Tag Archives: agility

The SCRUM Fieldbook

9780525573210-480x600J.J. Sutherland wrote The SCRUM Fieldbook – A master Class on Accelerating Performance, Getting Results, and Defining the Future. I would say a virtual master class build around a backlog of approximately 40 items and clustered in 10 groups. Every chapter is dedicated to one group.

The first clusters of backlog items are related to the Agile Manifesto and the usage of Scrum itself. Important but the information can be found in other books too. The other clusters will move you into the master class. Have a look at some examples from the book related to specific backlog items:

  • Decision latency as a result of a study from The Standish Group. How much time is wasted waiting for a decision to be made? Measure your meetings. More than 40% of decisions made in meetings are overturned. Think about the last time you or your organization faced a crisis. Could you have acted more quickly? How could you change your decision-making process next time?
  • Too much structure, too much processes will have a negative impact on agility. If you have just enough structure to ride the edge of chaos, that’s where interesting things happen. Creativity blossoms and can be channeled. Ideas are generated and applied. There is freedom of expression but also some controls in place to focus.
  • A structural reorganization emerged as the goal shifted from output (making sure everybody was busy) to outcome (getting to done).
  • Know the power of no. Choices have to be made.
  • Find your ba. It’s a shared space between individuals that is the foundation for knowledge creation. When you are in a partnership or participating on a team or teams aligned on a single goal, you create something larger than the sum of the parts.
  • Your structure is your culture. And your culture is your limits. A rigid structure begets a rigid cultural and product architecture.
  • You need to create an environment that ensures the Scrum values are present. This is when you strike out at the bureaucracy that slows things down and frustrates everyone. But what structure should you have? Where do you begin? For the most part you do need some hierarchy, because you don’t want chaos, but you want just enough hierarchy – the minimal viable bureaucracy.
  • Once you reshape your structure, a new culture emerges. Organizations, families, people are all complex adaptive systems.
  • Focus maximum team effort on one item in the product backlog and get it done as soon as possible (swarming).
  • Watch out for anti-patterns. The problem with à la carte Scrum. Use data for decisions, not opinions. Don’t outsource competence. If you outsource how to do it, you don’t internalize the knowledge. Remove them one by one.

Conclusion. A book about the world behind Scrum. It will help to expand your knowledge how to use Scrum to accelerate performance and getting things done. You got a lot of examples using Scrum in and outside IT. Definitely worth reading.

To buy: The SCRUM Fieldbook


FLEX, Flow for Enterprise Transformation

FLEX_Essentials-768x412The first post in 2020 is again a post about an agile framework. The forest is still growing and this will not be the last one. The next one is already under review too.

FLEX, Flow for Enterprise Transformation, developed by Al Shalloway, is designed to be used as a guide for organizations to achieve business agility. It is a platform which lays out the steps required for improving the way a company adds value to its customers, both external and internal. It can be used with Other agile frameworks like SAFe, Nexus, LeSS, Disciplined et cetera. FLEX is designed to work at the organization level, regardless of the size of the organization involved or if only part of the organization is involved. It is designed around flow-thinking, Lean-thinking, the theory of constraints, and organizational development integrated with how people learn and change habits.

FLEX incorporates four shifts in thinking. These are systems-thinking, shifting from frameworks to the work itself, focusing on flow, and attending to organizational development with Lean.

FLEX contains the following components: objectives, practices, agreements and principles, transformation philosophy and natural laws. People make agreements that are organized around working together, not merely follow an approach. The following basis agreements are translated into guardrails (a guardrail includes a variety of questions to check if you are keeping the agreement): drive from business value, collaborate across boundaries, make all work visible, increase predictability, keep WIP within capacity and improve continuously.

FLEXVS_0Basic-3-1200x720There are 4 new roles required when going to scale: business architect, application development manager, technology delivery manager (TDM), and value stream network architect.

