Tag Archives: agility

Recensie Design thinking – radicaal veranderen in kleine stappen

9789024421435-480x600Guido Stompff heeft een helder boek – Design thinking – radicaal veranderen in kleine stappen – geschreven over design thinking. Wat is design thinking en wanneer kan/moet ik het toepassen.

Problemen zijn van alledag en er zijn slechts drie stijlen om deze problemen op te lossen. Uiteraard is daar de probleemgerichte, analytische stijl, de tweede is besluitvorming, denk aan politieke vraagstukken en de derde, minst bekende stijl is gericht op het bedenken van nieuwe dingen. Dit is de stijl van ontwerpers, architecten en kunstenaars en gaat niet zozeer uit van problemen, maar van het creëren en testen van oplossingen. Design thinking past in deze laatste stijl.

De auteur begint met het neerzetten van design thinking in de drie stappen framen, experimenteren en reflecteren en verderop in het boek gaat de auteur over in meer gedetailleerdere stappen framing, analyse, ideeontwikkeling, realisatie en reflectie. Hierbij worden de stappen framing, analyse en reflectie in cocreatie uitgevoerd en de stappen ideeontwikkeling en realisatie zijn de creatie stappen.

Design thinking (QRC, 181005) v1.0Downloaden: Design thinking (QRC, 181005) v1.0

Middels voorbeelden en heldere samenvattingen wordt duidelijk dat we design thinking moeten zien als een iteratief proces waarbij we de genoemde stappen framing, analyse, ideeontwikkeling, realisatie en reflectie in eerste instantie heel snel doorlopen. Zo krijgen we circa tien juiste frames die worden vastgelegd in bijvoorbeeld frameboards (naam frame, beschrijving, waardepropositie, probleem, oplossingsrichting, alternatieven). Vervolgens nemen we meer tijd om een drietal frames van het juiste ontwerp te voorzien waarvan we ten slotte van één frame het design in detail uitwerken. De auteur noemt dit de 1-10-100 aanpak, waarbij de eerste iteraties in één dag uitgevoerd kunnen worden, vervolgens kost een iteratie 10 dagen en het uitwerken van het juiste gedetailleerde design wellicht 100 dagen.

In de analyse stap komen we design research tegen. Vanuit de design hypothese in de vorm als … dan … het ontwerp neerzetten.  Startend met research for design (diepte-interviews en vragenlijsten (bewuste kennis), observeren en participeren (tacit knowledge), personas, customer journey mapping, contextual inquiry) en afsluitend met research by design (usability testing en utility testen: alfa- en betatesten).

Ter ondersteuning van de ideeontwikkeling fase neemt de auteur ons mee in de wereld van creativiteitstechnieken. Hij beschrijft de principes (geen kritiek, wilde ideeën zijn welkom, combineren, weglaten of veranderen en divergeren en convergeren) en te hanteren vuistregels (start met ‘Hoe kun je …’, toestemming van de deelnemers, wyberen, duidelijke rollen, sensitizing, convergeer naar enkele goede ideeën en tijd is heilig). Uiteraard kunnen divergentietechnieken (reageren op elkaar, associaties, analyse en systematische aanpak) en convergentietechnieken (clusteren, ordenen, reflecteren, streepjesmethode) niet ontbreken.

In de realisatiefase komt de kracht van beelden nadrukkelijk naar voren. De ideeën zullen voldoende uitgewerkt moeten worden in een taal die anderen begrijpen en met de juiste fidelity (de mate van realisme), zodat reflectie mogelijk is (bijvoorbeeld een tekening, maquette, model of functionerend prototype). Hierbij moet de representatie van zowel de bestaande als de gewenste situaties passen bij het onderwerp.

In de reflectie fase wordt enerzijds gereflecteerd binnen het frame en daarnaast op het frame. Hierbij spelen de volgende vragen een belangrijke rol: Levert het op wat verwacht wordt? Wat zijn de onverwachte effecten? Introduceert het nieuwe problemen?

Conclusie: Een goed leesbaar en fris opgemaakt boek dat je helpt om een beeld te krijgen van Design thinking en je de eerste stappen aanreikt om zelf met design thinking aan de gang te gaan. Er is een website aanwezig maar die bevat nog geen extra materiaal (bit.ly/designthinking_extra).

