Tag Archives: agility

Book review: The Agility Shift

9781629560700-480x600Pamela Meyer is the author of the book ‘The Agility Shift. Create Agile and Effective Leaders, Teams, and Organizations’. Not a book about an agile framework but a guide to help organisations and their leaders and employees to make a shift to the right in terms of Bob Marshall’s right shifting model to become more effective, to become more agile!

The book is divided in three parts. Part one covers the understanding and dynamics of the agility shift by explaining what and why, by weaving the relation web for agility and discovering the five dynamics of the agility shift. Part two explains what it means to make the agility shift at all levels of the system. Talking about the agile leader, the agile team and the agile organisation. Part three focusses on putting agility into work. How can you shift to agile learning and development and recruiting, reinforcing, recognizing and retaining your agile talent?

Agility shift can be summarized by the three C’s: Agility Competence, Agility Capacity and Agility Confidence and is first and foremost a shift in mind-set. A shift from the false comfort of “a plan” to achieving a state of readiness to find the opportunity in the unexpected. To build this readiness you can make use of your own Relational Web.


To download the QRC The Relational Web: The agility shift web

Becoming an agile leader asks for a leadership mind-set for agility, whole-person agility and learning agility. To build a team make use of lessons from improvement, high-stake and development teams: work with the same understanding of the givens, agree to the givens, practice gift giving, practice finding the game, provide opportunities for interaction, make communication and coordination expectations explicit, expect role elasticity and learning agility, develop resource awareness, practice rapid prototyping: fail faster, learn quicker, work at a sustainable pace and capacity, create an agile manifesto for your team.

When agile leadership and the first teams are in place you can start co-creating the agile organisation by weaving the organisational relational web (create groups that foster employee camaraderie, maximize your relational web potential, and improve the proximity between members of your relational web), Structuring for the agility shift (create opportunities to identify the bare spots, get input on barriers and enablers, and resist the urge to formalize) and las but not least expand engagement to build capacity for decision making (empowerment) and converge planning and action to maximize your organizational agility.

The last part explains what the shift means for agile learning and development and recruiting, reinforcing, recognizing, and retaining your agile talent. You get an overview of competencies, skills and practices and performance indicators as well as a helping aid for recruiting for agility with sample conversation topics/scenarios and questions and tips to listen and look for specific performance indicators.

Conclusion: No matter what agile framework you are using, this book will bring you above the level of framework techniques and gives you helpful insights to become more agile. A must read for agile leads!

To buy: The Agility Shift

Book review: That’s Not How We Do It Here!

9780399563942-200x300John Kotter and Holger Rathgeber have once again managed to make the complicated matter of dual systems in organizations (see Kotter’s book ‘XLR8 – Accelerate‘) accessible in a parable for a wide audience. In this book, ‘That’s Not How We Do It Here! A Story About How Organizations Rise and Fall – and Can Rise Again’ we follow a colony of 150 meerkats in the Kalahari, a hot, dry region of southern Africa.

Initially we follow the tightly run, highly hierarchical meerkats colony where everything takes place in accordance with prescribed procedures. If there are no threats, things run smoothly in the colony but when the colony is plagued by drought, resources run out and when they are attacked by hostile predators, the colony is powerless. Ideas or experiments are not appreciated, in fact directly crushed by saying ” That’s not how we do it here”.

Two young, smart adventurous meerkats, Nadia and Ayo decide to look outside for a solution to save the colony. Initially they found some liberated or dislocated colonies that faces problems even bigger and they are not welcome. Looks like that having rules and procedures has positive aspects too.

Eventually, they end up at a small innovative colony led by an inspirational leader. In this colony, there is room for new ideas and experiments. Initiatives are worked out by Spontaneously formed new temporary teams, and as a result the colony is flourishing. In this self-organising colony, they can live without standard procedures. This success has not gone unnoticed. An increasing number of meerkats align themselves with this colony, and this does not remain without consequences. Where issues in a small team were spontaneously picked up and solved, in a large colony this asks for rules and procedures.