As a starting point the following five-step approach to a roadmap can be used:

  1. See where you are
  2. Understand the challenges you are having
  3. Lear a few key principles and practices that will help you overcome these challenges
  4. Define to begin using FLEX’s starting template and tailoring it for your organization
  5. Begin and continuously improve

For more information visit: portal.netobjectives.com/pages/flex/

In September 2019 PMI acquired FLEX from Net Objectives. Will PMI create a new agile framework incorporating FLEX, Disciplined Agile and Brightline Transformation Compass? If so, it will generate some open space in my agile forest with the risk that new agile frameworks originate.

Due to the fact that they positioned FLEX as a guide to achieve business agility and to be used together with other frameworks I position FLEX in the culture-targeted box in my Bird’s eye view on the agile forest.birds eye

For the complete Bird’s eye view on the agile forest article see: Portman, H. (2019). A bird’s eye view on the agile forest; PM World Journal, Vol. VIII, Issue X, November.

Brightline Transformation Compass

compass-with-icons.418x0-is-hidpiI just finished the draft version for the second print of my book Scaling agile in organizaties (in Dutch) and I counted 65 frameworks and approaches (25 more than the first print). I thought I covered all, but I found a few new ones.

One of them is the Brightline Transformation Compass, a comprehensive system for transformation developed by Behnam Tabrizi, PMI.

This approach helps to create the right mindset within your organization needed for a successful agile transformation. It gives you a compass that is built around 5 critical, mutually reinforcing building blocks for effective transformation and a three-step approach for transformation.

The five compass building blocks:

  1. North Star: A crisp, inspiring articulation of the vision and strategic objectives for the transformation to give your employees a clear direction.
  2. Customer Insights & Megatrends: Embedding a deep understanding of the customer in every change you make, and in every employee – the customer you may have today, and the customer you want tomorrow, as well as the “megatrends” affecting them. Core principles are involving the real customer, find leading customers and conduct the research yourself.
  3. The Transformation Operating System: A flat, adaptable and cross-functional organizational structure that enables sustainable change. It consists of five components: Flat, cross-functional Rapid Response Teams, a lightweight governance & strong program management, a collaborative and appropriate risk appetite, well-defined KPIs and venture-style investment rounds.
  4. Your Volunteer Champions: A mechanism to harness many thought leaders from across your organization to drive transformation (identify, recruit, motivate and empower).
  5. Inside-Out Employee Transformation: A set of tools to make the transformation personal for your employees – to connect their aspiration to the North Star and to your customers based on the SEE-model. The aim of the SEE-model is to find the intersection between your strengths, the elements of the transformation that evoke personal meaning and actions that make you feel elated.

The three-stage methodology for transformation (inspire, mobilize and shift):

  • Inspiring your organization for change: build your transformation organization with Rapid Response Teams initiated and ready to start.
  • In mobilizing key elements to drive the change: define the blueprint for your transformed organization and build a plan to get there.
  • In shifting the organization to effect transformation: execute on the transformation to meaningfully alter performance and instill the mindset and culture within the organization to continue transforming on an ongoing basis.

This approach is independent of the framework or methodology you are using. It can be used on top of SAFe, LeSS, Disciplined Agile, Nexus and many more to create the right mindset and will improve the chance of a successful agile transformation (more than 70% fail).

For more information on the Brightline Transformation Compass: www.brightline.org

This is definitely an approach that fits in the culture-targeted box in my Bird’s eye view on the agile forest.

birds eye

For the complete Bird’s eye view on the agile forest article see: Portman, H. (2019). A bird’s eye view on the agile forest; PM World Journal, Vol. VIII, Issue X, November.

Review: How to survive the organizational revolution

9789063695217-480x600Ard-Pieter de Man, Pieter Koene and Martijn Ars wrote the book How to survive the organizational revolution – A guide to agile contemporary operating models, platforms and ecosystems. In this book you get an overview of the new organizational design landscape. Forget the business unit or matrix organization. Self-organized, dynamic and externally oriented structures replace hierarchical, stable and internally oriented structures.

