We believe in safe, incremental, pragmatic change and improving the business drivers executives repeatedly tell us are behind their desire to adopt agile. Follow this blog to get information on Agile Training, Agile Coaching, Agile Transformation.
Mike Cottmeyer, Live, at Agile & Beyond 2019 - YouTube
In order to achieve business Agility, Agile has to be applied in a certain context. You have to be able to form the right kinds of teams, build the right kinds of backlogs, and produce working, tested increments of product. The problem is that this context doesn’t exist in larger, more complex enterprises. Most companies are falling short when they try to scale Agile because they lack the proper buy-in from leadership, they lack the ecosystem in which Agile can be successful, and they don’t know how to orchestrate the type of change that’s required of organizations that are attempting to adopt Agile. Just because you have the roles, ceremonies, and artifacts of Scrum in place doesn’t mean you’ll automatically begin reaping the benefits of Agile. So, what’s needed isn’t more Scrum, more XP, more SAFe.
What’s needed is a plan. A plan to do more than simply teach people Agile. If you want your Transformation to be sustainable, you’re going to need to find a way to systematically overcome the structural, procedural, and cultural barriers that stand in the way of Transformation. You’ll need a structured, disciplined Agile Transformation.In this talk, Mike breaks down what a structured, and disciplined Agile Transformation actually look like. He’ll discuss why organizations want to Transform, what actually needs to be Transformed, how the change will be orchestrated, and who’s responsible for the orchestration of change.
Mike used an abbreviated version of his normal deck for the talk at Agile & Beyond, but we’ve provided the deck in its entirety for added context.
When it comes to an Agile Transformation, going through the motions of adopting a new set of attitudes, processes, and behaviors at the team level is easy. The hard part is building the enabling structures that allow Agile to thrive, aligning the flow of work, measuring progress based on outcomes, and achieving communicable results that will resonate with stakeholders.
This talk will cover the hard part. Mike Cottmeyer will explore the economic rationale behind going agile, considerations that will drive your organization’s change approach, what the fundamentals of an agile ecosystem look like, and the organizational patterns, governance models, and metrics necessary to establish that ecosystem. You’ll leave better prepared to engage and collaborate with your leadership team in order to come to a shared understanding of what the desired end state will look like, how to orchestrate the change necessary to achieve that end state, and how to use outcomes-based planning to measure progress.
One of the challenges faced by many organizations hoping to improve their ability to deliver value through Business Agility is that they get so caught up in selecting a solution that they lose sight of the actual problem they are trying to solve.
In this episode of SoundNotes, LeadingAgile Senior Consultants Luke Pirrello and Tom Furland join Dave Prior in exploring better ways to go about understanding the problem that needs to be addressed and then designing a solution that fits the problem without getting lost in a dogmatic approach to implementing Agile.
During the podcast, Luke and Tom discuss Disneyland’s approach to designing and implementing innovative solutions to problems like how to create a Millennium Falcon ride that will provide a valuable experience to an unprecedented number of Star Wars fans. The new attraction is expected to have a demand beyond the scale of anything seen before and it required coming up with an entirely new way of delighting the customers who have a deep personal connection not only to Disney but to the Star Wars brand as well.
Problems, Solutions, and the Millennium Falcon - SoundCloud (1975 secs long, 8 plays)Play in SoundCloud
Contacting Luke Pirrello
If you’d like to contact Luke you can reach him at:
You can have a lot of success in implementing Agile/Lean methodologies when you have small teams or even self-contained project teams. You’ll be able to realize a ton of business value just by moving to an Agile way of working. But why does it all begin to break down at the enterprise level? Is it because Agile doesn’t work?
The answer is quite simple, actually. Learn what’s getting in the way of your Agile Transformation in this short clip from Toronto Agile 2018.
This is how I felt when I was coaching Agile teams, I was creating these incredibly high-performing teams, these teams that were capable of “doing great things” as Lisa Atkins likes to say. But I really felt like my teams were constrained. They couldn’t move as fast as I wanted them to move. They couldn’t move as fast as they were capable of moving. The reason is because there’s dependencies. Every time we turned around, there was another dependency that was really holding the teams back. And I felt like I’ve got these incredible teams, I’ve created this high performing team, and they’re just not able to move as quickly as they’re capable of doing. The reason being is our teams can only move as quickly as their slowest dependency. So, when we start talking about how do we really unleash the promise and the potential that Agile practices and culture offer, we need to start thinking about, strategically, how do we form teams with the central organizing principle is product, and how do we really encapsulate those dependencies?
