Tag Archives: review

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

Review: Manage your project portfolio

9781680501759-480x600Johanna Rothman wrote the book Manage your portfolio Second edition – Increase your capacity – Finish more projects. A book for the more professional portfolio manager or as mentioned on the back of the book: Expert skill level.

If you are facing too many projects, if firefighting and multitasking are keeping you from finishing any of them, this book will help you to manage your portfolio. It makes use of agile and lean ways of working and brings the biggest benefits when you are running your projects in an agile way too. Projects become to be delivered features and evaluation means prioritizing feature sets. In the quick reference card, I highlighted the way the author promotes the usage of Kanban boards to manage your portfolio and it visualizes some of the decisions to be taken.

Manage your portfolio (QRC, 171017) v1.0

To download: Manage your portfolio (QRC, 171017) v1.0

The author divided the book in fourteen chapters and these chapters gives you a step by step approach to build your portfolio. All chapters end with several situations and possible responses to try.

  1. Meet your project portfolio: It’s not your customer who cares about your portfolio. If you are facing issues to finish projects, if you want to deliver faster, more often and qualitative good products to your customer, you need a portfolio
  2. See your future: by managing your portfolio you make the organization’s choices transparent. It becomes clear what to work on first, second, third. It will help to avoid multitasking. What does it mean if you apply lean approaches to your project portfolio? You must think in terms of value, let teams work in small chunks that they can handle and complete
  3. Create the first draft of your portfolio: start collecting all the work before you attempt to evaluate and determine whether you need to do it now. When needed organize sets of projects into programs. Divide your projects in feature sets or Minimum Marketable Features. Not all feature sets are equally important.
  4. Evaluate your projects: the very first decision is about whether you want to commit to this project, kill the project, or transform the project in some way before continuing. If you don’t want to commit but you can’t kill it either put the project on a project parking lot (name, data, value discussion and notes) so you don’t lose track of it.
  5. Rank the portfolio: You can use many methods to rank. The author discusses the rank with Cost of Delay, business value points (divide a total number of points across your projects), by risk, organization’s context, by tour product’s position in the marketplace or by using pairwise comparison, single or double elimination.
  6. Collaborate on the portfolio: Making portfolio decisions is never a single person’s decision. Facilitate portfolio evaluation meetings.
  7. Iterate on the portfolio: Set an iteration length for your review cycles. This cycle length is affected by your project life cycle (agile delivery gives you the opportunity to have shorter review cycles), your product roadmap, and budgeting cycle.
  8. Make portfolio decisions: Conduct portfolio evaluation meetings at least quarterly to start with, decide how often to review the project parking lot. How are you going to cope with advanced R&D projects? Build a project portfolio Kanban (create backlog, evaluate, project work, assess/validate and maintain) to manage your portfolio.
  9. Visualize your project portfolio: Create a calendar view of your projects with predicted dates. Show not only your staffed projects but your unstaffed work too.
  10. Scaling portfolio management to an enterprise: What are the consequences of resource efficiency thinking (100% resource utilization is 0% flow)? How can you scale by starting bottom up or top down? You need both but scale with care. Do you know your enterprise’s mission or strategy otherwise it will be very difficult, if not impossible to make large decisions? Set up a corporate project portfolio meeting to answer the questions which projects help to implement our strategy and which project distract us from our strategy.
  11. Evolve your portfolio: Using lean can help you to evolve your portfolio approach. What does it mean if you stabilize the time-box or the number of work items in progress (see Naked planning video too).
  12. Measure the essentials: for a lean or agile approach consider the following measures: team’s velocity (current and historical), amount of work in progress (cycle and lead time, cumulative flow), obstacles preventing the team to move faster (how long in progress), product backlog burn-up chart, run rate. Never measure individual productivity.
  13. Define your mission: Brainstorm the essentials of a mission, refine the mission (specify strong verbs, eliminate adverbs, avoid jargon), iterate until you feel comfortable, test your mission, make the mission real for everyone.
  14. Start somewhere…but start!