This brings Nadia to the clever idea to connect both organizational structures together (The dual system in the book ‘XLR8 – Accelerate’). The hierarchical organization for all standard matters that should be settled in a colony and an organizational structure with temporary teams to experiment and find solutions to problems. Nadia returns to its former colony and brings it into practice there.

On the site www.kotterinternational.com you can download material (manual, PowerPoint) to start a discussion within your own company.

To order: That’s Not How We Do It Here!

boekrecensie: Zo doen we dat hier niet!

9789047009603-480x600John Kotter en Holger Rathgeber zijn er wederom in geslaagd om ingewikkelde materie, in dit geval over duale systemen in organisaties (zie Kotter’s boek ‘Versnellen’) in een parabel voor een breed publiek toegankelijk te maken. In dit boek ‘Zo doen we dat hier niet! Succesvol zijn en blijven in tijden van verandering volgen we een kolonie van 150 stokstaartjes in Kalahari, een warm en droog gebied in het zuiden van Afrika.

In eerste instantie zien we een strak geleide, sterk hiërarchische stokstaartjes kolonie waarbinnen alles volgens voorgeschreven richtlijnen en procedures plaatsvindt. Zolang er geen bedreigingen zijn verloopt het in de kolonie naar wens maar op het moment dat de kolonie geteisterd wordt door droogte, voorraden opraken en ze aangevallen worden door vijandige roofdieren staat de kolonie machteloos. Ideeën of experimenten worden niet gewaardeerd, sterker nog worden direct de kop ingedrukt met de opmerking “zo doen we dat hier niet “.

Twee jonge, slimme avontuurlijke stokstaartjes, Nadia en Ayo besluiten op zoek te gaan naar een oplossing om de kolonie te redden. In eerste instantie komen ze bij een andere meer vrijgevochten of ontwrichte kolonies waar de problemen nog groter zijn en zij zelf niet welkom zijn. Het hebben van regels en procedures heeft dus ook positieve kanten.

Uiteindelijk belanden ze bij een kleine innovatieve kolonie die geleid wordt door een inspirerend leider. In deze kolonie is ruimte voor nieuwe ideeën en experimenten. Worden spontaan nieuwe tijdelijke teams gevormd als een initiatief uitgewerkt en handen en voeten gegeven moet worden zodat de kolonie floreert. Standaard procedures zijn niet nodig. De kolonie is zelf organiserend. Dit succes blijft niet onopgemerkt. Steeds meer stokstaartjes sluiten zich bij deze kolonie aan en dat blijft niet zonder gevolgen. Waar in een klein team problemen spontaan konden worden opgepakt en opgelost vraagt zo’n grote kolonie toch regels en procedures.

Dit brengt Nadia tot het slimme idee om beide organisatie structuren met elkaar te verbinden (Duaal systeem in het boek ‘Versneller’). De hiërarchische organisatie voor alle standaard zaken die in een kolonie geregeld moeten worden en organisatievorm met tijdelijke teams om te experimenteren en oplossingen vinden voor problemen. Met dit beeld keert Nadia terug naar haar oude kolonie en brengt het daar in de praktijk.

Op de site www.kotterinternational.com is verder materiaal (handleiding, PowerPoint) te downloaden om de discussie binnen je eigen bedrijf aan te gaan.


Book review: The Product Samurai

9789462287860-480x600-product-samuraiChris Lukassen wrote the book The Product Samurai. A Product Manager’s guide to continuous innovation.

An easy to read book to get a good idea of the Product Manager’s role within an agile environment, with lots of examples, techniques to be used, figures, and tables and on many places analogies with martial art experiences and great black and white martial art pictures of the author himself with quotes. Every chapters end with a kata, an individual training exercise. After reading you want, if you aren’t, to be a product manager.

To explain the title, the author made the comparison with the seven principles a Samurai warrior used. In product management the same apply and by following these you can become a Product Samurai. The seven principles are: Integrity, Respect, Courage, Honor, Empathy, Sincerity, and loyalty.dia1

The book is divided in three parts following the three key aspects of product management: vision, winning and crafting.