Let’s start talking about what is it that we mean by encapsulating dependencies. Organizations, especially large enterprise organizations have lots of dependencies. We can be super successful implementing Scrum and realizing great business value with small teams. We can be super successful in implementing Scrum and realizing great business value, even with, you know, self-contained project teams and managing those dependencies across those project teams. Where we really start to fall short is at the enterprise level. At the enterprise level, there’s organizational dependencies. We have very complex legacy architectures to deal with. We also have technical dependencies that we have to deal with. So the thing about dependencies, and again, I’ll say this again, when it comes to unlocking the promise and potential of Agile, really truly Transforming how your organization delivers value. When we’re forming teams, restructuring the organization, we need to consider, strategically, how do we manage for these specific dependencies? How do we encapsulate them and create what we call end to end responsibility for a single product?
In this week’s episode of SoundNotes, LeadingAgile Senior Consultant Sara McClintock and Dave take on two topics submitted by students from our CSM and CSPO classes:
1. What can I do in an organization to grow and promote our Sprint Reviews?
2. Stakeholder demand for timelines or deadlines being an impediment for the team.
Sara and Dave discuss different approaches to helping leadership understand the importance of Sprint Reviews and why their participation is so necessary for delivering a successful product. They also explore different techniques for responding to requests/demands that include unrealistic timelines and ways to begin coaching leadership into prioritizing the work, so that if a date commitment is established, the team can maximize the value they can deliver by the deadline.
Getting Stakeholders to Attend Your Sprint Reviews w/ Sara McClintock - SoundCloud (1694 secs long, 6 plays)Play in SoundCloud
Contacting Sara McClintock
If you’d like to contact Sara you can reach her at:
Reference Architecture vs Reference Implementation - YouTube
In this clip from TriAgile 2019, Mike Cottmeyer is explaining the difference between Reference Architecture and Reference Implementation and why understanding the base patterns of Agility are so important to the success of your Agile Transformation.
Reference Architecture vs. Reference Implementation Transcript
Does anybody in the room believe that you’re supposed to take everything in the SAFe guide and to deploy it in your organization verbatim? No? Right. We all kind of agree it’s designed to be tailored, right? On what principles do you tailor it? Right. Does everybody have a really clear idea of what is non-negotiable versus negotiable when they’re tailoring their methodology? Like what things could you leave out and still have it not work or still have it work? Right? Okay, so when, one of the things that we’ve been distinguishing between quite a bit lately is this idea of what we call reference architecture versus a reference implementation. What we’ve found useful is this idea that there’s a bunch of base patterns that we believe transcend any of the methodologies. You can find them in LeSS, you can find them in SAFe, you can find them in Disciplined, Agile Delivery. In the small, you can find them in Scrum, you can find them in XP.
The reference architecture holds universally. The reference implementation is what is negotiable. So understanding the base patterns that you can’t violate, it’s like a really big deal, right? And so as you think about it, right, so we understand our business case, we understand what levers we want to pull. We’re going to start articulating a strategy for how we get there. The reference architecture is going to help us understand what it is that we’re pointing at. What are we moving towards? Cause here’s another interesting thing. As you move from an early stage Transformation to a late stage Transformation, your methodology’s actually going to change. You’re going to have to do things to manage dependencies early that you won’t necessarily have to do after you start breaking dependencies. So if our reference architecture, if the underlying patterns stay the same, we can start to tailor the methodology without breaking it as we move from higher control to lower control through the course of the Transformation.
Okay? So the reference architecture gives us a guide as to what we are shooting towards. And getting into this whole reference architecture, reference implementation. If you look at like the teaming strategies within a SAFe and the teaming strategies within Large Scale Scrum, or the teaming strategies within Disciplined Agile Delivery, or even in the small with Scrum, you will find that what I said about teams, backlogs, working tested software I think holds true in all of them, right? They have different tools and techniques for how they want you to scale. Large Scale Scrum basically assumes less dependencies. SAFe assumes more dependencies, but I don’t think fully respects all of the dependencies in the ecosystem. So sometimes we’re even going to put in more controls than SAFe recommends. But if you can start to recognize this team’s backlogs, working tests and software pattern dependency management patterns, right?
As you start to improve your ability to form teams, create backlogs, and produce working tested software, often through the progressive elimination of dependencies within the organization, then you can start to deprecate some of the control. And so what you find is that SAFe is often insufficient for highly dependent environments, and it’s actually sometimes too heavy when there’s not a lot of dependencies, right? There are other ways you can do it for less, in the presence of dependencies, or in the absence of dependencies. Okay? So understanding where you’re at on that continuum will absolutely inform your methodology. So the holy grail here, right, is to be able to articulate a strategy for this is how we’re going to form teams and this is how we’re going to govern. And then as we start to break dependencies and reduce organizational dysfunction over time, what controls do we have in place that we can begin to start to deprecate? Okay? So that’s why it’s so important to understand these fundamentals from the theory and approach and to understand what your fundamental reference architecture is because your practices are going to evolve as you improve the system. You want to lighten the practices as you improve your system.
