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The Dream Team Nightmare (Portia Tung)

Interested in getting your feet wet in the world of Agile project management? 

So was I. My office is dabbling in an Agile migration. We have been a classic waterfall development process since dirt was invented. New blood however brings new process. As my teammates began getting excited, discussion increased and I quickly found myself lost in the mixture of paradigms and language. The last time I used the word Epic was in relation to video game companies. Waterfall? I know you should never chase them and you should stick to the rivers and streams that you are used to. Scrum and Scrum-master? Lets not go down that path. None of this helped me. I felt like an noob, and rightly so, because I was exactly that. Pride kicked me into gear.

I took to the web and found a myriad of resources. Who would have guessed that agile is this thing that helps you be quick and flexible (the least helpful website)... The resources presented were countless, the level of approach-ability in most cases was lacking. There were always assumptions that you had SOME experience, this left me always 20 steps behind or with out a frame of reference to show WHY certain concepts were important.

What I ultimately stumbled upon was a gimmick that lends itself to a sane and readable primer in the topic.

Don't stop reading yet... The title of this book was misleading in it's verbosity and almost frightened me away.

What made this accessible? The gimmick is Choose your own adventure. What you say? Yes I say, Choose your own adventure Agile style (big A).

Tung's primer is 300 pages of learning gold. You are dropped into an office environment as an Agile expert, focused on getting a team back in motion and on track for efficient releases. You can succeed, you can fail, you can succeed by the skin of your teeth and come away with scrapes and some learned lessons.

Through the book you primarily make decisions based in interactions with others on the team. Most concepts are repeated via internal dialogue or written open discussion on the team. This made it easy to adopt the thought processes. Often I found myself mentally reviewing my own office to see where these process elements could be enacted now.

The actual choose your own adventure metaphor breaks down eventually, but by then it has served it's purpose. At one point, in the thick of an important task, the page turns kept me going for over 16 pages in a row. Did it matter? No. It worked well and the fact I was embedded was proof that this was no longer needed.

Suggested approach is definitely to read through once and succeed or fail. After, give it a second read and really consume the details. If you read CYOA books like I do, a third read is probably unneeded, as this book lends it's self well to turning back the clock on decisions and seeing how the alt path shakes out. There are several choices which will lead to the same result, only your internal dialogue and sense of satisfaction changes.

Interestingly, I would harbor a guess that the novel itself was written using Agile techniques. Most adventure decisions are short, concise, and specific. Each section has topic headers, and you can actually envision the entire novel on sticky notes, lining a wall. Planning, creation, editing/qa, critique and feedback; every action on a KanBan board being tracked for process.

As a primer, this was by far one of the most successful and engaging presentation I have dealt with. Deeper topics can be found in other works pretty easily now that I have a strong basis for concepts to build off of.

Not needed, though I believe the title should be changed. Seeing the spine of this book on a shelf leads a viewer to believe that this is more complex than it is. It is definitely descriptive, but does itself a disservice by making it appear seemingly inaccessible to the same noobs it caters to (folks like me).

Publisher Description:
This first-ever interactive Agile Adventure is the gripping tale of an experienced team struggling with agile adoption. In this unique mashup of a business novel written in the gamebook format, you'll overcome common yet daunting challenges that come from using agile methods. As Jim, the agile coach, you'll learn to apply a range of thinking tools and techniques to real-life problems faced by teams and organizations. Find out what really works and what fails miserably from the consequences of your choices. And, unlike in the real world, if at first you don't succeed, you can make different choices until you get things right.

Management is ready to disband your new agile team and outsource your project. Can you save The Dream Team?

The Dream Team started their journey 18 months ago. Since then, life has become a nightmare. Progress has ground to a halt. Morale is low. Quality has become taboo. You have five days to figure out how to get the team back on track. There will be conflict and maybe tears. One thing is for sure: there will be plenty of tough decisions to make.

Inspired by a classic gamebook series, this fun and interactive story has eight different endings designed to enrich and put your agile development knowledge and experience to the test. Packed with familiar scenarios an agile team faces every day, The Dream Team Nightmare offers you the chance to see what would happen if you could do things differently so you can change the way you do things for real with confidence.

Combining practical team-building exercises with effective facilitation and Systems Thinking, by the end of the book you'll be ready to rescue projects in trouble, and get new projects off to a better start.


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