Below is our current recommended reading list, organized by topic. This list is always evolving as we learn more and encounter more authors. It is a partial list of our favorite books, intended as a starting point.

Lean | Management | Scaled Agile | Agile process/Kanban/Scrum
Personal Development | Technical Development| For Becoming A Coach
Net Objectives New Hire



Lean can be approached from several different angles. Probably the best place to start is with the Poppendieck's latest work. But after that, learning more about Lean from a thinking and/or paradigm is better. Hence the blend of books that are software related, business related and Toyota related. Don't feel you have to read them in the order given. Lean is a broad subject so there are several books listed as essential and core.

Lean Science

The Principles of Product Development Flow: Second Generation Lean Product Development. Don Reinersten. Thorough review of Lean-Principles. Provides a solid foundation of the theory of lean-flow.

Lean Thinking : Banish Waste and Create Wealth in Your Corporation, Revised and Updated. James P. Womack, Daniel T. Jones. A great book that gives the perspective of speed, quality and low cost.

Lean Management

The Leader's Handbook: Making Things Happen, Getting Things Done. Peter Scholtes. This is truly an amazing book and gives a ground up view of Lean. It is based on the notion that if systems cause our problems then leaders need to improve the systems instead of trying to motivate people. Totally brilliant. The only reason I don't suggest starting here is it is more foundational than most people like, but it is not a bad place to start.

Creating A Lean Culture: Tools To Sustain Lean Conversions. Mann. An essential read if you are transitioning a company to Lean and/or Agile. Makes the case that Lean Management is critical to any such transition. If you've ever wondered what middle managers do in a Lean enterprise, this book will answer your questions.

The Toyota Way. Jeffrey Liker. Great anecdotal evidence of why Lean works and why it fails when it does.

Managing the Unexpected: Assuring High Performance in an Age of Complexity. Weick, Sutcliffe. This is a great book about High Reliability Organizations (HROs) such as aircraft carrier flight decks. That alone makes it an interesting read. It discusses how these organizations create mindfulness and how you can create that in your organization. Ironically, it illustrates how reliance on planning and prediction create mindlessness.

Software by Numbers: Low-Risk, High-Return Development. Mark Denne, Jane Cleland-Huang.


Toyota Kata: Managing People for Improvement, Adaptiveness and Superior Results. Mike Rother.  Explains both why the PDCA cycle works and how to manage it.

One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way. Robert Maurer. Explains why small change is so important.

history of or related to lean

The Machine That Changed the World: The Story of Lean Production-- Toyota's Secret Weapon in the Global Car Wars That Is Now Revolutionizing World Industry. Womack, Jones, Roos.

Toyota Production System: Beyond Large-Scale Production. Taiichi Ono. First description of Just In Time Manufacturing. This book not only gives a great description of the essentials of the Toyota Lean Manufacturing System, it is an inspiring tale of a person committed to changing the perception of his heritage (the Japanese) in a positive way. To me, Ohno had the inspiration, vision, commitment and humanity of one of our great leaders of the 20th century. He just did it in a business setting.

Deming management method. Walton. Deming is the basis for Lean. Understanding Deming is critical to understanding how to teach lean. Unfortunately, one book will not teach you about Deming’s management method. Deming is the American who taught the Japanese about quality 40+ years ago when we weren’t interested. Japan has become an economic powerhouse mostly because of him. A clear book, but you must be willing to throw away some long held and cherished beliefs about management.

Goal, The.Goldratt, Cox. The first and still best book on the Theory of Constraints.

Critical Chain : A Business Novel. Goldratt. Not necessary to read. Can web search on theory of constraints to get enough on Theory of Constraints.



Change Management

Managing Transitions, 2nd Edition: Making the Most of Change (Your Coach in a Box). William Bridges. This is Michael Kennedy's number one recommendation by far for small groups or individuals. Also, the favorite of one of our associates who is an expert in this field. I've (Alan Shalloway) just read it and agree wholeheartedly.

Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard. Chip and Dan Heath.  Great book, filled with great anecdotes on changing organizations.

Power of Losing Control. Joe Caruso. In many ways this book is based on the premise that people will only do what's in their best interest and what makes them right. It doesn't mean they are selfish, it just means they work towards what matches their beliefs. Given this, this book then goes on to explain why and how to influence people.

Knowledge Management Common Knowledge: How Companies Thrive by Sharing What They Know. Nancy Dixon. An essential introduction to knowledge management. Very practical examples and approaches. This book is especially helpful for managers and executives wanting to understand how to get started and what others have done. No hype.
Personal Management The One Thing You Need to Know: ... About Great Managing, Great Leading, and Sustained Individual Success. Marcus Buckingham. A phenomenal book that I believe is a must read for all individuals, whether they be managers or leaders. Although I haven't read any of Marcus Buckingham's other books, I suspect they are all worth reading and have them on my short list.


Scaled Agile


Agile Software Requirements: Lean Requirements Practices for Teams, Programs, and the Enterprise. Dean Leffingwell. Really about Agile across the entire enterprise.  This book provides the essence of the Scaled Agile Framework.

Lean-Agile Software Development: Achieving Enterprise Agility. Alan Shalloway, James Trott. A quick read providing insights on enterprise release planning, coordinating teams and improved Scrum teams across the enterprise.


Agile process/Kanban/Scrum

Leanban Leanban Primer: Lean Software Development at the Team Level. Al Shalloway and James Trott. The Leanban Primer is a useful reference for teams who have had some basic training in agile practices (such as Scrum or kanban) and want to use agile in the context of Lean. It is designed to assist the transition to effective Lean-Agile practices that enable enterprise delivery of value to customers. While this is not a book on Lean practices, it is presented in a manner that is consistent with Lean-Thinking. Certainly, there is more to Lean-Agile than this. There is work in Business Discovery (portfolio management, planning, staging) and in later phases of Business Deployment (in release and support) as well as managing the value stream. We chose to focus on the team level to keep the guide at a reasonable and useful size.

Kanban, Successful Evolutionary Change for Your Technology Business. David Anderson. Kanban is still thought too much of as a team process and not enough as the process change management system it really is. David created it, so it's best to get this directly from his mouth (or hands).

Scrumban: Essays on Kanban Systems for Lean Software Development. Corey Ladas. This is a useful book even if you are not migrating from Scrum to Kanban - essentially what the collection of essays describes how to do. Corey's method of doing Scrum is much more effective than classic Scrum - so this is a useful read if you just want to improve your current methods.

Kanban and Scrum - Making the Most of Both. Henrik Kniberg and Mattias Skarin. While we disagree with Henrik's view that Scrum and Kanban are just tools (we believe they have different mindsets as well) this book is very useful. In particularly Mattias' case study section. This also works as a good introduction to Kanban for those doing Scrum.


Lean-Agile Pocket Guide for Scrum Teams. Alan Shalloway, Jim Trott. This book is designed for teams already doing Scrum. It extends Scrum by incorporating both lean practices and mindset into it. If you are finding Scrum difficult to implement, or counter-intuitive in some areas, this book will provide great guidance.

Agile Project Management with Scrum. Ken Schwaber and Mike Beedle A great book and an interesting read. If you are interested in agile development this book is another must read

Scrum and XP from the Trenches. Henrik Kniberg. Plenty of pragmatic advice on how to do Scrum integrated with XP practices.


Personal Development


Stopping: How to Be Still When You Have to Keep Going. Kundtz. This is one of my favorite books. As a recovering workaholic (yes, no joke) I understand compulsive, overworking behavior. This book has been great in helping me maintain calm in the midst of my busy work/life style. Just as importantly, it has helped make my work effective because I now focus on what is more effective.