Conclusion. Johanna Rothman wrote a must read for portfolio managers who are struggling with their role when their organization is moving towards more business agility, with more and more permanent agile teams in place but also for the traditional portfolio manager, facing too many projects and almost no delivery to get hands-on practical advice to start organizing their portfolios.

To order: Manage your portfolio Second edition – Increase your capacity – Finish more projects.

Naked Planning Overview by Arlo Belshee

Arlo was one of the first to lay-out the inspiration for Kanban systems for software development.

Review: The Scrum Culture

9783319118260-480x600The Scrum Culture – Introducing Agile Methods in Organizations by Dominik Maximini is a book that starts were most of the agile or Scrum books stop. You can send people to Scrum training classes but what does it mean if you want to use Scrum in your organization? The official Scrum guide is only sixteen pages, thus how difficult can it be? Is it that simple or are we talking about a transition of several years?

Probably the biggest root cause for failed agile transitions is the fact of misalignment between the needed agile mindset and the organizational culture.

The book is split in four parts. In the first, more theoretical, part the author evaluates different organizational culture models, explains his research and ends with a definition of the Scrum culture.

The following organization culture models are explained:

  • Harrison’s culture model (high/low formalization versus high/low centralization: role orientation, task/achievement orientation, person/support orientation, power orientation)
  • Deal and Kennedy’s culture model (fast/slow feedback versus high/low risk: work hard/play hard, tough guy/macho/stars, bet-your-company, process)
  • Schneider’s culture model (Actuality/possibility versus personal/impersonal: collaboration, control competence, cultivation)
  • Cameron and Quinn culture model (flexibility and discretion / stability and control versus internal focus and integration / external focus and differentiation: Clan (collaborate, adhocracy (create), market (compete), hierarchy (control))

The author compared traditional organizations and agile organizations (based on Gloger and Häusling) to highlight the cultural differences:

Traditional organization Agile organization
Position Role
Expert Generalist
Team lead Scrum Master (agile coach)
Product / Project Manager Product Manager / Product Owner
Responsibility of line management: Team, daily operation Responsibility of line management: Individual (focus intrinsic motivation), strategy
Passiveness Activeness
Planning of uncertainty over a long time horizon Planning for a short and clear time horizon
In-transparency Transparency
Presence Accomplishment
Customer as an alien Involvement of customers
Delegation of responsibility Adoption of responsibility
Control Self-responsibility – positive idea of man

A transition to a more agile organization will have an impact on the following categories: management and leadership, decision making, cadence and speed, planning, focus on productivity, soft factors, hierarchy and organization structure.

The second part is about the theory of introducing Scrum. The author discussed several shapes of Scrum, their advantages and disadvantages: Scrum PRN (pro re nata: take as much as needed), virtual Scrum software studio, Scrum software studio, façade Scrum, profound Scrum, and sustainable profound scrum.

Part III structures the way to introduce (your chosen shape of) Scrum. Will you use a bottom-up, a top-down or submarine approach?

The author uses Kotter’s eight steps for organizational change to explain what you must do to introduce and embed Scrum in your organization. In part IV we get a case study following the same eight steps.

Every step is explained in a separate chapter and you get explanations, pitfalls, do’s and don’ts. At the end of each chapter you get an overview with things you must remember for that specific step.

  • Creating a sense of urgency
  • The guiding coalition
  • Vision and strategy
  • Communicating the change vision
  • Empower your employees on a broad basis
  • Generate quick wins
  • Consolidate gains and initiate further change
  • Anchor new approaches into the corporate culture

Conclusion: If you are responsible to lead a transition to become more agile this book is a must read.

To order: The Scrum Culture – Introducing Agile Methods in Organizations

Review and summary Lean UX

9781491953600-480x600Lean UX, as described by Jeff Gothelf and Josh Seiden (Lean UX – Designing Great Products with Agile Teams, 2nd edition, 2016) is the evolution of product design and team collaboration. It takes the best parts of the designer’s toolkit, combines that with Agile software development and Lean Startup thinking, and makes all of this available to the entire product team.

