Book Review: Liftoff – Launching Agile Teams & Projects

You have only one chance to make a good first impression. You might have also only one chance to start your project in a good context. Actually not, but the book “Liftoff – Launching Agile Teams & Projects” from Diana Larsen and Ainsley Nies will give you all the material to manage the start (or re-start) of your software development project.

The book “Liftoff – Launching Agile Teams & Projects” provides a detailed step-by-step approach with important information on all the activities needed to start your project successfully. The content is however more presented as a list of suggestions than as an imposed process. A majority of the book content is presented in the form of tools and techniques to assess and realize the liftoff. This presentation is achieved with a lot of testimonials on how to apply the concepts of the book or how they relate to actual situations. The most important part of the book deals with the concept of “Agile Chartering”. In project management, the term “project charter” means many different documents or sets of agreements created by the sponsor or project manager. Agile chartering involves all project stakeholders in the creation of these agreements, and their value is more based on the discussion that created them. I will recommend this book to every software project manager, whether you operate in an Agile or traditional project management context. You will find it very useful to start your next project or maybe to give a second chance to an ongoing software development project that is currently facing some obstacles.

Reference: “Liftoff – Launching Agile Teams & Projects”, Diana Larsen and Ainsley Nies, Pragmatic Bookshelf

Liftoff - Launching Agile Teams & Projects


Why we wrote this book: We have experienced projects that began well, but ended poorly or not as intended. How you start a project is not the whole answer for a successful end. However, we’ve never experienced a project begun in disarray that was able to end well, at least, not without a reset to clarify the core intention and essential understandings across the project community. In effect, to accomplish the mission, they still had to “start the project,” even if the project organizers and members didn’t do it when they began working.

To launch successfully and complete its mission, engineers need to position the rocket correctly so it can take off in the right trajectory and acquire enough kinetic energy to overcome the pull of gravity. Likewise, you can position your team and project community on the trajectory to success with an effective liftoff. It also provides the catalyst needed to start and sustain the work through the first stages. An effective project liftoff:
* Achieves alignment by establishing a clear, shared understanding about what the project involves and why it exists.
* Builds momentum by getting the project community and core team to work together to start the project. Accelerates the project and overcomes inertia.
* Clarifies roles and develops working relationships among project community, core team, and sponsors.

The nature of Agile chartering requires that project stakeholders and the development team engage with each other in the earliest stages of the project. For Agile projects, a single, streamlined chartering process helps align everyone involved. In accordance with the Agile focus on high bandwidth communication and collaboration, the highest value comes from the chartering process, not from the charter document itself.

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