Writing a Book as Agile Product Development

At the beginning of February 2018, Dennis Wagner and I sat at lunch at the OOP conference in Munich and talked passionately about the use of agile games and simulations with our customers. Rolf Dräther had already been listening to us for quite a while when he said this one sentence that got everything going: “So if I listen to you talking like that, you should write a book about agile games.”
A book titled Agile Spiele and a cup of coffee.
So, the idea was born and less than half an hour later Dennis and I had created a shared document on the cloud. The first keywords were written, a rough outline was already shaping up and the list of possible agile games was getting longer and longer. By the end of the conference, we had brought our concept so far that it was completely clear to us how the book had to be structured. From now on, it was just legwork to get everything down on paper.

Rolf put us in touch with the publisher and a short time later a first phone call was arranged. The manuscript grew every week and took on ever more distinct forms. Dennis and I regularly worked on the document in joint sessions, we structured, outlined, filled with concrete content. When it became clear that each of us could write quite well on our own, we divided up the chapters and sections that needed to be written. In joint reviews, we looked at the incremental results and continued with the next round.

But at some point, the daily work routine caught up with us. Our calendars were full of client appointments, evenings at the hotel weren’t much fun anymore, and the enthusiasm for writing dwindled each week. The drive was gone. Our manuscript sat lonely in the cloud. The book was still on our to-do lists, but nothing happened. No progress, no writing, no book. At some point, the time had come for me to abandon the whole project. And it was at that moment that Dennis really picked up momentum and wanted to finish the book.
I could not leave that on me, so in autumn 2018 we pulled ourselves up by our own bootstraps and got back to work with renewed vigour.
The finished manuscript had to be at the publisher’s by summer 2019. Enough time for us not to rush right away. We got back to work and had half the book written at some point. By spring we had reached the point where there was only a “TODO” in capital letters after every other heading. Somehow, we were still very much on schedule

But it came as it had to come, after all I like to tell those taking part in my trainings: “Every project fails. Always.” Illness, important client projects, multitasking and the classic student syndrome ensured that our deadline pressure increased every week. There wasn’t much time left until the book had to be printed and we wanted to publish before the end of 2019 at all costs. With a huge effort, our manuscript was ready to be delivered with a tolerably postponed deadline. And we were done with ourselves as well with with the book. In late November, our book “Agile Spiele - kurz & gut” (Agile Games - short & good) was published and became a great success.
By March 2020, the global Corona pandemic had struck and everything changed. The demand for agile games online increased rapidly. However, the scope of our book was 100% focused on offline games. It was too late to meet the newly emerging demand in the book. In other words, the product was in the market, but it could not solve the current problem of the readers.

So we shouldn’t think of this book as a finished project. Rather, it is a product with its own life cycle. Viewed as agile product development, failure is no longer a problem at all: “Embrace Change” is the agile principle for this. It helps neither us nor our readers if we demonise and reject the changes in the world. Change by itself is neither good nor bad. Only how we deal with change determines whether we perceive it as good or bad. We consider the knowledge gained from our book publication colliding with reality as a lesson from which we can derive meaningful next steps. This is empiricism in action - one of the main pillars of any agility.

In the last few months, a lot of new things have already been created through feedback from our readers and customers. There is now an online training course on agile games and simulations. Several online variants of the games described in our book are available now. In-depth content on “Agile Games Online” can also be explored on my website. In the spirit of empirical product control, we are gradually (iteratively-incrementally) delivering further benefits to our readers. The classic publication of a printed book is now only one of many channels through which we can provide further value and obtain feedback as well.
About the author:
Marc Bless is the founder of agilecoach.de. He has more than 20 years of experience as an agile coach, scrum master, software developer and manager. His passion is the fast and sustainable improvement of teams and organisations, while believing in the non-negotiable success factor of quality. As a coach, consultant and trainer for agile software development, he helps companies with the implementation of agile development methods. In addition to applying these methods in the regulated environment of medical technology, he has also been able to build up a lot of experience in other industries. Furthermore, he mediates agile change processes while supporting companies. Marc is a trained Solution-Focused Coach as well as a Certified Enterprise Coach (CEC) and Certified Team Coach (CTC) of the Scrum Alliance and a speaker on agile topics at international conferences. 

Schlagworte: Agile project management, Books, Tips, Field report

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