Tag Archives: review

Review: How to lead self-managing teams?

513EGuoKb3L._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_How to lead self-managing teams? Changing leadership from sheepherding to beekeeping – A business novel is written by Rini van Solingen. Rini is the author of, among other books, ‘The power of Scrum’.

In many books on agile, scrum, agile project management, etc., the notion of servant leadership is encountered, but what is exactly meant by serving leadership is not obvious. In this easy to read book, the author has managed to clarify servant leadership and he gives lots of tips to become one!

The book tells the story of Mark, a manager at a large supermarket chain that switches to self-organizing teams. During a holiday Mark visits his grandfather, who in a number of conversations takes him along in his own change from shepherd to beekeeper. Mark’s grandfather shows him how his former role as shepherd is comparable to a more authoritarian leadership style and how he had to change his leadership style in order to be successful as a beekeeper. Mark translates the conversations with his grandfather in a number of lessons for his own organization.

At the end of each chapter you get an overview of the lessons Mark has learned. For example in the chapter Cabinets and Frameworks Mark’s grandfather tells you that you have to give your bees a certain amount of living space in the hive (cabinet). Not too little, but also not too much. And you must ensure that they continue to work within that space. This results in a number of points of attention that Mark links to the lesson: Pick and protect the frameworks. The following six lessons are discussed (See the accompanying figure in which the lessons and accompanying points of interest are expressed):

  • Lesson 1: Harvesting frequently gets results
  • Lesson 2: Disrupting operational direction
  • Lesson 3: Pick and protect the framework
  • Lesson 4: value the apparent chaos
  • Lesson 5: Removing barriers
  • Lesson 6: Let go of your ego

Beeshepperd (180211) v1.0To download:  QRC Servant leadership

In a final chapter, the author summarizes the servant leadership lessons as discussed in the story of Mark and his grandfather, in a simple model. The author calls this the bee-shepherd model (see figure).


A must-read for project or program managers (and other managers) who have to deal with self-organizing (scrum) teams and want to know how to deal with these self-organizing teams and what you have to do, to make this possible and be a servant leader too.

Servant leadership becomes tangible by this book. Because it is written in a smooth narrative style, you can read it in a few hours and you get material to give it a thought and practice with servant leadership for the coming months.

To order: How to lead self-managing teams?


Review: The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

9780787960759-480x600In the book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team – A leadership fable Patrick Lencioni explains the essence of collaboration within a team. The book has been available for a number of years, but I found it on many lists, for example as one of the recommended books within SAFe, so that my curiosity was triggered.

The book consists of two parts, where the first, most voluminous part tells a fable in which we see a non-functioning management team struggle in her sometimes difficult way to a truly cooperative team and the second part deals with understanding of and countering the five dysfunctions.

In the fable, we follow the newly appointed CEO Catherine, who was commissioned by the board to turn the management team into a truly collaborative team that can produce results. In a number of off-sites she starts with het management team to build a real team. She explains step by step everyone the triangle with the five dysfunctions of team. As a first step, she discusses what “absence of trust” means. Through a number of exercises, she works on improving mutual trust. Then she grasps the fifth frustration ‘inattention to results’ and sets the goal for the coming period with the group. Through a variety of exercises, the other three frustrations also come up for ‘fear of conflict’, ‘lack of commitment’ and ‘avoidance of accountability’. It is as expected, really learning by mistakes, three steps forward and two steps back, but eventually a real team emerges.

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team (QRC, 180123) v1.0To download: The Five Dysfunctions of a Team (QRC, 180123) v1.0

In the second part the author zooms in on the triangle used in the fable with the five dysfunctions. We get a summary of the model and a team questionnaire containing fifteen questions to determine which dysfunctions are / are not applicable for the team

Subsequently, we get for each dysfunction, characteristics of teams where the dysfunction is present and characteristics of teams that have mastered the dysfunction. In addition, we get a number of suggestions on how to counter the dysfunction and what role the leader should play in this.

Finally, the relationship between the various dysfunctions is explained. The first step is trust. If there is trust, one dares to enter into conflicts through which involvement is created. By being involved one feels accountable and with this the desired results can be achieved.

Conclusion: an easily readable book that clearly highlights the essence of teamwork. The five dysfunctions offer a nice handle to show whether or not a team is functioning properly. A must read for agile teams. The team questionnaire (fifteen questions) is a simple tool to determine which dysfunctions are / are not applicable for the team. If you look further at the suggestions offered to tackle the dysfunctions, you will get a toolbox to turn a group of people into a real team. It’s a pity that the suggestions offered are not more concrete.