The book is divided in three parts. The first part gives insights why there are new organizational model (needed)? Trends that affect the way we think about organization like the competition is driven by speed and innovation. The rise of information products replacing physical products. The focus on shared value and not on shareholder value. The existence of highly educated workforce and the integration of technologies.

On the other hand, the authors see several trends around organizational forms:

  • Departments are out; processes are in
  • Hierarchy is out; self-organization is in
  • Internal is out; external is in
  • Planning & control is out; experiment is in
  • Mechanistic is out; organic is in
  • Orders are out; information is in

Part two focuses on the different organizational models. You get a concise and practical analysis of new organizational models like holocracy, the Spotify model, the multidimensional organization, value proposition-based ecosystem, open source organizations and platform organizations fostering online ecosystems. For each model you get a practical analysis, practical examples, enlightening case studies and a deep dive in one or more related themes (excursion). In the analysis you get answers for the following four questions: how are tasks divided? How are tasks allocated to individuals? How are rewards provided to motivate people? And how is information provided so people can take the right decisions. Attached to each model you get a sort of ‘information leaflet’ like you get from your pharmacist when you pick up your medication. In this leaflet gives answers to items like problems solved, disadvantages, suitable for, not suitable for, key ingredients, risks and leadership.

The multidimensional organization

  • Balances several dimensions rather than only one or two
  • A manager is responsible for each dimension
  • Conflicts are solved and priorities are set based on profitability per client
  • Supported by one undisputed source of information and a collaborative culture

The Spotify model

  • Aims to speed up software development
  • It scales agile by using autonomous multifunctional teams (squads)
  • Each squad is part of a tribe (department focusing on a certain business issue)
  • Each squad member is part of a chapter. Chapter lead is their hierarchical boss
  • Model is suitable for software development, non-routine activities and requires a streamlined IT architecture


  • Radical decentralization of decision-making is achieved by grouping in a circle
  • The circle divides roles among individuals
  • Each employee can decide anything within her role, unless it affects somebody else’s role
  • A tension gets resolved via a structured meeting process in the circle, using consent decision-making
  • A circle and its next higher circle elect people to represent them in the other circle to ensure cross-circle alignment and a vertical flow of information

Value proposition-based ecosystem

  • Gather a limited set of firms around one value proposition
  • This value proposition can be aimed at one or more clients
  • As the value proposition is likely to change over time, managing the dynamics of these ecosystems is an important skill

Open source organizations

  • Are organizations in which volunteers develop a resource for the whole world to use
  • The main governance mechanisms are benevolent dictatorship, consensus based democracy and information transparency
  • Their strengths lies in the high motivation of the volunteers to contribute; their weakness in the lack of formal control mechanisms to ensure alignment
  • ‘Innersourcing’

Platform organizations: fostering online ecosystems

  • Offers a set of shared assets that can easily be recombined into diverse applications
  • Require a high level of internal transparency
  • Complementors are organizations that make use of platforms to develop their own apps, services or products
  • The ecosystem of complementors participates in the decision-making around the platform
  • Are typical for an online world but occur offline as well

QRC (organizational forms, 191122) v1.0To download: QRC (organizational forms, 191122) v1.0

The final part puts the dark side, the internal governance and what it means if you select, tailor or combine one of these models in the spotlights.

In the dark side the authors elaborate on the limits of new organizational forms like the totalitarian organization and the privacy/performance tradeoff, disappearing middle management, the algorithm says you are fired being permanently in Beta, norms and values as totem poles, systems as straitjackets, the information overload and best practice sharing.

Another topic of the dark side is the institutional challenge. How to cope with labor relations (the (in)equality paradox) and corporate governance (the responsibility paradox).

