Book Roundup: 8 Must-Reads for Agile Marketers 


At AgileSherpas, we LOVE to stay up to date on our Agile marketing reading list. 

In fact, we try to read almost everything that gets published on the topic; and, trust us, there has been a lot written about Agile in the marketing context in recent years. Some of it's great and provides a new, super practical perspective on modern marketing.

Unfortunately, some of it's not so great and only focuses on the surface of the topic without digging deep. 

Nobody has infinite time, so to focus your reading time we decided to put together a book roundup. Here we've collected the books that we believe any Agile marketer or Agile marketer-to-be would benefit from reading.

1. Agile for Everybody by Matt LeMay

What does it cover?

If you’re new to Agile in general, start here. This book is designed to provide a holistic, actionable, and accessible overview of the “why," “how,” and “what” of Agile. You’ll hear about the Agile principles, daily practices and signals of success.

After reading, you'll be able to bring Agile into your organization incrementally, but with confidence. 

How does it help?

This book aims to tackle one of the common misconceptions about Agile, namely that it's just for software development. Many executives believe that Agile is not applicable to departments outside of IT. This book was written with them in mind. The accessible language the author uses, as well as the wide variety of contexts for Agile he presents, make this book an AgileSherpas favorite.

2. The Goal by Eli Goldratt

What does it cover?

Probably the oldest book on our list, The Goal is a management book that was first published in 1992. When it came out, The Economist Magazine said it was “the one management book that managers actually read cover to cover."

The value of this book comes from the anecdotal approach of the author. The book is an easy and engaging read, but it introduces concepts, such as Theory of Constraints, that have since gone on to influence many areas of business and management. 

How does it help?

Although this book may not discuss marketing departments in particular, it can help in developing the vital Agile mindset necessary to try out Agile in different contexts.

It’s also a building block of creating a better understanding of the true meaning of productivity.

Finally, it introduces many of the common problems, such as resistance to change, that exist in most industries and that we may come up against during our own Agile transformations. 

3. Kanban from the Inside by Mike Burrows

What does it cover?

Kanban is the Agile framework that almost always appeals most to marketers. Its flexibility, customization and, especially, its emphasis on “start with what we do now” makes it a top choice for marketing teams to adopt.

This book introduces practical concepts from Kanban by connecting them to what we already know, which makes them seem that much more impactful. 

How does it help?

Positioning Kanban as a framework for all types of knowledge work, as opposed to a framework stuck in the world of manufacturing, is this book’s great treasure. Unlike books on the Kanban framework that came before this one, this book can actually be considered “a read," not a manual.

It’s practical and much more focused on real life situations and outcomes as opposed to theory.

Mike Burrows made this book more accessible by playing to the human side of Kanban, not the manufacturing production line element that other literature on the topic chose to focus on. As many marketing teams choose to apply a combination of Scrum and Kanban, having an intimate knowledge of pure Kanban and its values is essential for marketers. 

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

What does it cover?

Jeff Sutherland, the author of Scrum: Twice the Work in Half the Time, is one of the co-creators of the Scrum method as well as the CEO of Scrum Inc. When he noticed Scrum was useful outside of IT as well, he wrote a book positioning Scrum as a great solution to efficiency problems in all sorts of industries and contexts.

His book is full of engaging stories and real-world examples of Scrum working its magic. While this book has been called the “best starter resource on Scrum in the market” it has also been called “The Biography of Jeff Sutherland," so expect to hear a lot about the author as you learn about the Scrum framework.

How does it help?

As mentioned, marketers love to mix Scrum and Kanban. But, to really achieve a balanced Scrumban framework, tailored to suit your team’s needs, you need to have a solid understanding of both Scrum and Kanban.

That's why, if you read Kanban from the Inside, you should also read Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time. It will help to balance your knowledge about Scrum with your deep understanding of Kanban. Further, it will help you make the right choices during the various stages of your Agile transformation. 