Lean UX contains principles, a process and many tools and techniques (see the QRC Lean UX too).

The Lean UX principles

The foundational principles for Lean UX are the core attributes that any Lean UX team should strive to embody. Lean UX principles can be organized into three groups: principles to guide team organization, process and culture.

Principles to guide team organization are:

  • Cross-functional teams
  • Small, dedicated, co-located
  • Self-sufficient and empowered
  • Problem-focused team

Principles to guide culture:

  • Moving from doubt to certainty
  • Outcomes, not output
  • Removing waste
  • Shared understanding
  • No rock stars, gurus, or ninjas
  • Permission to fail (see YouTube video)

Principles to guide process are:

  • Work in small batches to mitigate risk
  • Continuous discovery
  • GOOB (getting out of the building): the new user-centricity
  • Externalizing your work
  • Making over analysis
  • Getting out of the deliverables business

The Lean UX Process

The lean UX process is a iterative cycle with four steps:

  1. Outcome, assumptions, hypotheses
  2. Design it
  3. Create an MVP
  4. Research & Learning

The first step Outcome, assumptions, hypotheses is about driving vision with outcome by defining the Project’s problem statement. Declare assumptions (4 types: Business outcomes, Users, User outcomes and Features) and transform assumptions into hypotheses (tactical and testable).

During step two Design it, you build a shared understanding, generate and converge ideas by using:

  • Design Studio: problem definition and constraints, individual idea generation (diverge), presentation and critique, iterate and refine in pairs (emerge), team idea generation (converge)
  • Design systems, style guides, collaborative design sessions, and simple conversations

In step three create an MVP you build the smallest thing you can make to learn whether your hypothesis is valid.

  • Creating an MVP to understand value: get to the point, use a clear call to action, prioritize ruthlessly, stay agile, don’t reinvent the wheel, measure behavior
  • Create an MVP to understand implementation: be functional, integrate with existing analytics, be consistent with the rest of the application
  • Final guidelines for creating MVPs: it’s not easy to be pure, be clear about your learning goals, go small, you don’t necessarily need code, the truth curve
  • Examples of MVPs: landing page test, feature fake (aka button to nowhere), Wizard of Oz
  • Prototyping: paper, low-fidelity on-screen mockups, middle- and high-fidelity on-screen prototypes, coded and live-data prototypes.

In the final step, Research & learning the team is looking for feedback and performing research.

  • Collaborative discovery: as a team review, decide who to speak, create interview guide, break your team into research pairs, arm each pair with a version of the MVP, meet the customer, interview and take notes, begin with questions, conversations, and observations, demonstrate the MVP, collect notes and customer feedback, switch roles
  • Continuous learning: three users every Thursday, simplify your test environment, making sense of the research
  • Monitoring techniques: customer service, on-site feedback surveys

Lean UX (QRC, 170812) v1.0

Download QRC Lean UX: Lean UX (QRC, 170812) v1.0

The book is divided in three parts. The first part introduces Lean UX and explains the principles. The second part explains the process. The last part focusses on Lean UX in your organization. How can you integrate Lean UX and agile (staggered sprints, design sprint, dual-track Agile), what organizational shifts are needed to comply with the principles and to integrate Lean UX. The book ends with several case studies.

The reason I read this book is related to a next Leading SAFe 4.5 training class I will give. The new version SAFe 4.5 moved from UX to Lean UX and expanded on user experience development. SAFe 4.5 uses a slightly adjusted Lean UX process:

  1. Outcome hypothesis
  2. Collaborative design
  3. Build MMF (Minimum Marketable Feature, SAFe uses the MVP in the Lean Startup Cycle)
  4. Evaluate

As a SAFe Certified Consultant, I would say a must read and not only for trainers. The book is easy to read and contains a lot of explanation and examples.

