The Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) – A Review

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A SAFe Class Review for Agilists / Consultants

“When you become all things to everyone, you satisfy none.” – But maybe you’ll become a consultant.

“You strive to never compromise on your values or principles, when you do, you become nothing.” – But if you do, maybe you become a consultant.

“The difference between a methodologist and a terrorist is that you can negotiate with a terrorist.” – But methodologists can become rich consultants.

Preface

Like any method or framework one needs to be highly-contextual as to how facets of that method will work within your organization. Meaning, you have to pick and choose what works.

Being educated in a “new” idea of sorts is really (at least to me), and exercise in reflection, introspection, and self-awareness. I was, of sorts, doing reconnaissance. I was also looking for things I might be able to pull from the SAFe framework for my client and coaching work. In some deeper ways, I was looking to see whether my heart was ready for a codified framework on something I’ve been attempting to do for several years. This is an ego issue (hell, I’ve even published a book on Agile).

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SAFe SPC Training

The first time I touched SAFe was a 2 day course held at my client 5-6 months ago (I got to participate for free because I was, after all, a coach on-site). I was aloof, un-attentive, and didn’t take it very seriously as I was also juggling other consulting duties (e.g. being pulled out of class). Now, after paying $3000+ out of my own pocket, I dug in. I got serious about learning this.

My company has rolled out Agile at scale at several places, and one of my favorite and most successful (probably why it’s my favorite) was a $22.7M program that I was the Agile Architect for, and presented a part of our results at Agile2012 in an IEEE paper. Our company has it’s own home-brewed version of scaling Agile, and we’ve been pretty successful in multiple places. We’ve also had our failures.

That being said, taking this class on the Scaled Agile Framework has allowed me to see many things. A couple here:

  1. What SAFe espouses is pretty in-line with what we’ve done, on many levels.
  2. What SAFe prescribes is thoughtful and well-intentioned. It just takes it a bit too far and defines everything… almost too much… but I can see why this is a great selling idea.

What SAFe is Far Better At Than Most Continue reading “The Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) – A Review”

“Survey” – Not “Test,” Not “Assessment”

It’s a SURVEY dude.

One of the most important things that we share with our customers and those that we coach is to change their thinking (and their word choice) from “test” and “assessment” and instead use “survey” when they use our tool and instrument.

This might seem like a small thing to you but it actually makes a significant psychological difference for our users for many reasons, the largest being that the general feeling and assumption when using a word like “test” is that you can or may fail it.

The challenge was birthed out of our culture and educational system as well as the way we often approach these types of instruments. Unfortunately, there still exists a sentiment that you can actually “win” or “fail” a psychometric evaluation or assessment (and hence the word “test”) when that is completely untrue – or at least with our device.

There is no better or worse score that anyone can achieve in the results – it’s rather a statement of who you are and a statement of “what is” – 5’s are not better than 1’s and 1’s are not better than 5’s. More “flat” results are not better than big downs and ups and a rollercoaster-like score are not better than more “stable” scores (as some people may call it).

Example Team Results
Example Team Results

As a result, we kindly and politely educate our customers that this isn’t really a test at all but rather a simple survey of your responses and most natural answers to very simple questions. This enables the person to feel more free with their answers and more comfortable with their results, which is a significant win for us!

Coaching individuals and teams through our process is critical for seeing the results rightly, or with more nuance and care – it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to discover your results and then begin to practically apply them instantly but there is a significant difference between being walked through them with a trained and professional eye.

For those that love coaching metaphors a very apt one is this: It’s like a sports team playing without a coach – sure, it’s possible and they may even do well without one, for a time – but the best teams have incredible coaches, giving encouragement, insight, direction, and guidance as well as making sure everything is in fulfilling their core objectives as one, instead of a fragmented whole.

We see our jobs as careful messengers of the results helping teams and organizations understand the results of the assessment, not as a graded exercise but as an opportunity to turn potential into incredible power.

No, this is not a test because you can’t fail it!