5. "Fun Retrospectives" by Paulo Caroli and Tainã Caetano

What does it cover?

This ebook contains some stellar activities and ideas for making Agile retrospectives more engaging. It's content that came about after the success of funretrospectives.com, which you can also check out if you’re interested in learning more about this crucial Agile meeting and how to make it something people look forward to. 

How does it help?

If you’re part of a marketing team already practicing Agile, you’ve probably heard of the retrospective. More affectionately called the “retro,” this team meeting that occurs at the end of every sprint or on an ad hoc basis, depending on the framework you’re practicing.

The most important thing about the retro is it is a great opportunity to talk about potential future process improvements. If you do retros often (as you should!) the question “So, how did that go?” gets old pretty quickly.
The result?

People lose focus, they stop bringing good ideas for process improvement to the table and start to dread the retro. Keeping retros engaging can make a huge difference to team motivation and how the team moves forward to better processes.

6. Death of a Marketer by Andrea Fryrear

What does it cover?

In 2017, AgileSherpas’ own Andrea Fryrear published the controversially titled Death of a Marketer. Using a detailed historical lens, Andrea’s book charts a course towards marketing’s Agile future and successfully cuts through the noise to show us what Agile marketing really is. The book combines a ton of research, stats, and storytelling to focus on the “why” of Agile in marketing. 

How does it help?

If you’re at the stage of “curious to try Agile marketing, but need executive buy-in to move forward with this new way of working in my organization,” read this book, then give it to your decision-makers to read.

Building the link between marketing’s current challenges and Agile marketing as a solution positions the methodology in the right light. That’s probably why the book is a must-read among marketing team members to get them excited.

Similarly, it often shows up on the desks of our C-suite, for whom being excited about Agile marketing is a deal-maker for Agile in the organization.

7. The Agile Marketer by Roland Smart

What does it cover?

The Agile Marketer is a hands-on guide for modern marketers, especially those looking to move their marketing to a more customer-centric approach. While not diving too deep into Scrum or Kanban in particular, this Agile marketing book manages to relay the theory of Agile in marketing in a very compelling way.

The author takes his experience in Silicon Valley and uses it to build an image of modern marketers at their best. Some of the Agile marketing books on our list focus on daily tactics you might want to apply. However, the focus here is much more about Agile as a part of long-term marketing strategy

How does it help?

Listen up if you're about to step into or are already in a marketing owner/product owner role in your marketing team. This book contains great ideas to use when you're introducing Agile marketing to your team for the first time.

By positioning Agile marketing as a key part of the organizational strategy towards becoming more customer-centric, you can really get people excited about their role in that shift. Team members are likely to become more motivated to implement the day-to-day practices if they see the bigger picture.  

8. Hacking Marketing by Scott Brinker 

What does it cover?

When we first read this book, we went back and read it again. Why? Because its main premise rings totally true in the mind of all of the modern marketers we know.

As marketing becomes an increasingly digital profession, marketing tasks start to resemble software development tasks. It’s refreshing to finally hear someone admit that the marketing profession is actually as complex as IT, for example.

Scott Brinker offers practical parallels of how marketing teams can use tactics from software development. In fact, he suggests that marketers can “hack" traditional marketing as a developer would “hack” code. By “hacking” through the old marketing approach, we are actually able to achieve higher quality in our work, faster delivery times and an overall highly productive approach to what we are working on.

How does it help?

Scott Brinker is one of the industry’s foremost experts on the interplay between marketing and technology. Before publishing Hacking Marketing most of his thoughts were found on his website chiefmartec.com.

He also produces a map of marketing tech every year to showcase how fast this field is expanding. Check it out and you'll see that there are more and more tools for marketers being added to the map annually. As modern marketers, we need to stay current and aware of how we might use learnings from other industries in our own. Now that marketing and technology are becoming similar, this book helps us figure out how to leverage the similarities.

If you’ve read any of these, leave your review in the comments! If you want to add to the list, leave your recommended title in the comments as well.