Book Review: Agile and Lean Program Management

April 12, 2016 01:12 PM | COMMENTS (0) | CATEGORIES: agile and lean program management, book review, johanna rothman, portfolio management, program management

One of the biggest challenges faced by any organization is figuring out how to to cope with Agile at the Program and Portfolio level. And if you are charged with providing guidance on how to help Agile not crash headlong into your organization’s  governance model, you may have taken to thinking of Sisyphus as “that lucky bastard who at least made it all the way up the hill some of the time”.

Never Fear! Help is on the way!

Johanna Rothman’s new book, Agile and Lean Program Management provides a pragmatic explanation of how to enable Agile at the Program and Portfolio level. Rothman is a seasoned and well respected expert in the Agile space but she got her start in traditional project management. This is something that pervades all of her work. She stands firmly in the Agile camp, but provides advice and guidance that offers a variety of options as well as her preferred approach as an Agile coach and thought leader. 

Agile and Lean Program Management provides great coaching advice and tips for dealing with the challenge of transforming your organization. The way the book is broken down will also make it easy for you to turn to specific portions in your time of need. A great example of this is in Chapter 9 which focuses on Estimation. Rothman goes beyond the usual advice of t-shirt sizing or story points. She begins by exploring why your organization is looking for estimates in the first place and offers guidance on how to approach questioning senior leadership about what they need the estimates for in the first place. She explains the estimation discussion from the Agile side, but takes care to stay rooted in idea of helping your organization get the information it needs to make decisions.  This section should be very enlightening to anyone from the traditional side of the house who is struggling with Agile estimation (at any level).

In additional to tactical advice, Agile and Lean Program Management also digs into the soft-skills that are necessary to help an organization cope with Agile and offers tips on topics like “Problems You May Encounter with Architects” and teams who are trying to multitask. 

My favorite part of the book is the last few chapters because I believe that offers some of the most valuable advice for anyone working in an organization that is struggling with Agile at it scales up the food chain. Johanna Rothman offers chapters on Troubleshooting Agile Team Issues, Integrating Agile and Non-Agile Teams and What To Do if Agile and Lean are Not Right for You. This is where Rothman stands out as an thought leader / ambassador who is focused on helping those from the traditional side begin working towards a more Agile state. Without judgement she simply offers practical advice and suggestions on how to begin with a few simple steps. 

Agile and Lean Program Management is available on 


If you’d like to check out a recent podcast interview with Johanna Rothman on her new book and the Influential Agile Leader workshops she is doing with Gil Broza, you can find it here.

And if you’d like more on Johanna…

Johanna’s website

Johanna on Twitter