Internal governance gives answers how you can replace planning and control by reducing the coordination load (modularization, information sharing, internalized behavior, procedures and processes, role-based coordination). By using new techniques like discovery driven planning (testing of assumptions), Quarterly Business Reviews, Obeyas meetings and gamification. Using budgeting and resource allocation, the Spotify rhythm and use expertise and advice for decision-making. And last but not least how to move from extrinsic to intrinsic motivation of your people. In the deep dive an explanation of three HR trends to support the new models like an increased emphasis on developing the skills of employees, more use of vision and values as a coordination mechanism and an increasing objectivity in human resource processes.

The last chapter shows what happens if you copy/paste one of the models for your own organization in terms of a mismatch with overall objectives, type of work, organizational interdependencies, size of the organization and to organizational culture and leadership. You have to see each model as a source of inspiration. You have to tailor the organizational forms to your own context and needs (tribe size, co-location, self-service) or create your own hybrid structure as mix of two or more forms. To support your thinking you get an overview of the unique characteristics and applicability of all models

Conclusion. A great book to understand what is happening in the world of organizational design and it will help to understand if, and if yes which organizational model or a mix of these models is appropriate as a guide to design your own organizational model.

To order: How to survive the organizational revolution

Youtube: Ard-Pieter de Man – Agile for Excellence: Agile Ecosystems @ Leiden University


A Bird’s eye view on the agile forest article published on PM World Journal

The PM World Journal has published the latest version of my Bird’s eye view in the agile forest article. For sure there will updates in the coming months.

Some years ago, you could say “Scrum is agile” and ask “is agile Scrum?” Now we know there is much more flesh on the bones. At this moment there are more than fifty known and less known agile approaches, frameworks or methods available. To get a first impression of the different approaches, I try to bring some structure in the jungle to approaches, methods and frameworks. In Figure 1, I position the best-known agile approaches in a structure. The approaches, frameworks or methods are positioned within the ‘One-time programs / projects’ sections or within ‘Business as usual’ / indefinite, or bothbirds eye.On the other side the approaches, frameworks or methods are clustered around team, product or programme and portfolio level. In the dark blue boxes in Figure 1 we see agile approaches that are only applicable in IT-focused organizations. All other approaches can be used within IT and non-IT-oriented organizations (light blue coloured). I haven’t mapped all the known approaches, frameworks and methods in this figure, and to be honest, I think there is a lot of duplication and probably commercial drivers play a role too to ‘develop’ the next kid on the block without added value in comparison with the existing approaches, frameworks or methods

Have a look for the latest version: pmwj87-Nov2019-Portman-birds-eye-view-on-agile-forest (extended 2020-01) v1.3


Review Brave New Work

9780241361801-480x600In his book Brave new work, Aaron Dignan shows how he views evolutionary (agile) organizations and what you can do to become a more agile organization.

The book is made up of three parts. The first part – The future of our work shows how our work has changed as a result of technological progress and on the other hand that for many organizations this does not apply to management. An organization chart of an organization from 100 years ago is still comparable with many organizations of today. But there are also organizations that do it completely different. The illusion of control is exchanged for something much better. The author calls these pioneering organizations evolutionary organizations. Evolutionary organizations are people positive and complexity conscious and use these mindsets to collectively and continuously improve their shared operating system (how the organization works).

Based on comments throughout the book, evolutionary organizations can be characterized as follows:

  • grow without losing the culture they love
  • work fewer hours but get more done
  • protect the planet but maintain outsized profitability
  • create prosperity, not just for their shareholders but for employees, customers, and communities
  • know that if you treat people like mercenaries, they will become mercenaries. Treat them like all-stars and they will become all-stars
  • aspire to eudaemonic purpose-missions that enable human flourishing
  • ensure that everyone has the freedom and autonomy to serve the organization’s purpose
  • focus on their value-creation structure
  • favor units or “cells” of 10 to 150 people who are self-sufficient
  • are transparent
  • have a responsive structure in place
  • Have a certain level of maturity and competence
  • make better decisions faster
  • anyone can make a big decision, but first they must seek advice from colleagues who have experience with or will be affected by their choice
  • allocate resources dynamically
  • form and disband teams fluidly
  • innovate both product and process
  • converge on twelve domains (the OS canvas)

This last point, evolutionary organizations converge on twelve domains, is elaborated in part two – The operating system. These twelve domains form the Operating System Canvas (OS canvas).