At LeadingAgile we believe that the ability to realize the benefits of an Agile approach begins with there core things: stable teams, a well-formed backlog, and the ability to consistently deliver working tested software.
In this episode of SoundNotes, LeadingAgile Managing Consultant, Jeff Howey, spends time talking with Dave about what a “well-formed backlog” actually is. Jeff and Dave discuss characteristics of a well-formed backlog, how you know if you’ve got one and why that’s so important. Along the way, they also explore the differences between Epics, Features, Themes, and Stories and how those terms might be used to break down all the work that led up to Marvel’s new film “Avengers: End Game”.
Note: Jeff recommends listening to the podcast at 1.5 normal speed. This will allow you to get through the podcast quicker, but the pace should still be okay for most listeners.
What is a Well-Formed Backlog? w/ Jeff Howey - SoundCloud (1821 secs long, 27 plays)Play in SoundCloud
Contacting Jeff Howey
If you’d like to contact Jeff you can reach him at:
There’s no success in Agile outside the context of a team. Forming teams is just that important. So, what is a team? The Scrum Guide implies what a team should be, but we want to get super explicit. In this short clip, Mike Cottmeyer defines what an Agile team should really look like.
The thing that I think is the most critical in a Transformation, I’m kind of bleeding up into the theory and approach section, is this idea that we have to have complete cross-functional teams. So what is a complete cross-functional team? It’s not a group of people working on a project. It’s not a group of people dedicated to a project. It is that, but that’s not it in its entirety. It’s a group of about six to eight people. Maybe it’s 12. Maybe it’s four, right? Not being super dogmatic about that. That have ownership over their technology stack and are focused at a well-identified business problem. Okay? If we want to go super deep into it, you could take like a business capability or a product line or a set of services within an organization. We want the team to be able to own the technology stack, deploy it on command and want that technology stack and those people to be focused at something that the business cares about.
That is a team in Agile. It’s implied in the Scrum Guide, I’m making it super explicit. Without a team like that, velocity will never stabilize. You will not get predictable against a known backlog. Super difficult to get to a definition of done at the end of every Sprint. And so what happens is that people do a lot of Scrum: daily stand-ups, reviews, retrospectives, story point estimation, burndown charts, all that stuff, but it’s not creating the momentum that they want. It’s like if you can’t get the organization to form teams, you’re stealing money from them. It’s that big of a deal, right? There is no success in Agile outside the context of a team.
When we develop products, we’re responsible for maximizing the value we deliver to the customer. In order to do this, we have to understand who we’re actually building the products for. We need to know who the customer is, what problem(s) we’re trying to solve for them, and any additional information we can gather that will give us more insight into their needs and how we can address them. We also need to have an awareness of where our assumptions about the customer may be introducing risk. Unfortunately, we often get so focused on creating and delivering that this area of focus doesn’t receive the level of attention that’s needed to ensure that we’re solving the right problem(s) in the best way possible.
In this episode of SoundNotes, LeadingAgile SVP and Executive Consultant, Scott Sehlhorst makes the case for why this work is so important and why empathy maps are such a critical (and often ignored) aspect of this work. Scott and Dave talk through a step-by-step approach you can use to deepen your understanding of the customer and their needs, as well as how to make sure the solution you are working on is the right one and how to manage your risk by tracking and testing your assumptions and biases along the way.
If you’re skeptical about the value that empathy maps provide, or how important it is to take the time to collect, analyze, and test information about your customer, this podcast is for you. And if you’re looking for a detailed explanation of how to go about figuring all this out, this conversation may provide you with the blueprint you need to get started making sure you actually know who it is you’re trying to “delight” with the products you create.
The graphic below is referenced throughout the podcast, you’ll want to have that handy as you listen.
Why You Need Empathy Maps w/ Scott Sehlhorst - SoundCloud (2567 secs long, 7 plays)Play in SoundCloud
When it comes to Agile Transformation, every organization has to deal with things in the system that are blocking them from developing an Agile System of Delivery. Impediments to Transformation exist at many levels: organizations, architectural, cultural, etc. Many of these impediments are common across companies and can be known and planned for ahead of time. In LeadingAgile’s approach, there are 3 Things that are necessary for an organization to be capable of an Agile approach. Those 3 Things are stable teams, a well-formed backlog, and the ability to deliver a working tested increment of product on a regular basis. Anything that gets in the way of these 3 Things must be addressed as part of the Transformation.
In this episode of SoundNotes, LeadingAgile Founder and CEO, Mike Cottmeyer, and Dave Prior discuss what a System of Transformation, some of the more common impediments to Agile Transformation, and ways to cope with those impediments.
Planning a System of Transformation w/ Mike Cottmeyer - SoundCloud (3405 secs long, 61 plays)Play in SoundCloud