Vision (Discovering, Defining): The discovery process and ways to identify and develop innovation potential. You get many examples and techniques that will help you to discover a product vision. To mention a few techniques:

  • The innovation granularity pyramid with four levels (feature, product, portfolio/segment, industry) of innovation and provides a framework for defining a product in relationship to the overall business strategy.
  • The Flux Capacitor technique. A brainstorming based approach that involves concept diagram mapping combined with traveling to and from the future.
  • The 3 x 3 framework (status quo, observations, story, insight, opportunity, analogy, solution, advantages, ethos): To pitch your product and it will help to define your product vision.
  • The value model canvas: compare the business model canvas and the lean canvas. Here we focus on customer needs (wants / rational, fears / hidden, needs / emotional) and product benefits (benefits /why?, experience / what?, features / how?)
  • Rolling wave planning and product roadmaps to create transparency. To rank the goals, the following formula is explained: (Market Evidence x Problem Impact x (Usability + Vision + Buying + Competitive Advantage)) / Estimated effort.
  • The customer journey map to frame your opportunity and translate this into a business case.
  • Last but not least: genshi genbutsu: to truly understand, you must go to the real place. Vision comes from the real world out there, through real people with real needs.

Winning (Growth, Steer, Observe): The tools (growth models and tools that create feedback loops) that help create winning products once the vision is in place.

Here you get many product strategy techniques:

  • The product adoption cycle: innovators, early adopters, early majority and the late majority/laggards
  • The AARRR (Acquisition, Activation, Retention, Revenue, Referral) framework. This framework provides you a series of metrics you can use to measure performance and determine improvements.
  • Eric Ries’ three engines of growth: paid engine of growth, viral engine of growth, sticky engine of growth.
  • Cohort analysis. To expose groups of users to alternative versions of the product to figure out which performs best (e.g. A/B testing).
  • Pruning the product tree. A tree analogy to achieve the shape you envision by plotting (post-its) existing products, latest product’s feature additions and optimizations, etc.
  • Gap, SWOT and the Ishikawa diagrams
  • A persona is a narrative, or story description about the user that resonates with the team and the stakeholders on an emotional level.
  • Customer experience testing. It starts by testing two things: usability (can they use the product) and discovery (context of the product: who, why, when, where, what, what for and how)
  • Alternate realities: or product variants to test with real customers (multi-variant testing)
  • Blue oceans and red oceans. It is easier to capture market value when you create a new market (blue ocean) than to fight the competition in a saturated market (red ocean)
  • ERRC quadrant: how does your solution enable your growth (Eliminate, Raise, Reduce, Create)
  • The expanded buyer utility map: it shows the six utility levers (productivity, simplicity, convenience, risk, brand image, environmental friendliness), combined with the ten stages of the buyer experience cycle (awareness, evaluation, selection, purchase, delivery, use, supplement, maintain, discard and recommend).

Crafting (Practical, Meta): The art of product creation. Here we closely follow the path of the product manager.

To gain knowledge you have to go through three phases: Shu (just copy what you see), Ha (understand why you are doing it), Ri (learn from your own practice). In this part we got an explanation of Eric Ries’ Lean Start-up and especially the usage of a Minimum Variable Product (MVP). Also here several techniques are explained:

  • Design thinking: using a five-day challenge to go through the six stages of design thinking: understand, define, diverge, decide, prototype and validate.
  • Judo Solution: follow the central guiding principle of judo: “maximum efficiency with minimum effort”. Compare with the MVP.
  • Double loop learning: replace “knowing” (your product features and value) with “assuming” (unvalidated insights about user’s requirements). So as a Product Manager you plan, do check and adjust, think again and make new assumptions. Here we get a new user story format: As a <persona> I have a <problem> which causes me <impact> as can be seen with <metrics>.
  • Three horizons of growth: now, next and beyond.

To become a great Product Manager, a Product Samurai you have to comply with the seven principles. To succeed you must show passion, empathy and compassion, focus and tenacity and decisiveness. You have to practice and train to develop the following skills: observation, questioning, association, networking, experimenting, planning, analysing, detail orientation and self-discipline.


A great book to read if you are a Product Owner or Product Manager and want to achieve continuous innovation. It will help you to understand the role you were asked to start playing or you are already playing and what you can do, what techniques you can use to become a great Product Manager.