Think and Grow Rich. Napolean Hill. An awful title because it makes you think the book is about money. It is, but it is more about how to create the life you want. All things being equal in my life, I’d rather have a big balance in my checking account. In other words, my life is not about money, but money does let me do some things I can’t without it. I attribute much of my successful consulting and training company to this book. It definitely gave me insights into how to move forward in life that have been invaluable. Best to use this book with other significant friends. Reading a chapter and meeting once a week works great. However, they must be dear friends where you can be totally honest with each other.

Unlimited Wealth: The Theory and Practice of Economic Alchemy. Pilzer. This is a paradigm shaking book that is unfortunately out of print. It essentially demolishes the theories that most of our understanding of economics is based on. Aside from explaining why we can (and should) have an attitude of abundance, he tells us where to look for new opportunities. This is an out of print book, but you can get it on Amazon.


Technical Development

Agile Development

Refactoring: Improving the Design of Existing Code. Fowler, Martin. This is a brilliant book It talks about what makes good code and how to improve bad code. It also gives great insights into how emergent design a la XP can work.

Emergent Design: The Evolutionary Nature of Professional Software Development. Scott L. Bain.

Design Patterns Explained: A New Perspective on Object-Oriented Design. Alan Shalloway and James R. Trott. (Net Objectives) Selected chapters from the book

Essential Skills for the Agile Developer: A Guide to Better Programming and Design. Al Shalloway, Scott Bain, Ken Pugh, Amir Kolsky.  A collection of practices that can greatly improve the designs and codes of developers that are straightforward and easy to do.


Lean-Agile Acceptance Test-Driven-Development. Ken Pugh.  A great introduction to Acceptance-Driven-Development.

Fit for Developing Software: Framework for Integrated Tests. by Rick Mugridge. A brilliant book. Explains not just how to use FIT, but how to improve the customer / tester / developer dynamic. An absolute must read.

Design Patterns

Design Patterns: Elements of Reusable Object-Oriented Software. Gamma, Helm, Johnson, Vlissides. This is the book that started it all. It is useful as a reference book once you understand what patterns really are. 

Design Patterns Explained: A New Perspective On Object-Oriented Design. Alan Shalloway and James R. Trott. Alan and Jim wrote this book because there was a dire need of explaining what design patterns are. This book doesn't replace the need for Gamma, et. al.'s Design Patterns book, it introduces it. It then extends it with concepts like Commonality / Variability Analysis and discusses how patterns and agile methods work together. This book is more than a patterns book, it is a design book. This should be read with the Head First Design Patterns book.

Head First Design Patterns (Head First). Freeman, et al. This book is great if you want to learn object-orientation and patterns. However, it is not as good as Design Patterns Explained for design, although it is consistent with it. Perhaps does a better job of the basics, but doesn't go into as many issues (even though it does cover more patterns).

The Timeless Way of Building. Christopher Alexander The book that really started it all. Christopher Alexander is a building architect whose insights into the fundamental truths of building are both brilliant and controversial (yet I am certain true). This will give you insights that most software developers writing about patterns have either left out or misunderstood. Read this, the source of the paradigm. It will be thoroughly enjoyable as well. This is the only book that makes my top 5 personal list and top 5 professional list.

A note about reading it. Christopher recommends reading the italicized sections if you don’t have time to read the whole book as opposed to just reading the first few chapters. This gives you a sense of the entire book. I suggest reading these sections first anyway. It will take a couple of hours, but then when you go back and read it normally, you will understand and enjoy it much better.


Becoming A Coach

  These recommendations have moved to the Coaching resource page .


For Net Objectives New Hires

Net Objectives is in the process of hiring people and I put together a reading list for them based on their role.  This represents a more focused list.  Thought this would be useful for folks to see.

For a person who will be a team level Scrum/Kanban coach:

Essential books:

Extremely useful:


And, if you are a coach, you should check out our coaching page.


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