Working More Than 40 Hours Per Week? Not Your Fault…

There’s been a lot of discussion lately around whether the 40hr per work week is still the optimal working schedule to keep, spurred on by Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg who mentioned recently that she leaves the office at *gasp* 5:30pm so she can spend more time with her kids:

I was showing everyone I worked for that, I worked just as hard. I was getting up earlier to make sure they saw my emails at 5:30, staying up later to make sure they saw my emails late. But now I’m much more confident in where I am and so I’m able to say, “Hey! I am leaving work at 5:30.” And I say it very publicly, both internally and externally.

Oh, the horror! Right?

Well, we all know intimately that most of us work way more than 40 hours in any given week. As Sandberg notes, it’s quite unfortunate that some industries and businesses still make it a big deal and make it a badge of honor to work an incredible amount of hours while industry reports and studies have shown time and time again that working more than that decreases productivity! Continue reading “Working More Than 40 Hours Per Week? Not Your Fault…”

State of Agile™ is Out – Oh Fancy Lookin’

I always look forward to reading VersionOne’s State of Agile report. It’s out this week and this year VersionOne has done something p.h.a.t. with the format.

In addition to the long PDF they always publish, this year the State of Agile has its own Web site! For all you old-timers who hate change, you can still download the full report, where there are lots of juicy stats to help you make wiser decisions around your agile initiatives. The new site simply makes it easier for us lazy slackers who just want the highlights spoon-fed to us. VersionOne has broken down the most interesting data into 5 main sections:

  • ·         Why Agile?
  • ·         Scale Agile
  • ·         Practices & Tools
  • ·         Agile Momentum
  • ·         About the Survey/Survey Demographics

What’s the most interesting thing I found from picking through it? Hmmm, tough call. But I think I’ll go with the new chart that cross-tabulates the top reasons people go agile vs. the top areas where agile delivers ACTUAL improvements. Pretty interesting to see proof that agile actually delivers on what’s most important when you compare people’s general pre-implementation “wish-list” to reported benefits afterward.

Oh, and the site finally solves the problem of Googling past years’ reports when you want to see how data has been trending over the years. All historical data back to 2006 is on the site. Nice work, VersionOne!

You should definitely check it out at StateofAgile.com. Share the whole site or just individual stats; they’ve made it super easy! Got a comment? Speak up here; I’d love to know what you think.

The Best Audio Visual Tool is the Presenter

To be honest, I’m not a super-fan of using audio and visual tools in presentations, coaching sessions, and training – this is more about the overuse of these tools and technology and how they are oftentimes digital crutches for the presenter to gloss over the fact that the trainer is boring, the content is unappealing, or worse yet, both.

I have found that the most effective trainers and coaches are also incredible communicators – that is to say, they are exceptionally good at using their own voice, their strongest and most vital asset and too, to communicate life-giving truth to their listeners.

Audio and visual communication tools, like the all mighty Microsoft Powerpoint (we like to use Apple’s Keynote, a far more rich and attractive technology), exist to supplement, augment perhaps, but not replace the main communication device: The presenter.

That’s why we spend a lot of time working on our training decks and minimizing their use while increasing the time spent building relationships during our time with the individuals, teams and organizations. We also heavily invest in developing our coaching techniques to provide maximum use of our staff and our trainers instead of bulking up on training decks, slides, and technology.

We’re not interested in hiring or working with parrot presenters – and neither do the businesses and team’s that partner with us want those types of people training their most valuable asset. We find dynamic presenters, trainers, and coaches who’s core craft and toolkit are their communication techniques… and by the way, Action & Influence were voted the Best Training Company in Atlanta for 2013!

But... I do like taking breaks during training :) - Not sure why people take pictures of me doing this though...
But… I do like taking breaks during training :) – Not sure why people take pictures of me doing this though…

Sure, slides and presentations, music and video files are valuable and very useful – but you and I both know (and have experienced) training classes, seminars, keynotes, and lectures that are more about us watching a video for the majority of the session while the trainer and teacher checks their mobile device and email.

