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Most of the problems I see in teams that have begun working in way they want to see as "agile" stem from skimping on or ignoring the advice of this book. To get a solid foundation for your team, to make sure people start well and keep improving fast, follow Ainsley's and Diana's advice: help the Team see its Purpose, ensure their Alignment, and develop clarity about the Context.
Liftoff, otherwise known as Kickoff, Project Launch, etc. is more than just an excuse to book a conference room and a buffet spread. It’s a critical timeline milestone towards delivering what’s expected.
The key point I took away from authors Larsen and Nies is that Liftoffs aren’t reserved for the chronological start of a project – they can and should be used at any point to restart, refocus, and course-change struggling teams. I have to say in my experience with Agile as well as traditional waterfall SDLC it's extremely rare for management to concede the need for a reset (even when disaster is imminent) - but this book goes a long way towards making the case.
‘Liftoff’ puts real meat on the Agile bones of team dynamics that much of the technical literature often glosses over or minimizes as ‘management stuff’. There's value here for even techies who take the methodology for granted in 2016 but may shy away from the more people-oriented principles in the manifesto (4 and 6).
This book provides details about a refreshingly agile approach to beginning new projects. Immediately you are introduced to the concept of a Liftoff, which attempts to be an Agile approach to a project kick-off. I know from personal experience that many of the projects that I participate in focus heavily on improving processes and documentation surrounding the project, such as Agile, SCRUM, CMMI, etc, but they often lack innovation and clarity when it comes to starting new Agile projects.
The concepts of a Liftoff as provided in this book are concise and specify which key people need to be involved, their roles in the Liftoff, goals of the Liftoff, and how to conduct retrospectives so that you can become more efficient when conducting future Liftoffs.
This book provides a great roadmap for conducting Liftoffs in a manner that will provide results and measure value-added to any project.
This book contains some great times for new managers of Agile software development projects. The general theme of the book revolves around building and sustaining excitement across your teams. The book covers a combination of Agile topics encountered in other commercial agile certifications, such as CSM, SAFE, or PMP-ACP. What I really loved were the team building tips, such as how to build excitement for the team as you kick off the project. Larsen and Nies provide some basic project templates, but these are exclusively geared towards managing the people. There is no discussion on managing the project. Typical Agile tools, such as Kanban boards are not even mentioned. This is a decent leadership book that would be a welcome addition to the library of any person new to managing personnel.
This book is an example of why I love the Pragmatic Bookshelf. Do not be deceived by its relatively short length. Diana Larsen and co-author Ainsley Nies give truly pragmatic advice for agile teams who are just starting out. They do a great job of outlining concepts and principles, and readers also take away specific tools that they can use at the different stages. The samples in the appendix are also helpful for those who are stuck by the "blank sheet" problem. I thought Larsen and previous co-author Esther Derby were great their book Agile Retrospectives (another worthy title for agile teams), and Larsen continues to deliver useful, practical advice to her readers. I recommend this book without reservation.