The OS Canvas:

  • PURPOSE: How we orient and steer; the reason for being at the heart of any organization, team, or individual.
  • AUTHORITY: How we share power and make decisions; the right to make decisions and take action, or to compel others to do the same.
  • STRUCTURE: How we organize and team; the anatomy of the organization; formal, informal, and value-creation networks.
  • STRATEGY: How we plan and prioritize; the process of identifying critical factors or challenges and the means to overcome them.
  • RESOURCES: How we invest our time and money; the allocation of capital, effort, space, and other assets.
  • INNOVATION: How we learn and evolve; the creation of something new; the evolution of what already exists.
  • WORKFLOW: How we divide and do the work; the path and process of value creation.
  • MEETINGS: How we convene and coordinate; the many ways members and teams come together.
  • INFORMATION: How we share and use data; the flow of data, insight, and knowledge across the organization.
  • MEMBERSHIP: How we define and cultivate relationships; the boundaries and conditions for entering, inhabiting, and leaving teams and organizations.
  • MASTERY: How we grow and mature; the journey of self-discovery and development; our approach to nurturing talent, skills, and competence.
  • COMPENSATION: How we pay and provide; the ages, salaries, bonuses, commissions, benefits, perquisites, profits, and equity exchanged for participation in the organization.

QRC (Brave new work EN, 191101) v1.0To download: QRC (Brave new work EN, 191101) v1.0

Each domain of the OS canvas is further elaborated in its own chapter. You get an extensive explanation based on concrete examples. Many to be applied techniques and step-by-step plans are provided too. In addition, you will receive for each domain a questionnaire that can be put to the entire organization or to individual teams. The canvas can provoke incredible conversations and powerful stories to determine which elements in your culture need to be strengthened and what needs to be done differently. Each chapter is concluded with an explanation of the two mindsets. How can you incorporate a people positive and complexity conscious mindset in the domain described?

In the third part – The change, the central question is how an operating system transformation works. This is based on a continuous participatory change. Within this continuous participatory change are six important patterns (Do not mistake these for steps. They’re more akin to thresholds):

  • Commitment: When those with power or influence commit to moving beyond bureaucracy (autonomy, consent, transparency)
  • Boundaries: When a liminal space is created and protected
  • Priming: When the invitation to think and work differently is offered (complexity, emergence, self-organization, organizational debt, agility, leanness, motivation, self-awareness, mastery, trust, generative difference, psychological safety, and more)
  • Looping: When change is decentralized and self-management begins (sensing tensions, proposing practices, and conducting experiments)
  • Criticality: When the system has tipped and there’s no going back
  • Continuity: When continuous participatory change is a way of life, and the organization is contributing to the broader community of practice (the role of the leader: creating space, holding space).

Conclusion: A book that shows what it means to achieve more business agility without getting bogged down in a description of implementing a (scaling) agile framework, because that alone won’t get you there. A must read for managers, with many practical tools to get started.

To order: Brave New Work

Youtube: Talk at Google: We were joined by Aaron Dignan, the founder of The Ready, an organization design and transformation firm, and author of “Brave New Work” to discuss better ways of working and how to ignite the energy in an organization, building a company that runs itself.

Zie verder mijn blog voor een recensie van de Nederlandse uitgave.

Review: Exponential organizations

9781626814233-480x600Salim Ismail wrote, together with Yuri van Geest and Michael S. Malone, Exponential organizations – Why new organizations are ten times better, faster, and cheaper than yours (and what to do about it). These exponential organizations are able to show an exponential growth curve due to the integral application of communities, big data, smart algorithms and new, innovative technologies. The authors used research into hundreds of startups and interviews with CEO’s of the fast-growing companies (Airbnb, Netflix, Tesla, Waze, et cetera).

