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Book Club: Robert C. Martin, Clean Agile

Posted 11/2/2020

Money Quote: “There’s a saying among older programmers: ‘I can meet any deadline you set for me, as long as the software doesn’t have to work properly.’”

While he’s probably not that famous in data circles, every self-respecting programmer knows “Uncle Bob” Martin. He’s been an Extreme Programming advocate for decades, he was one of the people behind the Agile Manifesto and over the past decade or so, he wrote a series of books prefixed with the word “Clean”: Clean Code, The Clean Coder, Clean Architecture and now Clean Agile. 

In Clean Agile, Martin retells the origin story of the Agile movement, explains the reasons why it was started and gives an overview of the business, team and technical practices he deems important. Obviously, the book has been born out of frustration with what people have called the Agile-Industrial Complex or even Cargo-Cult Agile, giving it a “get off my lawn” vibe at times.

Robert C. Martin (2015)Robert C. Martin (2015)

 By Tim-bezhashvyly [CC-BY-SA], via Wikimedia Commons

Nevertheless, the book covers more or less all important aspects of Agile theory and practice on a surprisingly small amount of pages. It’s obvious that Martin has a lot of experience doing and teaching this stuff. Sometimes, he seems to rely on his own anecdotal evidence a bit too much. It would have been nice to contrast Martin’s personal experiences with some more quantitative evidence. But then this would have been a completely different, not necessarily better book, closer to Graeme Simsion’s (great but often dry) doctoral thesis Data Modeling Theory & Practice and not the easy-to-read, almost conversational volume it is.

If you want to get started with Agile and not get sucked into frameworks of dubious agility like SAFe right away, I would read Clean Agile first. And if you’ve had your fair share of actual and/or cargo-cult Agile projects, Clean Agile is a great opportunity to spend a winter weekend alternately nodding in agreement (when Martin describes what works) and cursing your corporate overlords (that seem to prefer what doesn’t work most of the time).


Author Robert C. Martin
Title Clean Agile: Back to Basics
Publisher Pearson
Year 2020
ISBN 978-0-13-578186-9
Online O’Reilly