To buy: The Product Samurai

What we can learn from Jiro’s philosophy to improve agility

img_1700I am Still in Tokyo, Japan, to give some training classes. I really enjoyed visiting Jiro again and have the omakase tasting menu. The place to be to see customer centricity in practice.

When I left the ten seat Jiro restaurant in Roppingi, I got a little book called ‘JIRO Philosophy’. In this booklet you can find many quotes from the Sushi Master Jiro Ono.

I am now in the middle of a PRINCE2 Agile training class for an organisation at the start of a transformation with focus on agility. Reading this booklet I found several applicable quotes in which continuous improvement is key. I collected and clustered some statements reflecting learning, innovation, and experiment.


  • Just doing what you’re taught is the same as being an apprentice
  • You’ve got to master some skills to reach the next stage
  • There is no job suited to you; you become suited to the job
  • If you continue to do things the right way it’s a given that your sushi will turn out delicious
  • Feeling you can still evolve is important
  • Craftsmen must judge their work to be delicious.


  • There is no limit to innovation
  • Since all sushi toppings are changing, sushi craftsmen must now factor this in When working out flavors.


  • I will experiment for years to obtain a new flavour that completely transcends the ordinary
  • People will teach you new things and ideas. But if you don’t try them out you will not change.

img_1699I would say start experimenting with applying one or more of these quotes and your business agility will improve and whenever you have the chance give Jiro a visit!

Agile Portfolio Management Framework

In one of my previous blogs I wrote about ‘Agility by delivering changes as ‘business as usual’

In that article I created a list of aspects to take into account when designing an agile portfolio management framework. In this article I expanded and re-ordered the list and I summarized it in a picture. I updated the original article too.

dia1Agile Portfolio Management Framework:

Strategy assessment

  • Internal and external environment assessment (SWAT)
  • Portfolio management must facilitate sustainable business change (People, Planet, Prosperity, Processes, and Products)
  • Strategic objectives setting
  • Develop strategic themes.

Direction Setting

  • Portfolio vision, goals and objectives
  • Portfolio management facilitates innovation as part of the roadmap
  • Portfolio management must move away from the iron triangle and focus on delivering value, capacity and time-to-market
  • Close cooperation between enterprise architecture and portfolio management (addressing enabler epics (NFRs, technology drivers, innovations) to be part of the roadmap) to invest in (digital) technology to win, serve and retain customers
  • Portfolio management will have large impact on strategic decisions (achievability, technology trends).


  • Funding at value streams or permanent agile teams level and not at project or programme level
  • Funding must be aligned with the strategy or strategic themes. Enlarge or lower the number of agile teams must take place to align with the strategic themes
  • A short simple business case justification must be used to put epics on a portfolio backlog
  • The portfolio backlog epics must be prioritized based on attractiveness, risk or opportunity costs, time criticality and the duration. The weighted shortest jobs first (WSJF) from SAFe is a good example. Standish ‘Law of the eatable elephant’ is in line with this.
  • Epics can be business related as well as non-functional
  • Epics must be head and heart-driven, not just head-driven
  • Keep epics as small as possible but it must contain more than one feature
  • Number of epics in the roadmap must be WIP limited.


  • Portfolio plans will be replaced by a portfolio backlog with epics and a rolling-wave portfolio roadmap (Roadmaps include six key elements: time frame, prioritized and identifiable outcomes, strategic themes, context-specific content, dependencies, investment outlay)
  • Starting point for a portfolio roadmap must be a portfolio vision
  • Rolling-wave portfolio roadmap must be a living document. Only the first part must be committed to make sure changes can be embraced
  • Portfolio roadmaps must have a cadence or heartbeat to increase throughput and integration moments/milestones to create learning loops
  • Portfolio roadmaps must show retrospective events
  • Portfolio roadmap achievability must be based on (group of) team(s) velocity and not on optimized resource utilization. 100% resource utilization will lead to a lot of busy persons but no delivery!
  • Portfolio roadmap must be approved by senior management and communicated to the organization
  • Must be a continuous integrated portfolio planning process with regular strategic reviews (included fact-based feedback loops) and pivot when needed
  • Portfolio roadmap development includes strategic option analysis / scenario planning.