Let’s be the best trainers and coaches that we can possibly be and leverage our best resource for our students and those that we train: Ourselves.

How to Build Customer Trust with Blog Content – a 4 Step Process

Ed Hill: In content marketing we’re trying to answer customer questions to help customers meet their needs. Plus if we do a good job with the content customers are gonna share this content with their friends across their social networks. But the problem is creating enough content quickly.

Fifty-one percent of marketers struggle to create enough content for their marketing blogs.

To answer this question we’re talking to Jamie Grimes.  Jamie’s worked as a content strategist for marketing websites such as Autotrader.com Apartment guide.com and Healthcare IT Leaders.

Jaime Grimes: So you can use blogs to give longer pieces of information to your customers. Maybe you’re listening through social media and you find that they want a specific topic and If want you to talk about it so you can use blogs to speak to them that way or you can use blogs to tell them about your company information in a way that you know they can relate to.
Continue reading “How to Build Customer Trust with Blog Content – a 4 Step Process”

The Half Arsed Agile Manifesto

Manifesto for Half-Arsed Agile Software Development

We have heard about new ways of developing software by
paying consultants and reading Gartner reports. Through
this we have been told to value:

Individuals and interactions over processes and tools…and we have mandatory processes and tools to control how those individuals (we prefer the term ‘resources’) interact

Working software over comprehensive documentation… as long as that software is comprehensively documented

Customer collaboration over contract negotiation… within the boundaries of strict contracts, of course, and subject to rigorous change control

Responding to change over following a plan…provided a detailed plan is in place to respond to the change, and it is followed precisely

That is, while the items on the left sound nice
in theory, we’re an enterprise company, and there’s
no way we’re letting go of the items on the right.

Lol!

[HT: Kerry Buckley]

The Challenge of Changing Culture

people-culture-teams-agileA hot topic right now among businesses and organizations is the idea around culture development and the value of culture in the work place, environment, and employee morale.

There’s been a swing of the pendulum, perhaps, where we’re headed back to what made great companies great – incredible cultural dynamics and a rich history of employee satisfaction. Unfortunately we engage with far too many companies that say they have great culture but the employees, if you ask them honestly, will say that it’s really not true – or at least it’s not felt that way.

Most people, both individual contributors and management alike, agree that changing the culture is a “priority” for their organization because they fundamentally believe that a better culture will reveal increased productivity, increased morale, and higher value for the business and their customers.

The challenge is not that you have to sell someone on the value of a changing culture, that is, being closer to a more optimal and functional culture, but how they are actually going to get there. Improving processes, building systems, using newer (and newer) software can help a bit but it’s not a matter of tools or technology or even time: It’s about people.

The challenge of changing culture ultimately is tied to the people that run the business culture – and it’s not just those in the C-Suite, it’s everyone on staff. Continue reading “The Challenge of Changing Culture”

The Challenge of Going First

taking-riskLeadership isn’t about being the smartest person in the room and it’s definitely not about being the most talented either – it’s oftentimes being the person who has decided, for whatever reason, to go first.

And leadership doesn’t have be based on role or position within the pecking order either – you know of someone who doesn’t have the “manager’s” cap but for sure leads the team every single day. Leadership is about taking the initiative, willing to be the first one off the starting block, in the line of fire perhaps, and is an incredible gift since every person after that have been freed of the the incredible burden and responsibility.

This is how most new ideas are introduced to teams and organizations, especially in changing work environment where the boundaries between authority, leadership, and the management layers are slowly being stripped away and being replaced by “linchpins” (a’la Seth Godin). Continue reading “The Challenge of Going First”

2013 Retrospective – Travel Less Next Year

Each color is a different location.
The EPIC travel schedule. Each color is a different location.

This year has been a busy one for sure… and yes, I do manage my schedule using a customized excel sheet. Being able to see the whole, a lean-idea, enables me to see how it all fits together. This year has not only been a busy one, but it’s been great one as well.