Bestellen: Design thinking – radicaal veranderen in kleine stappen

Speed up Innovation with Design Thinking | Guido Stompff | TEDxVenlo

 

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The P3M3 maturity model with an agile extension (P4M3)

Introduction

As HWP Consulting, we introduced in 2014 a Project Success Scan and we collected data points of more than 200 companies (see Project Success Scan). In 2017 we became an accredited AXELOS Consulting Partner for the P3M3 Maturity Model.

Many organizations are using traditional project management as well as agile delivery frameworks and in my opinion it’s not that black or white, you have to choose, depending on the change initiative, the right framework to make the change happen and that can contain traditional as well as agile flavors. When we look at the current P3M3 v3 model, I have problems to incorporate the agile way of working. E.g. how to cope with a permanent agile team?

In this article, I am proposing an extension of the P3M3 model to incorporate this agile way of working and I am looking forward to your feedback. At the end of the article there is a link to a very small questionnaire, which I hope you can complete.

Before I go into my proposal a short overview of the existing P3M3.

P3M3

At this moment AXELOS offers P3M3 version 3.

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To download: P3M3 V3 (QRC, 171205) v1.0

P3M3 version 3 contains three models, reflecting portfolio (PfM3), Programme (PgM3) and Project (PjM3) Management. We see seven perspectives applicable within each of the models:

  • Organizational Governance: Why we want to do what projects / programmes / portfolios
  • Management Control: Verifying that projects / programmes / portfolios progress as planned and within their authority
  • Benefits Management: Ensuring / proving our projects / programmes / portfolios are / were worthwhile doing in the eyes of the stakeholders
  • Financial Management: Getting and managing the money to do it
  • Stakeholder Management: Involving those who care and those who need to care
  • Risk Management: Managing uncertainty
  • Resource Management: Making sure we have the capacity to deliver

P3M3 can be used independently of your chosen project, programme or portfolio management method or framework.

The model is based on the five known maturity levels:

  • Level 1 : Awareness of process
  • Level 2 : Repeatable process
  • Level 3 : Defined process
  • Level 4 : Managed process
  • Level 5 : Optimized process

When answering questions you have the option to answer level 0: Unaware too.

New, in comparison with the previous version, are the max. 13 threads: Asset Management, Assurance, Behaviors, Commercial Commissioner, Commercial Deliverer, Information and Knowledge Management, Infrastructure and Tools, Model Integration, Organization, Planning, Process, Standards and Techniques. The most detailed questions are now the diagnostic attribute statements.

You can perform, by yourself, a Standard self-assessment or Enhanced self-assessment (subscription). The latter offers you on top of the standard self-assessment a maturity tracker, detailed results and a benchmark.

It is also possible, via an accredited consulting organization (e.g. HWP Consulting) to perform a full accreditation assessment resulting in your maturity level based on P3M3 or a full further diagnostic assessment including an improvement plan to achieve the next maturity level.

Agile extension

 Additional model: Permanent agile team

If you are using permanent agile teams (e.g. in your Software development department) the model will not help you to measure the maturity of these teams. Within the P3M3 model we have PfM3 for portfolio management (permanent organization), PgM3 for programme management (temporary organization) and PjM3 for project management (temporary organization). I added a fourth model PtM3 for Permanent agile teams.

P4M3 basisAs the three other models, this PtM3 model uses the same five levels. These five levels can be described as follows:

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In the current P3M3 model we have seven perspectives. If your organization is using an agile way of working this will have consequences for your assessment of portfolio, programme and project management too. To cover this, I added an eighth perspective: Agility.

Additional perspective: Agility

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At portfolio level your strategy must show agility, at programme level you must have agility within the strategic objective, at project level you must have agility at the project product level and within the permanent agile team you must have agility at product level (satisfy customer, prioritization, maximizing the amount of work not done).

The three tables provide an overview of the high level descriptions for the Agilty perspective in the three Management Maturity Models.

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The next table provides an overview of the high level descriptions for all eight perspectives in the new Permanent agile team Maturity Model.

PtM3To download: PtM3

Additional thread: Product

P3M3 V3 (Intro training 180616) v1.1To download: P4M3 overview

To emphasize the importance of the product, I added an additional thread: Product. In this thread the maturity of the following attributes will be measured (source: Agile enterprise agility): Shippable, Cycle time, Product vision, Stories INVEST compliant, Definition of Ready (DoR), Definition of done (DoD), Story size, Backlog refinement, Slicing, and WIP.