To order: The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

9780470823385-480x600For those who prefer a manga like edition, I can recommend the illustrated leadership fable The five dysfunctions of a team, illustrated by Kensuke Okabayashi (see example pages)

To order: The Five Dysfunctions of a Team (Manga edition)


Schermafdruk 2018-02-01 20.24.59


Review: The Startup Way

9780241197264-480x600In the book ‘The Startup Way – How Entrepreneurial Management Transforms Culture and Drives Growth’, the author Eric Ries shows how you can apply the Lean Startup mindset and techniques in every organization. How do you ensure that you enable continuous innovation within the existing organizational structure? How do you create support and what opportunities and threats are there in scaling up such an internal startup?

The book consists of three parts. In the first part, we look at the modern company and we see why traditional management practices no longer satisfy. The second part describes a roadmap to transformation or the ‘how’ of The Startup Way. The last, smaller, part three ‘the big picture’ deals with the question of what happens when the transformation process is ‘completed’. Throughout the book we get a multitude of examples from the author’s own practice at companies such as GE, IBM, Intuit and the government of the United States.

In the first part the modern company is designed. What does uncertainty mean, how do we deal with failures, what is the role of the leader when the way in which companies grow up, changes and to which you can recognize a modern company. A next chapter focuses on entrepreneurship as a missing function and zooms in on the startup as an atomic unit of work and the integration of startups in the organization. It is a startup state of mind. It’s all about the team. Think big. Start small. Scale fast. We get a tour through various start-up methods. A separate chapter is devoted to refreshing knowledge of and lessons from The Lean Startup and we get many types and examples of MVPs. This part ends with a chapter on a management system for innovation at scale. Within The Startup Way, general and entrepreneurial management are connected through the following shared values: commitment to truth, discipline, excellence and continuous improvement.

In the second part the ‘how’ of the startup method is in the spotlights. Several chapters follow the three phases of The Startup Way: critical mass, scaling up and deep systems and thus provide a roadmap for transformation. The three phases at both team, division and company level can be followed. For each phase, many patterns and examples are discussed with the comment that it is not a step-by-step manual.

Phase one: critical mass:

  • Start small
  • Build dedicated, cross-functional teams
  • Wield the golden sword (clearing away bureaucratic obstacles)
  • Design a good experiment (hypothesis, next action, risk containment, a tie between what is measured and one hypothesis)
  • Create new ways to measure success (leading indicators)
  • Work by exception
  • Translate this way of working into terms the organization can understand.

Phase two: Scaling up:

  • Identify the challenges faced by pilot teams
  • Implement a widespread rollout
  • Identify and make use of executive-level champions
  • Train representatives of all internal functions
  • Establish an in-house coaching program
  • Set up the mechanisms of metered funding and growth boards

Phase Three: Deep systems:

  • From gatekeeper functions (delayed) to enabling functions (accelerated). Create a one-page guide that laid out, in plain English, a series of parameters within which teams would be pre-cleared to work
  • Dual roles: support the entrepreneurial efforts of product and project teams and create their own entrepreneurial process to streamline their own functional responsibilities
  • Testing and validating
  • Ideas and way of working must become deeply baked into a company’s DNA.

Startup way (QRC, 180109) v1.0To download: Startup way (QRC, 180109) v1.0

This section concludes with a detailed explanation of the complex matter of innovation accounting. What is innovation accounting, the role of the growth board and the three levels (dashboard, business case and net present value) to translate the vague language from ‘learning’ to the hard language of dollars or euros.

Growth Board responsibilities:

  • To be the single point of contact of corporate accountability for an internal startup.
  • To act as the single clearinghouse for information about the startup for the rest of the corporation.
  • To provide metered funding to startups.

In the last part, the author sees as the most important application of The Startup Way to build an open and innovative society. How to create government policies that are entrepreneurial-friendly and to use The startup Way as a new social movement in order to respond to the following points:

  • An epidemic of short-termism
  • Lack of entrepreneurial opportunity
  • A loss of leadership
  • Low growth and instability.

Conclusion. If you have read the Lean Startup then this book is a great addition and offers practical tools, many examples and insights to drive the continuous transformation to more agility by using the internal startup as a building block and to promote entrepreneurship. But do not underestimate it, as a company to go through such a transformation is a hell of a job as this also clearly emerges in this not always easy to read book.

To order: The Startup Way

Review: Don’t Spook the Herd! How to get your agile projects running smoothly

51xhFRx8BJL._AC_US436_QL65_Just before Christmas, Dan Miller wrote me a message and asked for a review of his book Don’t Spook the Herd! How to get your agile projects running smoothly. He told me that he wants to have an honest review.

The book is divided in four parts. In part I the author explains what he means with agile. Part II focuses on people, Part III uses an example of organizing a congress to explain the process and the last smaller part IV gives some final thoughts.

In the introduction, the author explained the title: “When the herd is at ease they can be the most fantastic group. They are capable of amazing feats of speed, coordination and agility. However, when they are freaked out for some reason, chaos sets in, end they end up all over the place. This is much like an agile project.”

