- File Size: 3717 KB
- Print Length: 321 pages
- Publication Date: December 12, 2014
- Sold by: Amazon.com Services LLC
- Language: English
- ASIN: B00PJ8HBW8
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Lending: Enabled
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #288,582 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Rolling Rocks Downhill: Confused by Agile? Don’t Trust the Hype? Need to Deliver On Time? READ THIS. Kindle Edition
|Length: 321 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
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For me, except the great writing, this stands out;
- cutting scope is the best way to meet deadlines. Period.
- look for the bottleneck before optimizing the system. Or you might only be making the value chain heavier.
- focus on flow of finished features
Great book. Thanks.
Frankly, the first half of the novel is too long. But the rest – once our hero finally realizes he has no choice but to change paths – is superb: highly engaging, fast paced, and close to the truth of software development and corporate life in almost every way. And it illustrates that changing paths can be done in a step-by-step way.
Other tech novels in the genre worth reading: Goldratt’s “ The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement ” (Goldratt, who wrote for manufacturing, is a major source for Clarke Ching), Steve Bockman’s “ Predictability: A simple approach to creating reliable project schedules by Steve Bockman (2013-02-14) ”, Tom DeMarco’s “ The Deadline: A Novel about Project Management ”, and the DevOps focused “ The Phoenix Project: A Novel About IT, DevOps, and Helping Your Business Win ”.
In this business-novel he teaches us the principles of Goldratt's Theory of Constraints by taking us on a journey with a set of endearing characters caught in a crisis. We understand their predicament, we walk hand-in-hand with them as they learn the ideas that enable them to save themselves from crisis, and at the end we're left with the feeling that, if placed in a similar position, we'd be able to avert the crisis.
Beyond that, we learn that these tools aren't just to be used to dig ourselves out of holes, they're general purpose thinking processes that help us improve teams, projects an organisations in any state of health: good, bad or mediocre. Overall, the reader is left with a pervasive and energizing sense of "I know what I need to do, how, and why, to make things better".
Ching gets around the resistance to agile by simply giving the characters no choice, he sets up an impossible project then keeps making things worse. This helps explain that almost complete lack of questioning of the techniques that are proposed. It was a little sleight of hand that I can understand. It's not a bad message. You can't impose Agile. People have to be ready for it, open to it. To accelerate that journey for a book, you make them desperate.
Another slightly unrealistic aspect of the book is that there isn't the initial "dip" in performance/productivity, and the inevitable temptation to revert to old habits. That felt like a pretty glaring plotline to omit since I suspect it's one of the biggest challenges. Given the newness of the principles to all involved and the pressure they were under, it felt a little too easy. Maybe a sequel will cover that ground.
One thing I did like is that the TCQ expert who planted the initial seed, isn't overused. He's sent on vacation for the critical part of the book leaving the team to figure things out on their own. He pops up occasionally in emails asking just the right question or pointing to just the right book but the overriding theme is you have to find your own solutions.
Another noticeable aspect of the story was that the team didn't adopt a methodology, or a framework like Scrum or Kanban. They looked at the problems they had and devised their own solutions. They picked up ideas from each other. This notion of solving your own problems is central to the story and to agile, but Ching doesn't beat you over the head with it, nor does he tell you that Scrum or other practices are bad.
What will this book give you?
If you have no idea what people are talking about when they talk about agile, this book will go a long way to explaining that. If you have already bought into the agile philosophy this book will probably reinforce some of what you know, give you some nice metaphors, and maybe give some pointers to other areas of study.
This book isn't going to win a Booker Prize for fiction, that isn't it's purpose. It's purpose is to keep you turning the pages so you that you learn about agile and the theory of constraints in a broader context. It absolutely succeeds, I really found it hard to put down, despite all the misgivings I had about how neatly things were working out for the characters.
It really is an incredibly easy book to read, and you will come away with a better understanding than you'll get from dipping to to pages of a reference book.
One final note, If you do decide to read the book, try not to think about small batches.
If you're in an agile team already, then this will help you understand the 'big picture' away from the daily practices, and remind you of why the practices are there. Go read it, deploy the concepts and have a brighter future.
Just don't think about small batches.
It's a bit application specific, and I think it could be better at explaining the underlying concepts, but you could get those by studying The Goal.
It does have a marvelous mnemonic device to remember the evaporating cloud technique, which I'm immediately adopting.
It's also very funny.
Top international reviews
Lean, Theory of Constraints and Quality are given as the background of fictional coach, Craig Laley. However, few details are given, and luckily lead character Steve and his team are already familiar with a lot of these ideas. The unfolding crisis gives them the incentive and permission to put the ideas in to practice and get inventive with delivery.
If you are new to Agile then this book will provide a helpful context to your training. If you are a more experienced manager or agile practioner then see how many tricks and techniques you can spot being applied on each page.
When I'd finished it, I was quite sorry that it was over. I'd like to see more business novels from this author. I have to give a 5-star rating as I can't see any major faults. One minor thing...there's a blank page between chapters, which I found unnecessary (a bit of a waste of paper and added to the weight of the book). It's more like 250 pages, not 310, so you could probably read it in a day if you're lucky enough to have the time to read it in one sitting.
I was first introduced to it via "The Phoenix Project" which led me to read "The Goal", but when I want to introduce others to the topic, I recommend "Rolling Rocks Downhill" as it is the most accessible to non-techies, or just normal humans. Since originally reading it, I have re-read the kindle version and listened to the audio version - TOC is deceptively simple and I get something new each time.
Please keep in mind that TOC & Lean are not just for techies, but apply to all businesses.
Finally I have just read "The Bottleneck Rules" from the same author and think it may be the best primer on TOC, but do come back and read this.
The story takes you from crunch to launch of a product as a team explores a better way of delivering value.
If you, like me, are versed already in sprint or kanban then you'll spot the links. If not, then you'll gain an appreciation of how they can been applied in your business - the story's characters will be familiar to most! Recommended.
Written as a novel, Clarke Ching will take his readers on a journey on a software company that is struggling with seemingly unrealistic due dates and the quality of their products. As this is a nicely written story you want to read from cover to cover. Clarke is able to grab what is good in agile and present it in a way that you want to try it in your own company as well. But that's not all: he takes the approach further with the techniques of the TOC.
So you are not on a software industry? That's not a problem - many practices presented in the book can be applied in any industry. There is also an excellent "case study" about the company's cafeteria that shows how TOC principles can be used in a restaurant, and how same rules can be applied to any business, in this case software industry - and how close agile is to TOC.
So get this book and read it, you won't be disappointed! ...And I still can't think of anything but the small batches :-)
I would love to know if there is a category of fiction for business stories that mirrors the historical fiction genre.
I learnt a lite hike reading this book. Recommend.
It never mentions the word agile, and it doesn't espouse a particular 'agile framework', as these in themselves DON'T make anyone agile.
If you're not working in or with IT, it gives you a glimpse in how Lean and Agile concepts and methods are changing the work. If you do work in or with IT, it makes important concepts, especially the Theory Of Constraints, approachable.
Clarke Ching is a master in finding metaphors that make such concepts easy to explain and for that alone, this novel is a fantastic treasure trove.