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To download: Thread product

Closure

HWP Consulting, as an Accredited P3M3 Consulting Organization can help you in performing a P3M3 full accreditation assessment or full further diagnostic assessment including an improvement plan based on your own objectives. To avoid bias we can facilitate your self-assessment as well. For the agile extension we developed the 3 reflective statements (organization, process, performance) for each of the eight perspectives within the Permanent agile team Maturity Model too. Feel free to get in contact.

Please fill in this simple questionnaire to help me to improve this P3M3 Agile extension.

Recensie: Het tijdperk van agile

9789492790149-480x600Stephen Denning schreef een zeer interessant en inspirerend boek Het tijdperk van agile – Hoe slimme bedrijven hun manier van werken transformeren. Geen boek over agile frameworks, maar wat het werkelijk inhoudt om als organisatie meer wendbaar te worden.

Het boek bestaat uit twee delen. Het eerste deel concentreert zich op agile management, wetten, een case study om agile op grote schaal te implementeren (Microsoft), en te evolueren naar strategische wendbaarheid en de organisatiecultuur te veranderen. Het tweede deel plaatst verschillende managementvalkuilen in de schijnwerpers. Bijv. aandeelhouderswaarde, inkoop van eigen aandelen, kostengerichte benadering en de valkuil van een achteromkijkende strategie.

Organisaties die wendbaarheid omarmd hebben, onderschrijven de volgende wetten:

  • De wet van het kleine team.“Het is de gedachte dat grote, ingewikkelde problemen in eenVUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity) wereld zo veel mogelijk moeten worden opgesplitst om te worden toevertrouwd aan kleine, autonome, multifunctionele teams die iteratief en in korte cycli werken en daardoor in een flow komen met snelle feedback van klanten en eindgebruikers.”
  • De wet van de klant.“vereist dus dat de cultuur, interne processen en warden voortdurend ondergeschikt worden gemaakt aan en gevormd worden door de noodzaak om waarde te leveren aan de klant.”
  • De wet van het netwerk.een netwerk is een groep of system van onderling verbonden mensen of zaken. Een organisatorisch netwerk bestaat uit teams die interactie hebben en samenwerken met andere teams met dezelfde mate van connectiviteit, interactie en passie die kleine teams kenmerken. Zo’n netwerk is gebaseerd op de Wet van het kleine team, maar er is meer voor nodig. Elk team moet verder kijken dan zijn eigen doelstellingen en zijn werk zien als onderdeel van de grotere missie van het collectief.

Dia1Veel gebruikte technieken van kleine agile teams:

  • Ze werken met kleine batches
  • Kleine, multidisciplinaire teams
  • Onderhanden werk limiteren
  • Autonome teams
  • De klus klaren
  • Werken zonder onderbreking
  • Dagelijkse stand-ups
  • Radicale transparantie
  • Feedback van de klant in elke cyclus
  • Retrospectieve evaluatie.

Dia2Methoden van de wet van de klant:

  • Doelgroep
  • Experimenteer voortdurend
  • Werk samen met start-ups
  • Maak je product kneedbaar
  • Focus
  • Innoveer stapsgewijs
  • Evalueer
  • Je moet bereid zijn om mensen teleur te stellen
  • Lever sneller waarde
  • Houd rekening met individuele wensen.

Dia3Enkele hypotheses over wat er nodig is om netwerken goed te laten werken:

  • Het netwerk heeft een meeslepend doel
  • Het netwerk bestaat uit kleine groepen
  • De groepen zijn daadgericht
  • Het netwerk is de som van de kleine groepen
  • Het juridisch kader van het netwerk blijft op de achtergrond.

