Best Scrum Master books

These are some books that I recommend Scrum Masters should check out and read. It is not an exhaustive list of course, and I will be updating it from time to time. Some of these are directly about Scrum and some are in areas of interest to Scrum Masters (lean, kanban, management, leadership, systems thinking, etc).

Agile Software Development with Scrum by Ken Schwaber and Mike Beedle

This is where it all started! The Scrum stuff, at least. This is the first book I read on this topic and it influenced me enormously. While it is a bit old and short, and doesn’t have much on the people side of things, I think this is an excellent read. Mainly because it gives you an insight into the “why” behind a lot of the Scrum events and roles.

They talk about their experiences on projects in the 90s and how and why they came up with Scrum. I would definitely start here if I was new to Scrum!It is out of print so you might have a hard time finding a hard copy.

Succeeding with Agile: Software Development Using Scrum by Mike Cohn

Many people consider this to be a classic, if not something of a bible for Scrum. Although it was not written by one of the two co-founders (Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland), or Mike Beedle (who co-authored the original Scrum book, above), it is a landmark book.

It helped bring Scrum into the mainstream, and put Mike Cohn on the map. There are lots of good and practical tips here, including large sections on the people side of things. And what to do with people who are skeptical of (or downright opposed to) Scrum.

Scrum Mastery: From Good to Great Servant Leadership, by Geoff Watts

This book only came out a few years ago, but has been very popular and influential. It goes into a lot of detail about how to be a good coach, how to bring out the best in people and teams, and how to get the best from the Scrum Events. A lot of people rave about it, and for good reason.

This is probably not a good book to start with, but more for someone who wants to continue their Scrum Master journey and take things to the next level.

Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time, by Jeff Sutherland

Jeff Sutherland’s Scrum book

This is the book written by the other co-author of Scrum, Dr. Jeff Sutherland. It came quite a bit later than Ken Schwaber’s book (see above). While I am not a big fan of the name (it leads some people to focus on efficiency rather than effectiveness), it is a solid read and packed full of amazing anecdotes from Jeff’s very busy life.

This is a good read for people starting with Scrum who need some inspiration and excitement to get them moving on their Scrum journey.

The Scrum Field Guide: Agile Advice for your First Year and Beyond, by Mitch Lacey

The Scrum Field Guide

Until Scrum Mastery came along, this was a book that a lot of people recommended to people wanting to advance their knowledge and mastery of Scrum. And I still think it is worth reading.

The new edition (now part of the Addison-Wesley Signature Series, endorsed by Mike Cohn) includes an exhaustive 35 chapters of material. It covers everything from events, impediments, release planning, productivity, managing risks, prioritizing and estimating backlog items, and many more. I definitely recommend it to aspiring (and experienced!) Scrum Masters.

Scrum and XP From the Trenches, by Henrik Kniberg

Scrum and XP from the Trenches

Henrik Kniberg is an agile coach who has become semi-famous for two things: the “Spotify Model” (whatever that means, which he and Spotify have now disavowed or denied ever existing), and his wonderful video on agile product ownership. (Which you should really watch if you haven’t already).

This is a short but excellent book that acts as a “case study”, on how Kniberg implemented not just Scrum but also Extreme Programming. And many people believe that Scrum can only really be successful without including at least some ideas from XP. If you want some hands-on war stories of how these ideas can work, this could be the book for you.

Essential Scrum: A Practical Guide to the Most Popular Agile Process, by Kenneth Rubin

This book is an excellent top-to-bottom, “soup to nuts” explanation of Scrum, how it works, and how to get it to work. It is probably better suited to newer Scrum Masters and those just looking to start their journey. That being said, there are some nuggets of wisdom that more experienced Scrum Masters will find valuable also.

A lot of people consider this one of the “gold standard” texts, and I would agree with this assessment.

Turn the Ship Around: A True Story of Turning Followers into Leaders, by L. David Marquet

This is a fascinating real-life story and case study on leadership, written by a Navy officer. L. David Marquet was charged with reversing the fortune of the worst-performing submarine in the United States Navy. He managed to not only do so, but turn it into the best performing one.

There are many fascinating lessons and insights on servant leadership, psychology and management. It might not seem like an obvious choice but I really recommend this book for Scrum Masters who want to work on their leadership abilities and “soft skills”.

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