  • Portfolio dashboards must show the funding of value streams (and permanent agile teams) and the alignment with and budget allocation across the strategic themes
  • Portfolio dashboards must show progress on epic level. Details of epic break downs in features and user stories are not for the portfolio level (respect the decentralized decision making)
  • Focus must be on delivering value / benefits and not on OTOBOS (On Time, On Budget, On Scope)
  • Possible portfolio dashboards Key performance indicators and metrics (not limitative): productivity (feature lead time), agility (predictability, number of releases), quality (satisfaction, #defects), metrics for self-improvement, time to market, NPS
  • Use timely, accurate, and relevant information based on real time (automated) performance data, avoid manual aggregation
  • Portfolio dashboards must show data-driven recommendations for decisions
  • Portfolio dashboard reporting at anytime
  • Dependency management on epic level (inter and intra dependencies)
  • Doing the right things (metrics on effectiveness), Doing it right (metrics on process efficiency). Compare over more than one period
  • Customer feedback to evaluate the effectiveness of the roadmap
  • Portfolio dashboard reporting creates transparency and will motivate stakeholders
  • Integrated tooling (EA and PPM) must give real time insights (rich information) about the health of initiatives, capacity and what-if scenario analysis corresponding with the requester’s role.


  • Senior management commitment (much more leadership, less management)
  • Decentralized decision making
  • End-to-end transparency
  • Inspect regularly and adapt where needed
  • Feedback is crucial
  • Empowered employees
  • Culture of collaboration (remove silo’s).

Looking forward to your comments and adjustments so we can co-create a new Agile PfM Framework.

Book review: The Lean Machine

1001004008192950The lean machine. How Harley-Davidson drove top-line growth and profitability with revolutionary lean product development by Dantar P. Oosterwal. In SAFe you can find several references to this book. For me a reason to review this book.

The book is divided in three parts. The first part, the first chapter, explains the current state of product development and shows how many organizations have structured their product development. The second part, the chapters two through seven, gives insights how Harley-Davidson’s learning environment looks like. The last part, chapters eight through sixteen focusses on the learning and discovery journey in the application of lean principles, which resulted in knowledge-based product development which helps to increase new product throughput, to reduce time to market and to improve quality.

In the first chapter we get insights in a traditional command and control product development organization using very detailed standards for product development, controlled by stage gates and where problems only show up at the end of the development cycle during testing.

In the second part we focus on Harley-Davidson’s learning environment.

Chapter two describes the history of Harley-Davidson and how Harley-Davidson made a transformation towards lean manufacturing. As a result, the organization was divided into three business areas (circles) focussing on manufacturing customers, manufacturing products, and providing the required support. At the intersection of these three circles was the Leadership and Strategy Council. This circle organization structure requires trust and unpredicted levels of collaboration, a lot of coaching and investments in personnel. The traditional command-and-control was transformed in a consensus-driven organization with decision taking by individuals, shared or group and mechanisms for managing conflicts.

To complement this circle organization a formal business process was created to empower the entire organization and fully harness the energy of the workforce. This business process is anchored with three overarching “umbrella” constants: values, issues and stakeholders. The process can be visualised with the following flow: Constants – Vision – Mission and Operating Philosophies – Objectives – Strategies – Work Unit Plans – Work Group Goals.

Chapters three and four put the Product Development Leadership Learning Team (PDL2T) central. This team embraces Peter Senge’s book The Fifth Discipline to build and maintain a learning organization (Systems thinking, Personal mastery, Mental models, Building shared vision and Collective team learning).

We get insights in the set-up of the meeting room and agenda, a code-of-conduct to enable dialogue and establishing learning conversations so the attendees will balance between advocacy and inquiry and know where they are on the ladder of inference in conversation. Based on the conversations we see the creation of a system model example.