De Microsoft-casestudy laat zien hoe Microsoft agile op grote schaal implementeert en biedt nuttige elementen die nodig zijn om als organisatie op grote schaal wendbaarder te worden:

  • Vind het juiste evenwicht tussen overeenstemming en autonomie (Als er teveel controle wordt uitgeoefend, wordt er niets gedaan. Maar te weinig controle leidt tot chaos)
  • Krijg de rol van agile manager onder de knie
  • Handel onderlinge afhankelijkheden af op teamniveau
  • Zorg voor continue integratie
  • Laat de technische problemen zich niet opstapelen
  • Verwelkom DevOps en continue integratie
  • Houd de vooruitgang voortdurend bij
  • Luister naar wat klanten willen, maar maak wat ze nodig hebben
  • Geen inmenging van boven
  • Gebruik zelfvormende teams om eigenaarschap te stimuleren
  • Onderken dat het team het product is
  • Werk vanaf het begin aan kwaliteit
  • Ga zorgvuldig om met training en coaching
  • Zorg voor steun van de top.

De laatste twee hoofdstukken van het eerste deel beschrijven wat het betekent om over te schakelen van operationele naar strategische agility. Innovaties genereren die volledig nieuwe markten creëren door niet-klanten klanten te maken. Strategische behendigheid is de volgende grens van agile management. Begin met markt creërende waarde propositie op basis van vier fundamentele componenten: behoefte, aanpak, kostenbatenanalyse en concurrentie.

In het tweede deel kijkt de auteur naar organisaties die zich voornamelijk richten op het verdedigen van de status-quo en het beschermen van hun bestaande bedrijf. Ze evolueren niet naar operationele en strategische agility. Ze worden geblokkeerd door valkuilen van aandeelhouderswaarde, inkoop van eigen aandelen, kostengerichte benadering en een achteromkijkende strategie.

  • De valkuil van aandeelhouderswaarde. Het maximaliseren van de aandeelhouderswaarde betekent top-down command-en-control-management met als gevolg gedemotiveerde medewerkers, minder betrokkenheid, minder innovatie, …
  • De valkuil van het inkopen van aandelen. Winst maken (‘bedrijfscocaïne’), zelfs als het stelselmatig zijn eigen verdiencapaciteit vernietigt door middelen aan de aandeelhouders over te dragen zodat er onvoldoende middelen zijn om investeringen en innovatie te ondersteunen
  • De valkuil van de kostengerichte benadering. Verlaging van kosten kan leiden tot permanent verlies van expertise. Klantwaarde realiseren tegen lagere kosten is veel belangrijker
  • De valkuil van een achteromkijkende strategie. Deze strategieën zijn achteraf 100 procent accuraat, maar voor voorspellingen moet je ook kennis hebben van het onverwachte en het onvoorziene.

Het boek eindigt met de epiloog waarin de geschiedenis van gouden eeuwen en nucleaire winters, beginnend in 1790 met de kanalen, via spoorwegen, staal en massaproductie en eindigend in het tijdperk van computers en communicatie, wordt besproken. We krijgen een overzicht van verschillende rollen (van CEO’s tot toonaangevende denkers (thought leaders) en de media en nog veel meer) en wat ze moeten doen om organisaties wendbaarder te laten functioneren.

Conclusie: Fantastische casestudy’s om te begrijpen waarom we de drie wetten van de klant, het kleine team en het netwerk nodig hebben. Een must voor diegenen die een verandering naar meer wendbaarheid willen maken.

In lijn met het agile manifest en het samenvatten van het tweede deel van het boek zou ik zeggen:

  • Klantwaarde boven aandeelhouderswaarde
  • Klantwaarde boven organisatie efficiency
  • Waarde gedreven perspectief boven kostenoriëntatie

Bestellen: Het tijdperk van agile

Review HBR May-June 2018, Agile at scale

HBRIn this interesting article Agile at scale – How to go from a few teams to hundreds the authors Darell K. Rigby, Jeff Sutherland, and Andy Noble give insights in their study of scaling up of agile at hundreds of companies.

Some key take aways:

  • Leading agile by being agile, don’t use top-down plans and directives to scale up
  • Create a taxonomy of teams. Break the taxonomy into three components – customer experience teams, business process teams, and technology teams – and then integrate them (see picture)