Looking back it is quite clear some of the learnings: Travel less. Spend more time at home with the family. 

With my 2014 schedule being booked and some date commitments moving even into QTR4 2014 already, it’s hard, but checking my Delta.com stats, and seeing that I’ve put in 148,854 in-the-seat miles this year… it’s a no brainer.

I hope all of y’all have had a great 2013. Here’s to an even better 2014!

-ps

 

Using Content Marketing to Attract More Customers -Part 2

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Producing enough content is a major challenge for 45% of B2C marketers.

In part 1 we cover what content marketing can do for your business and why it works to attract and build trust with customers. Next we’ll cover how to write about topics that customers care about and how to get started with writing your business blog.

There are two main problems in in using content marketing to attract customers:

  • Only 39% of B2C marketers have a documented content strategy.
  • Producing enough content is a major challenge for 45% of B2C marketers.

These two problems are closely related so we’re going to look at a light and fast solution to both problems. (This data based on B2C Content Marketing 2014 Report from Content Marketing Institute and Marketing Profs.)

Gathering Customer Question Topics for Your Business Blog

We can start to solve the content strategy problem by making a content calendar that addresses topics and keywords that are important to our customers. This is the start of helping customers learn enough that they feel comfortable engaging with your brand and eventually buying from your brand.

Our goal with content marketing is building customer trust and educating our customers about their problem. Customers will have different questions at different stages of the buying cycle. When customers can’t answer their questions they can’t move forward. To help our prospective customers move through the stages of buying, we need to educate them.

Continue reading “Using Content Marketing to Attract More Customers -Part 2”

Keeping the Startup Mentality and Energy Alive

Startup-quote Agile Scout

One of the most satisfying opportunities that I have is the ability to work with startups and their limited resources. But what they might lack in finances, manpower, human capital, and even, at times, a plan they completely make up with energy, passion, and a belief that they can really make a difference and change the world.

They’re hungry and it’s entirely infectious – it’s the reason that I love to work with them constantly as well as working in my own environment of startups. The challenge is that most organizations quickly move out of their startup mentality and into their more “mature” phase and periods of growth. The large enterprises struggle with this even more and it’s a constant internal discussion that always revolves around this question:

Why aren’t we (can’t we) have that startup mentality that keeps us motivated and passionate?

The issue isn’t with the core philosophy of the business – it’s not even about the products, the services, or the core offerings and oftentimes it’s not even about the leadership. Sure, it can be all of those things and at times a combination of them are contributing to the sluggish mobility of the organization but the answer lies in the context of the team(s). Continue reading “Keeping the Startup Mentality and Energy Alive”

Certified ScrumMaster Course in the Netherlands, Den Haag + Go to Agile Testing Days!

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1 Week before Early Bird Price Ends! – LoL

Get the most from your trip to The Hague (Den Haag) and sign up for this exclusive opportunity to learn from an experienced Scrum Trainer and Consultant – Peter Saddington!

» Learn more about Peter Saddington

Become a Certified Scrum Master (CSM) in this hands-on training, full of scenarios, simulations and practical exercises.

Seating is limited, so sign up today!

Find more about Agile Testing Days Netherlands here! 

 

You are a Software Gardener

Agile Developer?
Agile Developer?

You are a Software Gardener.

Do you try to plan your gardens in such detail that you know where each leaf will be positioned before you plant a single seed? Do people expect estimates (or are they promises in your organisation?) on exactly how many flowers will have bloomed in one years time? Do you have a bonus tied to that? Things that would be perfectly reasonable to plan for a skyscraper seem a little ridiculous when you are talking about a garden.

You probably have a good idea of what your garden should look like a week into the future. You might even have a rough idea of the shape you expect it to be in a year from now. But you have no idea of where each branch, leaf, stem and flower will be a year from now, and if you say you do then you’re really only guessing.