To order: Lean UX – Designing Great Products with Agile Teams

Why do you need to fail – by Derek Sivers

Organisation mindset

Many organizations are struggling with the transition to become more agile. I see organizations starting with a number of permanent agile teams and asking themselves after a while why the expected benefits are not there? Did they choose the wrong scaling agile framework? Maybe, maybe not, it probably has to do with the fact that the mindset of the organization is still the mindset of an organization in the traditional world.

I came across a website focussing on this mindset.

Alex Yakyma, founder of ORG mindset, created a model to help you with your transition towards more business agility (implementing Lean and Agile at scale) by focussing on the needed mindshift in your organisation. Without this mindshift, more business agility will be very difficult to achieve, adding more agile practices will not help.

ORG mindshift with their corresponding model will help you with tools and addoption paterns that address the mentality first and allow to build a successful Lean-Agile enterprise. Nowadays you need a mindset that embraces complexity (Lean-Agile mentality)  in stead of a mindset to cope with sequencial industrial systems. In the old world we see anti-patterns such as Outputs over Outcomes, obsession with predictability and metrics et cetera (Reductionist mentality).

Schermafdruk 2017-06-24 10.43.25If you go to the website (orgmindset.com) you get the model with icons (and hyperlinks to the details behind the icons).

Exploit variability  explore economic opportunities: Variability entails high-payoff opportunities.

Minimize Constraints to collaboration: Change is inevitable, and the more flexible the structures that foster collaboration the easier the task. Avoid management’s compartmentalized thinking.

Build sustainable practices: Don’t over-emphasize early wins but focus on benefit-constraint, feedback loops, practice maps, embedded menthal models and shared cognition.

Align Mental Models: we never directly operate with a phenomenon, but through mental models.  As a change agent you have to identify problems with mental models in their organization and fix them (accuracy, different people, different models, blind spots).

Besides this model the website offers research, presentations and course information to become an Org Mindset Enterprise Coach (OMEC).

Conclusion: When you are starting or in the middle of a transition to become more agile this site is definitely worthwhile to visit and gives you some food for thought.

Scaled Agile just released SAFe 4.5 (SAFe for Lean Enterprises)

SAFe 4.5 can be configured for four development environments (Essential SAFe (simplest), Portfolio SAFe, Large solution SAFe and Full SAFe (most advanced) and SAFe 4.5 is backwards compatible with SAFe 4.0 (available through June, 2018).

PRINT-4.5-BP-FULL-Configuration-8.5x11The big picture is a little bit more user friendly (some details / icons are taken out) and you can select the environment you want to use (and as a result the picture will only show the corresponding parts). I think some more icons on the big picture can be removed too if Scaled Agile creates a specific big picture on their homepage for their online knowledge wiki which contains hyperlinks to all topics. A big picture to explain SAFe can work without icons for SPC, Lean-Agile Leaders, the implementation Roadmap and topics like the Continuous Delivery Pipeline.

Most important changes:

  • Faster innovation with Lean Startup and Lean UX
  • Epic Value Statement and Light weighted Business Case are replaced by Epic Hypothesis Statement and Lean Business Case
  • Feature delivery with Scalable DevOps and Continuous Delivery Pipeline
  • SAFe implementation Roadmap
  • Value Stream has been changed to Solution (Value Stream Backlog > Solution Backlog, Value Stream Engineer > Solution Train Engineer, …) and a Solution Train has been added (several ARTs and Supplier forms one Solution Train)
  • Compliance has been added to the Solution Intent
  • Program Portfolio Management (PPM) has been replaced by Lean Portfolio Management
  • Increased alignment with the Scrum Guide

Impact on my book Scaling Agile in organisaties is minor. For the coming year, SAFe 4.0 is still valid. In the next print of my book I can make adjustments regarding the name changes (Value Stream, PPM). The SAFe Implementation Roadmap was already incorporated and topics like faster innovation with Lean Startup can be added.

More information on SAFe 4.5 can be found on www.scaledagileframework.com. At the homepage you can with to SAFe 4.0 too.