HBR Agile at scale

  • Get agile rolling. Launch an initial wave of agile teams, gather data on the value those teams create and the constraints they face, and then decide whether, when, and how to take the next step (test and learn cycle)
  • Sequence the transition. Don’t make the mistake of going for easy wins. You have to create a learning environment or organizational changes necessary to scale dozens or hundreds of teams
  • Big bang transitions are hard. Require total leadership commitment, a receptive culture, enough talented and experienced agile practitioners to staff hundreds of teams without depleting other capabilities, and highly descriptive instruction manuals to align everyone’s approach, a high tolerance of risk along with contingency plans to deal with unexpected breakdowns. It’s often better to roll out agile in sequenced steps, with each unit matching the implementation of opportunities to its capabilities
  • No agile team should be launched unless and until it is ready to begin. The team is:
    • Focused on a major business opportunity with a lot at stake
    • Responsible for specific outcomes
    • Trusted to work autonomously – guided by clear decision rights, properly resourced, and staffed with a small group of multidisciplinary experts who are passionate about the opportunity
    • Committed to apply agile values, principles, and practices
    • Empowered to collaborate closely with customers
    • Able to create rapid prototypes and fast feedback loops
    • Supported by senior executives who will address impediments and drive adoption of the team’s work
  • Master large-scale agile initiatives with teams (of teams) of teams
  • Building agility across the business
    • Not every function needs to be organized into agile teams, but ensure that the functions that don’t operate as agile teams support the ones that do
    • Push for greater change in four areas: agile values and principles (agile and traditional teams), operating architectures (modular approach), talent acquisition and motivation (you need expertise combined with enthusiasm for work on a collaborative team, coaching, public recognition, team reward, …), and annual planning and budgeting cycles (annual cycles constrain innovation and adaptation, view decisions as opportunities to purchase options for further discovery, …).

Review: Leading Teams – Setting the stage for great performances

leadingIf I see how agile teams perform you can ask yourself why is this the case, what is needed that these teams become much more effective? J. Richard Hackman wrote in 2002 the book Leading Teams – Setting the stage for great performances and this book still gives a lot of answers and directions how to look at those less effective agile teams.

The book is divided in three parts. In part I we get two examples of how senior leaders at two different airlines structured and supported teams of flight attendants. One airline achieved a great deal of control over flight attendant behavior, but at a considerable cost in motivation and creativity. The other airline achieved nearly the opposite outcomes. Throughout the book we will get a lot of references to these two teams and other examples too.

Part II is the core of the book and focusses on the conditions that foster team effectiveness reflected in products, services or decisions that are acceptable to the clients. That the team becomes more capable as a performing unit over time and that the individual members learn. The following five conditions must be put in place and stay there:

  • Having a real team
  • A compelling direction
  • An enabling team structure
  • A supportive organizational context
  • Expert team coaching

Part III Opportunities, discusses imperatives for leaders (and their execution skills) and how to think differently about teams within an operating environment (who decides? authority structure, who is responsible? work structure, who gains? reward structure, who learns? opportunity structure).

QRC (Leading teams, 180611) v1.0To download: QRC (Leading teams, 180611) v1.0

The five conditions:

A real team is the prerequisite for the other conditions. The task actually is appropriate for teamwork and it requires members to work together independently. It means establishing clear but moderately permeable membership boundaries. It means providing the team with substantial but clearly delimited authority for managing its work. And finally it means ensuring that the team will be reasonably stable over time as members carry out that work.

Providing a compelling direction that energizes, orients and engages teams is an important ingredient in setting the stage for great performances.

An enabling team structure is based on the design of the work that the team performs, the core norms of conduct that guide and constrain team behavior, and the composition of the team. Autonomy gives teams room to excel … but autonomous teams gone bad and can do real damage. Also virtual teams become more popular but it is much harder to create the previously mentioned conditions in virtual teams.

An unsupportive organizational context limit the performance of even a well-designed work team. The following three systems have particularly high leverage in supporting teamwork: the reward system (to provide recognition and reinforcement contingent on excellent team performance), the information system (to provide teams, at their own initiative whenever possible, the data and projections that members need to competently plan and execute their work) and the educational system (to make training and technical assistance available to work teams for any aspects of the work in which members are not already sufficiently knowledgeable or skilled).

The last condition, expert coaching, can significantly enhance team performance processes as managing member effort, selecting and implementing its task performance strategies and in utilizing members’ talents. What can coaches do and when can they do it to help a work team manage the three key performance processes efficiently and well.

Conclusion: A must read for (tribe) leaders, sponsors, (project and programme) managers and agile coaches. To be honest it’s not an easy read. There is a lot of text in the chapters and you get sometimes lost (maybe some white between paragraphs and the use of numbered sections would have helped).