If you were building a bridge or a skyscraper and you told me, before you began, that you knew exactly how it would look when it was finished – I would believe you. If you told me that you knew to some insane degree of accuracy how long it would take to get to ‘finished’ – I would believe you again. That’s how Engineers roll. Tell me the same thing about your garden and I’m gonna call bullshit. Tell me you are going to make it grow faster by hiring more gardeners and I’m gonna laugh at you.

Excerpt from Chris Aitchison.

The full read is in the link. I know this is an old post, but it’s worth reviewing.

[HT: Chris Aitchison]

Or... Agile Developer...
Or… Agile Developer…

Action & Influence of Atlanta, GA voted Best Training Company!

Train with the best Atlanta has to offer!
Train with the best Atlanta has to offer!

Super excited to announce that Action & Influence was voted Best Training Company in Atlanta, GA for 2013!

Not exactly sure how this happened, but we’re honored anyway :)

I definitely believe we work with the best trainers and coaches in the world. The reason behind our success is our conglomerate effort to help the world at work. To help companies reach the performance levels they desire, and to improve the lives of corporate citizens!

Here’s to a great 2014!

GE uses #LeanStartup – Makes Fridge

Eyes rolled and groans were muttered last night at the closing session of the first day of Eric Ries’ Lean Startup Conference. For the Monday finale, Ries brought four employees and executives from General Electric — yes, the giant bureaucratic corporation that makes your dishwashers and air conditioners — to talk about the company’s innovative endeavors.

Needless to say, entrepreneurs in the audience were skeptical. After all, many had joined the startup community to escape the death grip of corporate bureaucracy. What could General Electric, a 276.85b market cap company with approximately 305,000 employees in 106 countries globally, possibly teach the audience about startups?

The answer was “not much.” At least at the moment.

ge-lean-startup-fridge
The Lean Startup Fridge

General Electric says it has 100 products in the pipeline that have been created and tested using Eric Ries‘ popular Lean Startup method. But only one is ready to go into production right now, hitting 10 stores next week…

Stop the presses because, shocker: it’s a fridge. An all-metal fridge with no plastic on the inside, which apparently is super innovative and a bonkers experiment for the fridge industry.

#lol

Read the full story here.

Bullsh*t Bingo – Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe)

safe-scaled-agile-framework-bullshit-bingo
I won!

Before each daily scrum, visit Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) Bingo and print one copy of this game card for each player,refreshing the page before each print, or have the players print their own bingo cards. These instructions will not be printed. You can also select an embeddable card only version of the game or a multiple card version of the game when playing on line, or with a smart phone.

Check off each block when you hear these words during the daily scrum. When you get five blocks horizontally, vertically, or diagonally, stand up and shout “Woo Woo!!“. Or play as a drinking game and for every block you mark off, take a sip, and finish your drink each time you get five blocks in a row.

This seriously gave me the LOLs!!!!!!!!!!

Find more Bullshit bingo cards here.

Action & Influence, Inc. Receives 2013 Best of Atlanta Award

Atlanta Award Program Honors the Achievement

ATLANTA December 3, 2013 — Action & Influence, Inc. has been selected for the 2013 Best of Atlanta Award in the Computer Training School category by the Atlanta Award Program.

Each year, the Atlanta Award Program identifies companies that we believe have achieved exceptional marketing success in their local community and business category. These are local companies that enhance the positive image of small business through service to their customers and our community. These exceptional companies help make the Atlanta area a great place to live, work and play.

Various sources of information were gathered and analyzed to choose the winners in each category. The 2013 Atlanta Award Program focuses on quality, not quantity. Winners are determined based on the information gathered both internally by the Atlanta Award Program and data provided by third parties.

About Atlanta Award Program

The Atlanta Award Program is an annual awards program honoring the achievements and accomplishments of local businesses throughout the Atlanta area. Recognition is given to those companies that have shown the ability to use their best practices and implemented programs to generate competitive advantages and long-term value.

