Since I stepped more into the Agile and DevOps world, I’ve been blessed by getting to meet and/or talk to some great people, including authors of books everyone should read. Now, I have not met Carmen DeArdo in person yet, but I have spoken with him a couple times (and exchanged e-mails), so I was excited to find out he and Jack Maher came out with Standing on Shoulders: A Leader’s Guide to Digital Transformation.
I think with this review I am going to start rating books 5 (high) to 1 (low):
5 – Pay for both the electronic and paper versions
4 – Pay for the electronic or paper version (whichever is your preference)
3 – Pay for it if it is heavily discounted
2 – Read it if it is free
1 – Unless you need a cure for insomnia, skip it
Based on what I actually did, Standing on Shoulders is a 5. 🙂
Why? I’ll provide three major reasons…
It Is a Great Introduction or Reminder
First, if you are new to Agile, DevOps, or Lean, this book is a great introduction. If it’s all old hat to you, it’s a great reminder. The book is divided in three sections to help you make the most of either situation:
That is, it’s a practical guide to improving how you, your team, and your company do things. Like Goldilocks and the Three Bears, it’s not to much information or too little, it’s just right. It also doesn’t assume you know everything, nor that you are totally ignorant.
It Is an Easy Read
Second, it’s an easy read. Although chock-full of information, it isn’t sterile or foofy. Instead, Carmen and Jack strategically mix hard data, anecdotal experience, and great quotes (from others and themselves). When it comes to quotes, and skipping the first great one that goes all the way back to 1159 from John of Salisbury, right from the introduction they are impactful:
Be the willow, not the oak.
Better still, learn from the masters. Don’t learn the hard way.
Okay, now you could say that is foofy :-), but isn’t this why we read books like this? So we can learn from masters and change before change is thrust upon us (or it is too late)? If we are smart, we truly do stand on shoulders.
Now, if my first quote was too foofy, how about this instead from later in the book?:
Trust is inversely proportional to the number of dependencies in a release.
Now, that quote doesn’t do justice to the entire portion around it, but it’s a great way to remember part of the reason why small batch sizes and loosely coupled applications are mantras in the DevOps world.
Getting back to my “it is an easy read” point, I’m not saying this is one of those all-night page turners, nor that I didn’t have cases where I needed to reread sections to make sure I understood. It is a book that shares a lot of concepts, some relatively deep, but you will not get bored with it, and you will feel like you are getting a lot back for your investment.
(However, Carmen and Jack, you gotta admit the “I Love Lucy” episode with the conveyor belt of chocolates…well…is a bit worn out in discussions of flow and constraints. :-))
It Tells You How to Apply It
Third and finally, in my first reason the book got a 5 I noted, “it’s a practical guide to improving how you, your team, and your company do things.” Often when I read a book with lots of great ideas, I am left wondering, “Well, that’s great…but how am I going to apply it in my company?” Jack and Carmen don’t leave you hanging. Remember section 3, “How”? Well, they do exactly that…share with you how.
For each and every case or intricately? No. That would be impossible. However, they don’t say things like “you need to prepare people for change” and “you should value stream map your products” and just leave the exercise up to the reader. They devote time within the body of the text and the appendix to do so. I am especially appreciative of the section in the appendix around value stream mapping, and look forward to leveraging it within my organization. (Carmen and Jack, it would be great if someone, however, actually went a step further and got a bit more specific about how to draw the map on paper in a software world. Even your simplified Lucidchart example was based on a factory model. Every example I’ve seen in the software world is a factory drawing. Grumble, grumble.)
In the end, the measure of a book like Standing on Shoulders is in how likely you’ll pick it up again, refer to it, et cetera. I originally purchased Jack and Carmen’s work electronically, but then bought a paper copy because I expect to use it.
And I will.
Grab the book