Tag Archives: review

SAFe recommended reading

The Scaled Agile website gives a list of recommended reading. If you are interested in SAFe or if you are a SAFe trainer I think many of these books are must reads. To get a jump start you can find reviews regarding several of these recommended reading and for several books there is a quick reference card, a one-pager, too. To complement the list I added some more reviews focusing on specific topics used, or can be used, in SAFe.SAFe (recommended reading - one pagers, 180321) v1.1

The following books are discussed on this blog:

To complement this reading list, I recommend the following books too:

Handout containing all one-pagers: SAFe (recommended reading – one pagers, 180321) v1.1


Review: Switch – How to change things when change is hard

41SMyZ0ovzL._AC_US436_QL65_In the book Switch – How to change things when change is hard the authors describe a fundamental three-part framework that can guide you in any situation where you need to change behaviour: direct the rider (provide chrystal-clear direction by addressing the rational side), motivate the elephant (engage people’s emotional side), and shape the path (make change more likely).
The book is divided in three parts. In the first part – Direct the rider, the authors describe that you should look for bright spots. Do not obsess about the failures but investigate and clone the successes. Then give the rider a starting point and a destination and give him a destination postcard so that the rider knows where you are going and it gives the elephant an insight why the journey is interesting. And finally you have to script the critical moves to be taken.
In the second part – Motivate the elephant we get many examples of how you can make the elephant believe that he is capable of conquering the change. It’s emotion that motivates the elephant. And emotion comes from feeling. En motivatie komt voort uit gevoel. On the one hand you can shrink the change and on the other you can grow your people grow (or, preferably, both).
In the last part – Shape the path we get to see what it means that, when you tweak the environment the behavior will change too. Simple adjustments can lead to dramatic changes. Look for ways to build habits and finally rally the herd. Behavior is contagious, help it spread.
Switch (rider, elephant, path, 180321) v1.0
Conclusion: A must read for the change agent, you get an in depth explanation of the three-part switch framework, and many, many examples. On top of this you get workshops with food for thought on the basis of a situation how the three switch parts should be handled (direct the rider, motivate the elephant and shape the path).

Review Tribal Unity

51UbcHSbHHLEm Campbell-Pretty is the author of Tribal Unity – Getting from Teams to Tribes by Creating a One Team Culture.

Birds flock, fish swim, people ‘tribe’” – David Logan

A tribe is a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea” – Seth Godin. Em’s first tribe is her EDW Agile Release Train, a team of teams in line with SAFe.

The book is broken into six sections.

In the first section we explore how to build great teams in order to create a solid foundation for a great tribe. Topics like team size, self-selection, delegation poker, using retrospective on cadence, visualization, daily communication, having a social contract and where possible be co-located are explained.

In the second section we get a lot of techniques for connecting teams and creating tribes to build a one team Culture. What’s the value of a shared identity? Strengthen the connection between and aligning the teams in the tribe by organizing unity hour and a daily cocktail hour. Visualizing the tribes work and maintaining the connection between team members by using chapters and guilds. Celebrate successes and share failures with the whole tribe and implement tribal kaizen rituals.

Section 3 puts the leader in the spotlight and explains ways to connect the leader with the tribe. A successful tribe leader needs to participate in the change they are leading. The leader needs to facilitate training, coaching, time and space to innovate, create connections by spending time at the Gemba and create a safe environment and build a strong team of lieutenants. They cultivate Love, generate Energy, inspire Audacity and provide Proof (LEAP).

In section 4 we get techniques to connect the tribe with an idea. The idea must generate the energy, provides alignment and helps the tribe pull together in times of crises. As a tribe leader you have to believe in, commit to and share your idea and communicate, and communicate and communicate. Book clubs, unity hours and cocktails hours can be leveraged to help to increase awareness of your vision.

Section 5 explores ways for sustaining tribal unity by monitoring the tribe’s health by using an employee Net Promotor Score (eNPS), use storytelling to remind your tribe of where it came from and reinforce your tribe’s values, be disciplined about your tribe’s rituals and values. And finally develop a team of potential successors.

The last section gives food for thought to engage management in tribal unity.

In the appendix we get The tribal unity checklist to give you a jump start when building your own tribe.

Conclusion: A must read when building up team of teams (a tribe, an Agile Release Train, …). The book is practical, inspiring and energizing. You get a lot techniques, real life examples and references to helpful books, articles on the web, videos and many, many quotes. I add one: “When spider webs unite, they can tie up a lion” – African proverb

To order: Tribe unity

Review: The Kanban Guide for Scrum Teams

Schermafdruk 2018-02-27 09.02.59Daniel Vacaniti and Scrum.org developed The Kanban Guide for Scrum teams.

In this guide we get an explanation how Kanban can help the Scrum team by visualizing work, using lean thinking, product development flow and queuing theory to optimize the flow. Combining Scrum and Kanban is nothing new, we find this for example in SAFe too.

We get a definition of workflow to understand what flow means in a Scrum context. Furthermore the following Kanban practices, used to optimize flow, are explained:

  • Visualization of the workflow – the Kanban Board
  • Limiting WIP – uses a pull system to improve workflow by creating focus, commitment and collaboration
  • Active management of work items in progress – responding to blocked worked items, incoming – out coming rates, completed according to expectations, unclogging work
  • Inspecting and adapting their definition of ‘workflow’ – explicit policies for its process

Using Kanban requires analysis of flow metrics. The following four basic metrics of flow should be tracked:

  • WIP: number of work items started but not yet finished
  • Cycle time: elapsed time when a work item “started” and when “finished”
  • Work Item Age: elapsed time when a work item “started” and the current time
  • Throughput: number of work items finished per unit of time

Not mentioned but a Cumulative flow Diagram (CFD) is a great help when analyzing these flow metrics.

The final part explains the usage of a flow-based perspective in the existing Scrum events making them flow-based by using the metrics of flow.

Conclusion. A simple and easy to read guide to get a better understanding of the added value of using Kanban by your Scrum Teams.

To download: The Kanban Guide for Scrum Teams

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