In part I we get an overview of definitions, what is an agile project and flavors of agile. The following frameworks are briefly discussed: Scrum, Kanban, Scrumban, Crystal Methods, eXtreme Programming (XP), Agile Unified Process, Disciplined Agile Delivery (DAD), Lean Software Development (LSD), Feature Driven Development (FDD), Rapid Application Development (RAD), Adaptive Software Development (ASD), Dynamic Systems Development Method (DSDM). This part ends with a chapter explaining the characteristics of a project that help you to decide for an agile approach?

Part II puts the people in the spotlights. They can make or break a project. We get an overview of the different project roles and we look at culture through the lens of the agile manifesto and underlying principles. Separate chapters talk about leadership, the team and self-organization and how to support and get support from the stakeholders.

Part III follows an agile project from start to finish. The author takes the readers with him, explaining every step he takes as a project manager for this project. He describes the electronic tools, like Jira he uses and some templates he offers on his website (smartbusinessguardian.com).

The following tools can be downloaded:

  • Project Intent Statement (compare a project one pager)
  • Agile Decision Checklist (compare the PRINCE2 Agile Agilometer or the AgilePM Project Approach Questionnaire)
  • Project Organization Chart
  • Project Summary Schedule
  • Project Status Report

Conclusion: For me the first part is the weakest part of the book. The agile flavors only explain agile at the team level. agile overviewThere is much more available, see for example this overview from my book Scaling agile with the most used ones. Dan Miller’s approach can be positioned at the left side of my picture. The explanation of Scrum could be better and it is a missed opportunity to give some more details about XP. Many agile teams are using techniques described by XP, e.g. pair programming, Test Driven Development and last but not least, the use of User Stories. DAD is now one of the elements of Disciplined Agile and DSDM offers AgilePM, AgilePgM and AgilePfM.

I agree with the author that people are the number one success factor and this is put central in part II. For me this is the strongest part of the book. Good to read how the author explains the agile manifesto and the agile principles, the competences for the project manager, the team and management.

Part III focusses on the process. Here you get a practical overview of the process to run an agile project but for me it is still too much of a traditional approach. E.g. progress reporting focusing on time, budget, risk etc. can be replaced by burn-down (current sprint) and burn-up (whole project) and the team board and demo’s, starting with a WBS and later a translation into User Stories can be replaced with a Story Board with Features and User Stories and slicing where needed. Etc.

But, if you are unfamiliar with agile projects and needed (agile) people behavior in projects this book can be helpful to get a better understanding and a jump start in the agile way of working. If you are looking for agile flavors or an explanation of Scrum there are better choices.

To buy: Don’t Spook the Herd!

Overview of my year 2017 book reviews and QRCs

2017 was a fruitful book year. I wrote many book reviews including corresponding quick reference cards and several personal insights, and views on specific topics in the field of project, program and portfolio management and I wrote two books Scaling agile in organisaties, and Agile with a smile.

overview 2017 (reviews, 171222) v1.0

Agile portfolio management


Project management and PMO


overview 2017 (reviews + QRCs, 171222) v1.0

Quick Reference Cards:

  • QRC AgilePfM
  • QRC P3M3
  • QRC Best Value Project Management
  • QRC How to do projects – A Nordic flavour to managing projects
  • QRC Manage your project portfolio
  • QRC Goal Driven Agile
  • QRC De Team-ontwikkeling-schijf
  • QRC Overtuigen
  • QRC The agility shift
  • QRC The Relational Web
  • QRC Lean UX

Review: AgilePfM – Agile Portfolio Management

agilepfm_coverThe Agile Business Consortium has given detailed insights in the Portfolio Innovation Hub as part of their Agile Business Change Framework by publishing the book AgilePfM – Agile Portfolio Management (Editorial team: Barbara Roberts, Peter Coesmans, Peter Measey and Steve Messenger).

This pocketbook focuses on management of a single portfolio and is divided in 13 chapters (a supplementary Complex Agile Portfolio publication will follow).

AgilePfM is centered on six core behaviors:

  1. Focus on the creation of value
  2. Review the portfolio continuously
  3. Involve the right people to shape and manage the portfolio
  4. Clearly and continuously demonstrate that the portfolio is delivering optimum value
  5. Encourage innovation and creativity
  6. Encourage collaboration and empowerment

Besides the explanation behind the behaviors we get an overview of different organizational challenges and corresponding agile portfolio management guidance.

AgilePfM use some basic concepts of an innovation hub, an agile portfolio process, maturity of the initiatives within the portfolio as well as horizons for an agile portfolio. See the attached AgilePfM Quick Reference Card.