To order: Leading Teams – Setting the stage for great performances

Review: The Agile Enterprise

9781484223901-480x600Mario E. Moreira wrote the book The Agile Enterprise – Building and Running Agile Organizations. A book that can help you to understand what is needed to achieve the full benefits of mature agile. Individuals at all levels in the organization must be committed to the agile mindset and focusing on delivering value to the customer. On top of this all employees must be empowered to take ownership.

The author uses a metaphor of the Agile galaxy: a landscape for your agile culture to view where agile is being applied in your organization and a customer value driven engine.

The book contains 22 chapters, where the first four chapters (I would say the first five) explains the conceptual groundwork for an effective customer-value-driven enterprise and all other chapters provides in-depth knowledge of concepts, mindsets, practices, and techniques to build this customer-value-driven enterprise.

Several chapters ends with references with more material and on many places you get an ‘Agile Pit Stop’ to illuminate ideas or highlight important points.

The landscape of the agile galaxy has three axes. The horizontal view, the delivery axis, following the recording of an idea towards the release of that idea. A vertical view, the hierarchical axis, from top (exec level) to bottom (team level). And the third dimension is the culture: from a negative agile, or more traditional hierarchical and command and control, culture towards a positive agile culture, aligned with engaging customers and employees and aligned with agile values and principles.

Dia1To download: The Agile Enterprise (Agile Galaxy QRC, 180507) v1.0

To highlight the different chapters I will follow the author’s clustering of several themes and summarize some key points.

Agile as it relates to the customer:

The key is narrowing the gap between employees and customers (two-degrees-of separation rule). Customer input and feedback are the two primary guides towards customer value. And understand that often customers don’t know what they want until they see it. To understand customer ideas the author describes how you can record them by using a lean or customer-value canvas and customer personas.

Agile as it relates to the employee:

If you believe employees matter, you must embrace the COMETS values (Collaboration, Ownership, Motivation, Empowerment, Enthusiasm, Trust and Safety). If your organization is following the agile transformation journey and your role has not adapted you may not be part of the transformation. Topics like bounded authority and holocracy are discussed and what is needed to build a learning enterprise. Focus early on the readying the mind for agile with agile mindset education and not with education on an agile process or agile role (the mechanics). A culture with a discovery mindset, infused with incremental thinking, experimental thinking, divergent and convergent thinking, feedback thinking and design thinking is key. HR can play an important role to promote education and agile and hiring agile-minded employees.

Agile culture and mindset:

In the previous clusters already several topics were highlighted, e.g. embracing customers and employees, building a learning enterprise, applying a discovery mindset as well as the role of HR. To understand your own culture an Agile cultural assessment survey based on desired agile behaviors is included in the book.

Running an agile enterprise:

The delivery axis in the agile galaxy can be seen as the enterprise idea pipeline or portfolio backlog or enterprise Kanban board. The 5R model is explained as a path to deliver customer value (Record, Reveal, Refine, Realize and Release and the 6R model added the Reflect step at the end) and how this pipeline can be connected to the backlogs. Prioritization techniques like the Cost of Delay (CoD or CoD3) are explained and what it means if you move away from traditional budgeting towards agile budgeting and make use of lightning-bolt-shaped teams (with primary and at least two additional skills to be able to handle a broader range of work). Agile success measures are discussed and it ends with an explanation of an incremental approach toward an agile adoption (learn, grow, accelerate, transform and sustain).

Establishing your requirements relationships and decomposing requirements from idea to task:

To show the relative hierarchy among various requirements the author uses the requirements tree (corporate strategy, division strategy, ideas, idea increment, epic, user story, and task) and story mapping points you at options that help validate customer value including collaboration on user stories.

Conclusion. A good book when you are at the beginning or in the middle of an agile transformation. I like the idea of the agile galaxy with the three axes. The author gives a lot of in-depth information, mindsets, principles, tools and practices to increase the chance of success of your journey. To read the book from front to back is not easy. I miss a sort of red thread throughout the book, I sometimes had the idea that some chapters could be combined, e.g. 16 and 18 or could be moved to the first part of the book.

To order: The Agile Enterprise

Review: The age of agile

9780814439098-200x300Stephen Denning wrote a very interesting and inspiring book The age of agile – How smart companies are transforming the way work gets Done. Not about agile frameworks but what it really means to reach more agility.