Chapter five is all about firefighting and the tipping point. The tipping point refers to that point at which a minor change ‘tips’ the system into a new and irreversible condition. Think about a delay in one of the projects or a new project that will put the whole portfolio at risk. To solve (firefight) the problem we will use some of the resources of another project resulting in an issue for that project too and before you know you are only firefighting issues in many projects in your portfolio without delivering as was promised. Consequences of this are analysed by using a system model the PDL2T created. Based on analysis of the system model and the data two critical elements were identified. cadence and flow are necessary to establish effective and efficient multi-project product development.

Chapter 6 goes into the details of having a cadence and flow. Many organizations use a phase and gate development model. Will this bring execution certainty? Probably not, it will maintain financial control, brings discipline but on the other hand it will throttle development and flow and instil bureaucracy. Having a cadence, the rhythm and the heartbeat that drives effective product development, to pace the work is much more beneficiary to deliver more or with other words to increase the flow of delivered products (or projects). Within Harley Davidson this cadence and flow was translated in standardized pieces of work called bins representing small, medium and large projects. For every bin the scope, schedule and resources was clear. This resulted in a standard portfolio were the sequence of large, small and medium size projects was clear as well as what could be managed in parallel. In the portfolio it became clear for everybody how much could be delivered (flow) and when (cadence).

Chapter 7 goes into supply and demand. Based on data analysis it became clear that improvement of throughput of new products will result in increased customer demand.

Part III: knowledge-based product development

Chapter 8 looks into possibilities to apply lean principles in product development. Is it possible to use lean principles to create cadence and flow? You get an explanation how the Wright brothers took a systems approach to their study of flight focussing first on solving the three primary obstacles preventing successful flight (wings, power and craft dynamics).

Chapter 9 gives you a first understanding of the product development learning curve. Chapter 6 already gave some cons of a phased or stage gate development process. Here you will get some more insights. Every phase builds on the previous one and each phase has specific criteria that need to be met to continue with the next phase. This life cycle is A linear ‘design and validate’ process which promotes ‘point-based’ solutions. Key is the phenomenon that is termed “false positive feasibility”. Based on this we pass tollgates and use redesign loops to fix design problems during testing with delays as a result. See the animation.

In chapter 10 we get an explanation of product development design loops. Every design loop ends/starts with an integration point. At those integration points you control product development. And chapter 11 emphasized on learning cycles. A traditional phase gate methodology promotes progression of product development linearly through stages of development. These decision gates are intended to control risk by stopping the flow of work. As a result, this methodology encourages a linear, point-based development mind-set. Only in the last phase we have the possibility to learn and find out whether the design is truly feasible. This point-based mind-set results in false positive feasibility. Examples of learning cycles are Plan Do Check Act (PDCA) or Look Ask Model Dialogue Act (LAMDA). In linear point-based development, the learning cycles occur as unplanned rework loops to fix the problems. To avoid this, we have to follow a set-based product development.

Chapter 12 gives more insights in set-based development by explaining the usage of the limit curve. Set-based design doesn’t mean that you have to develop in parallel several options but in your design you work with bandwidths (see the limit curve) and use the data to turn it into visible knowledge. Based on this knowledge you will reduce your options to move forward in the right direction. Combining set-based development with cadence and flow through experimental learning cycles results in a knowledge-based development system.

In chapter 13 the leadership learning and pull events are highlighted. The objective of a pull event is to focus the development organization on a tangible event to force completion of a learning cycle to physically demonstrate it.

Chapter 14 gives some best practices to quickening product development. We get an explanation of combat planning. Combat planning is suited to turbulent and ever-changing conditions and relies on sound aggregate objectives where alternatives are developed by individuals in order to ensure achieving shared goals. We get insights in the usage of help chains and visual management as well as After Action Reviews (AARs) as learning tools.

In chapter 15 Oobea stands in the spotlights. The Oobea process and room is explained. This Oobea is all about collaboration and sharing. Oobea is the Japanese word for “big, open office”.

The last chapter shows that Harley Davidson made an enormous step forward by developing and using this knowledge-based product development cycle.


After reading this book I can now see why there are several references to this book in SAFe. Also the usage of set-based development is now much clearer to me as well as the negative side of stage gate development cycles and the “false positive feasibility”. A must read when you want to apply lean in product development!

For more information, see: www.theleanmachine.org