AgilePfM (QRC, 171213) v1.0To download: AgilePfM (QRC, 171213) v1.0

The portfolio process is divided in four steps:

  • Step 1 – Confirm portfolio drivers
  • Step 2 – Confirm portfolio foundations
  • Step 3 – Deliver the change
  • Step 4 – Keep it current – Reassessing strategy and portfolio alignment

Without a strategy, it makes no sense. The VMOST (Vision, Mission, Objectives, Strategy, Tactics) is explained as well as some points to consider when creating and managing an agile strategy. For effective agile portfolios, the following rules should be considered:

  1. If it’s in the portfolio, it must be in the strategy
  2. If there is no strategy, STOP! DO NOT proceed without one
  3. Constantly review the portfolio and adjust when required. No one-off exercise!
  4. Concentrate prioritizing, blending, balancing on the near-term horizon

Initiatives can be divided based on their maturity within the portfolio:

  • Unformed, nebulous ideas
  • (Future) immature, starting to have some shape
  • (Future) ready, clearer and prioritized
  • Current, value being created
  • Completed, value being tracked
  • Reality, value delivered to the organization

In a separate chapter, several areas of consideration are given to help you formulate an idea generation process (defined and communicated method, respectful and open-minded evaluation of every idea and an idea must be treated as any other initiative)

The expected context of the rolling wave portfolio plan is dynamic and will change as events occur, both inside and outside the portfolio. The portfolio considers three horizons:

  • Longer-term horizon (from a few months to several years)
  • Near-term horizon (typically a few months)
  • Today (snapshot view).

A separate chapter explores the budgeting dilemma and what agile budgeting means including the relation between portfolio and budget and how budgeting aligns with the six core behaviors. Agile portfolio management emphasizes the importance of the delivery of value

Several roles can be distinguished in the portfolio innovation hub. In the model, we see two groups: The influencers, stakeholders and beneficiaries and on the other hand the core change participants.

The first group delivers the business change and innovation leadership for the portfolio and strategy and for each individual initiative the business change ownership as well as the change coordination. Often known as the portfolio board. Idea generation can come from anyone in the organization.

The core change participants deliver change support, change co-ordination, change analysis and expert guidance. This group can be seen as the portfolio management team or portfolio office.

Effective agile portfolio governance ensures the portfolio remains aligned to the overarching strategy and goals of the organization. The following principles will help to achieve this:

  • Ensure value drives priority (do the right things)
  • Never compromise quality (Do the things right)
  • Decide with the initiatives, don’t manage them
  • Give clear considered direction
  • Stay informed

Conclusion: When we think of portfolio management we often think of more traditional portfolio management as described in Management of Portfolios (MoP, AXELOS) or the Standard for Portfolio Management (PMI). When we look at agile portfolio management we find some guidance in the portfolio SAFe configuration and Disciplined Agile (DA). AgilePfM offers a combination of both worlds. The concepts of initiative maturity and rolling wave planning horizons make sense. The rules and behaviors are a combination of the more traditional and the agile ways of working. I miss the set-up of a portfolio Kanban board to visualize and manage the flow (by using WIP limits). This is absolutely a pocketbook that is worth reading.

To order: AgilePfM – Agile Portfolio Management

Global standards and publications Edition 2018/2019

2017_GSAP-180x150Van Haren Publishing send me their latest Global standards and publications Edition 2018/2019.

A handsome guide containing short summaries (3 minutes) of many standards including the Van Haren publishing portfolio.

I am one of the authors of a couple of these summaries.

In this guide, you can find:

  • 20 standards in the field from IT & IT Management: Agile, Scrum, Devops, ASL, CMMi, COBIT, e-CF, ISO/IEC20000, ISO/IEC27000, ISO38500, ISM, ITIL, Lean IT, AIM, BRM, IT-CMF, SFIA, SAF, TRIM, VeriSM)
  • 12 standards in the field of Project Management: Axelos family (PRINCE2 2017, MSP, MoP, P3O, P3M3, M_o_R, MoV), ICB4, PMBoK, ISO21500, ISO3100, Praxis
  • 3 standards in the field of Enterprise architecture: ArchiMate, IT4IT, TOGAF
  • 9 standards in the field of Business Management: Balanced scorecard, BiSL, BiSL Next, eSCM-CL/SP, OPBoK, Operating Model Canvas, Six Sigma, SqEME

If I compare this guide with the Edition 2016/2017 we see the following additions:

IT & IT Management:

  • ISM: IT Service Management
  • SAF: Service Automation Framework
  • TRIM: The Rational IT Model
  • VeriSM: Value-driven Evolving Responsive Integrated Service Management

Project Management:

  • Praxis: The free framework for project, programme and portfolio management

Business Management

  • BiSL Next: includes Business Information Management (BIM)
  • Operating Model Canvas: aligning operations and organization with strategy

Bestellen: Global standards and publications Edition 2018/2019