The book is divided in two parts. The first part focusses on agile management, laws, a case study to implement agile at scale (Microsoft), and moving towards strategic agility and changing the organizational culture. The second part puts several management traps in the spotlights. E.g. shareholder value, share buybacks, cost-oriented economics and backward-looking strategy.

Organizations that have embraced agile have three core characteristics:

  • The law of the small team. “It’s presumption that in a VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity) world, big and difficult problems should – to the extent possible – be disaggregated into small batches and performed by small cross-functional autonomous teams working iteratively in short cycles in a state of flow, with fast feedback from customers and end-users.
  • The law of the customer. “Requires that the firm’s culture and internal systems, processes, and values themselves be continuously subordinated to, and driven by, delivering value to the customer: if there is a conflict, it is the customer’s needs that need to be given priority.
  • The law of the network. “An organizational network is a set of teams that interact with and collaborate with other teams with the same connectivity, interaction, and passion as they do within their own small team. Each team needs to look beyond its own goals and concerns and see its work as part of the larger mission of the collectivity.

Dia1Common practices of agile small teams:

  • Work in small batches
  • Small cross-functional teams
  • Limited work in process
  • Autonomous teams
  • Getting to “done”
  • Work without interruption
  • Daily stand-ups
  • Radical transparency
  • Customer feedback each cycle
  • Retrospective reviews

Dia2Practices of the law of the customer:

  • Target
  • Constantly experiment
  • Partner with start-ups
  • Increase product malleability (turn a physical product into a digital product)
  • Focus
  • Innovate in short stages
  • Evaluate
  • Be willing to disappoint
  • Deliver value faster
  • Customize

Dia3Some hypotheses as to what it takes to make networks work:

  • The network has a compelling goal
  • The network comprises small groups
  • The groups have an action orientation
  • The network is the sum of the small groups
  • The network’s legal framework stays in the background

The Microsoft case study implementing agile at scale gives helpful keys that are needed to make agile at scale:

  • Get the right balance of alignment and autonomy (too much control, nothing gets done – too little control, it’s chaos)
  • Master the role of the agile manager
  • Handle dependencies at the team level
  • Ensure continuous integration
  • Keep on top of technical debt
  • Embrace Devops and continuous Delivery
  • Continuously monitor progress
  • Listen to the customer wants, but meet their needs
  • Deal with directions from above
  • Use self-forming teams to encourage team ownership
  • Recognize the team is the product
  • Build quality from the beginning
  • Use coaching carefully
  • Ensure top-level support.

The last two chapters of the first part explores what it means to move from operational to strategic agility. Generating innovations that create entirely new markets by turning non-customers into customers. Strategic agility is the next frontier of agile management. Start with market-creating value propositions based on four fundamental components: Need, Approach, Benefits per costs, and Competition (NABC).

In the second part we are looking at organizations who are mainly focussed on defending the status quo and protecting their existing business. They are not moving towards operational and strategic agility. They are blocked by traps of short-term shareholder value, share buybacks, cost-oriented economics and backward-looking strategies.

  • The trap of shareholder value. Maximizing shareholder value means top-down command-and-control management and as a result dispirited employees, less engagement, less innovation, …
  • The trap of share buybacks. Making profits (“corporate cocaine”) even as it systematically destroys its own earning capacity by handing over resources to shareholders and as a result there are insufficient resources to support investment and innovation
  • The cost-oriented economics trap. Cutting costs could lead to a permanent loss of expertise. Adding customer value at lower cost is much more important
  • The trap of backward-looking strategy. These strategies are 100 percent accurate in hindsight, but in foresight, they miss the unexpected and the unforeseen.

The book ends with the epilogue where nuclear winters and golden ages starting in 1790 with the canals and ending in the era of computers and communications are discussed. We get an overview of different roles (from CEO’s to thought leaders and the media and many more) and what they need to do to run organizations in a better way.

Conclusion: Great case studies to understand why we need the three laws of the customer, the small team and the network. A must read for those who want to make a shift to business agility.

In line with the agile manifesto and summarizing the second part of the book I would say:

  • Customer value over shareholder value
  • Customer value over organization’s efficiency
  • Value driven perspective over cost orientation

To order: The age of agile