The Atlanta Award Program was established to recognize the best of local businesses in our community. Our organization works exclusively with local business owners, trade groups, professional associations and other business advertising and marketing groups. Our mission is to recognize the small business community’s contributions to the U.S. economy.

SOURCE: Atlanta Award Program
FIND CLASSES IN ATLANTA: Certified ScrumMaster and Certified Scrum Product Owner Courses

CONTACT:
Atlanta Award Program
Email: PublicRelations@awardredemption.org

Donate to Wikipedia – Keep Information Free!

[Donate Here]

Dear Peter,

You are so fantastic. THANK YOU for supporting the Wikimedia Foundation, the non-profit that runs Wikipedia and its sister projects.

Your donation covers not only your own costs of using Wikipedia, but also the costs of other Wikipedia readers.

Like the retired farmer in upstate New York who’s using Wikipedia to study the science of sludge, and the student in Kuala Lumpur who’s researching organic chemistry. The British mechanic who, after he broke his back in an accident, used Wikipedia to retrain himself as a web developer. The civil servant in Finland who set up an offline version of Wikipedia for a small school in Ghana. And the father in Mexico City who takes his little daughters to the museum on weekends, and uses Wikipedia to help them understand everything they’re seeing there.

Wikipedia’s job is to bring the sum total of all human knowledge to everyone around the world in their own language. That’s a pretty audacious mission, but with 30 million articles and 287 languages, I’d say that thanks to you and people like you, we are getting there.

On behalf of the Wikimedia Foundation, and the half-a-billion other Wikipedia readers around the world: thank you. The fact that you are helping to pay the costs of running Wikipedia means it can stay ad-free and independent of bias, focused solely on helping its readers. Exactly as it should be.

You may have noticed that for the first time this year we’ve tweaked our fundraising so that most people will only see the banners a handful of times, instead of for weeks. That’s deliberate: we don’t want people to get irritated by too many appeals. But it does mean that fewer people will figure out we’re a non-profit, and that we want their help. So if you’re willing, I’d appreciate if you’d help spread the word by forwarding this e-mail to a few of your friends.

And I’d love if you’d try joining us in helping to write Wikipedia. Wikipedia’s written entirely by volunteers — tens of thousands of ordinary people around the world, exactly like us. If you see a typo or a small mistake on Wikipedia, please fix it. If you know anything worth adding, please add it. Some people find it remarkably satisfying, and maybe you will too.

Thank you again. I very much appreciate your trust in us, and I promise you: we will use your money carefully and well.

Thanks,
Sue

Sue Gardner
Executive Director,
Wikimedia Foundation
donate.wikimedia.org

Why Knowing Yourself Matters to You, and Your (Future) Employer

agile-coach-mentor-characteristics
Valuable Career Coaching, Mentoring, and Knowing Thyself

One of the things that I’m immensely passionate about is career coaching – I’ve been doing this for years and have been using tools like Team Science™ to help others navigate the murky waters of one’s personality and the “right” job fit. It’s an incredibly satisfying role that I play and the results can be incredible.

What’s discouraging and unfortunate is that most people never take the time to invest in their own “knowing” of themselves – they spend more time working on their skill sets or with their tools so as to boost their own marketability in the demanding and competitive landscape of the job market. There’s nothing wrong with becoming the best at Photoshop, Microsoft Excel, or MySQL database management unless those things really aren’t what you’re better and more naturally equipped to do. Continue reading “Why Knowing Yourself Matters to You, and Your (Future) Employer”

Agile Testing Days Netherlands – February 13, 2014

peter-saddington-agile-testing-day-netherlands-den-haag

Agile Testing Days 2014 in Den Haag, Netherlands is coming up, and I’ve been blessed enough to be part of the team of speakers.

The guys who put together these conferences are top notch. This will be my 4th event with them!

I love presenting to the people here in Europe. Awesome people. Lots to learn. What a great “job” we have!

Hope to see you there!

-ps