The book consists of two parts and an introduction. The first part explores the characteristics and implications of exponential organizations. The second part deals with the practical implementation and future vision of these organizations. You get tools to implement the exponential organization model in your own organization too.

Moore’s law will be known to many. Every eighteen months the price / performance of computing power doubles. And this has already been applicable for the last sixty years. However, this exponential doubling is much more common, but predicting a technology when it doubles is always dangerous. The Human Genome Project was set up in 1990 with the aim of completely unraveling a single human genome. According to various predictions, the project would take 15 years and cost $ 6 million. Every expert called the project a failure in 1997, pointing out that if only 1 percent were unraveled in 1997, it would take seven hundred years for the entire genome to be mapped. According to Ray Kurzweil, the 1% meant they were halfway. Double 1% seven times was 100%. The project was completed in 2001!

Almost by definition, exponential organizations (ExOs) all think big and this is reflected in the higher ambitious goal of the organization. The massive transformative purpose (MTP) statement is formulated for this purpose.

QRC (ExO EN, 191021) v1.0To download: QRC (ExO EN, 191021) v1.0

ExO’s are described by five external (SCALE) and five internal (IDEAS) elements. To classify as an ExO you need to have a Massive Transformation Purpose (MTP) and at least 3-4 of the ExO-elements. In the appendix you can find a questionnaire to calculate your own exponential score. SCALE- and IDEAS-elements are self-reinforcing and integrating.

The external elements (SCALE) to improve your performance are: Staff on demand, Community & Crowd, Algorithms, Leveraged assets, Engagement. ExOs scale up beyond the boundaries of their own organization by using or gaining access to people, assets and platforms to maximize flexibility, speed, agility and learning processes.

In addition, the controlling framework of the five internal elements (IDEAS) is described, which manages the abundant output of the external SCALE elements: Interfaces, Dashboards, Experimentation, Autonomy, Social.

In addition to the aforementioned characteristics, the authors have determined nine key dynamics at play for the ExO ecosystem:

  1. Information accelerates everything
  2. Drive to demonetization
  3. Disruption is the new norm
  4. Beware the “expert”
  5. Death to the five-year plan
  6. Smaller beats bigger
  7. Rent, don’t own
  8. Trust beats control, open beats closed
  9. Everything is measurable and anything is knowable.

In the second part the authors explain how to start an ExO by using examples and they offer a step-by-step plan:

  1. Select a massive transformative purpose (MTP)
  2. Join or create relevant MTP communities
  3. Compose a team
  4. Breakthrough idea
  5. Build a Business Model Canvas
  6. Find a business model
  7. Build the MVP
  8. Validate marketing and sales
  9. Implement SCALE and IDEAS
  10. Establish the culture
  11. Ask key questions periodically
  12. Building and maintaining a platform.

In addition to setting up, attention is also paid to how you can grow an organization in the mid-market company segment, exponentially. Through examples from TED, GitHub, Coyote Logistics, Studio Roosegaarde, GoPro and how they score on the ExO elements, you get a good overview of what is possible. Finally, a number of strategies are discussed with which large organizations can align themselves with ExO concepts while retaining their core activities transform leadership, partner with, invest in or acquire ExOs, disrupt and implement ExO lite internally.

By using examples from Bridgewater, Coca-Cola, Haier, Xiaomi, The Guardian, GE, Amazon, Zappos, Tangerine, and Google Ventures, among others, the authors explain how these strategies have been put into practice by showing their exponential score. The book concludes with a chapter on exponential executives including the CEO, CMO, CFO, CTO / CIO, Chief Data Officer (CDO), Chief Innovation Officer (CIO), COO, Chief Legal Officer (CLO), and the CHRO.

Conclusion. Is this era of agile transitions, a must read for senior management to understand that scaling of agile teams is not enough to survive in this twenty first century? The book offers a practical framework to experiment with one or more of the ExO elements.

To order: Exponential organizations

See my blog for the Dutch translation of this book.