats without batting an eye. Pharmaceutical commercials have nothing on this presentation. Agency has to have reasonable limits, software teams should not be able to redirect all their effort to become professional bowlers, but agency that requires a law degree to leverage is not really agency.

The quote from the Dalai Lama opening the chapter has stayed with me all week. The quote establishes that we need to have self-discipline and the inner strength to understand the consequences of our behavior. When overwhelmed by out-of-control WIP, there is no time to introspect or retrospect so consequences become a surprise. While I am a big fan of happy surprises when WIP is out of control the surprises I encounter are rarely happy.

Remember to buy a copy and read along.  Amazon Affiliate LInk: 

Previous Entries

Week 1: Preface, Foreword, Introduction, and Logistics

Week 2: Processing and Memory 

Week 3: Completion

Week 4: Multitasking 

Week 5: Context Switching 

Week 6: Creating An Economy – 

Week 7: Healthy Constraints – 

Week 8: Focus 

On June 18th, 2016 I started the Re-read Saturday feature on the Software Process and Measurement Blog. On that Saturday we began re-reading Extreme Programming Explained.  Nearly eight years later, we have nearly completed Why Limit WIP.  Near the end of each book, I reach out and ask, “So what is next?” Did you notice the “nearly completed” two sentences ago?  I need your ideas for which book to re-read next. The first two suggestions I have received are Dynamic Reteaming and Team Topologies.  What are your suggestions? With your recommendations, I will run a poll and let the readers and listeners of the Software Process and Measurement choose.  Suggestions via comment, Tweet (use #spamcast) or email ( are welcome.

Chapter 7 is one of my favorites in  Why Limit WIP: We Are Drowning In Work. One of the chronic problems I help teams deal with is the perceived need to start everything that comes to them, generating huge amounts of WIP. Many of the items sit in an on-hold status until something else happens. The iron-willed self-discipline of starting is great at creating on-hold items and crap at getting work done. There is a gap in understanding the impact of the consequences. 


This week, we talk about Healthy Constraints in Why Limit WIP: We Are Drowning In Work. Many years (think decades) ago a friend of mine, Danny Bailus, had a cool mini-bike. He rode it around our neighborhood in Howland, Ohio all summer. It was the third coolest (text me the first two) thing that had my attention that summer. That was until Danny decided that it did not go fast enough and removed the governor from the small engine. He removed the constraint from the system and the engine burned out. His father was not very happy, Danny was not very happy, and I was very happy I was not riding it when it happened.  In this chapter, Mr. Benson discusses the difference between healthy and unhealthy constraints. All systems have constraints; the question we need to ask is whether the constraints on the system are too heavy, too light, or just right.


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