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SPaMCAST 536 features our interview with Dave Sohmer. Dave is an executive that has led two separate major agile transformations.  Mr. Sohmer provides an executive’s perspective on the impact of adopting agile in two major financial institutions. The two very different companies took to two very different approaches to agile.



Dave Sohmer is a technology and operations executive with over 25 years of experience.  He has spent many years in the code but has come to enjoy the people and process side of software almost as much.  Dave has built and led many development teams at scale at Northern Trust and Bank of America Merrill Lynch over the last 20 years. Over that time he has come to believe in the power of the team as the fundamental unit that unlocks business agility.  He has championed two large scale Lean Scrum transformations within the financial services sector and has come to appreciate that a healthy mix of Lean principles, Agile values, Scrum by the book, XP practices and common sense will radically change your business’s view of technology from misunderstood adversary to trusted partner.



Re-Read Saturday News
We continue our re-read of The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. Chapter Six of Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point continues the discussion of the role of context in approaching a tipping point.  Stop borrowing your best friends copy and buy a copy of the book for yourself!  

Check out the current entry of Re-Read Saturday at

SPaMCAST 537 will feature an essay on the use of assessments for agile efforts.  Assessments come under a wide variety of names: appraisals, health checks, audit or even assessments. These terms are commonly conflated.  Assessments are a tool to prove a point. The essay in the cast explores the myriad types and reasons for assessments.

We will also have a new column from the Software Sensei, Kim Pries.

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SPaMCAST 515 features our essay on transformation and agile metrics. Whether you like the word transformation or not, many in the process improvement and agile communities help to facilitate change. Involvement in any non-trivial change effort requires resources, people, support and the expenditure of political capital. Metrics are a tool for getting the people and resources you need.

We also feature a visit from the Software Sensi.  Mr. Pries weights in on defining “what is quality”.  Kim mixes theory and practice to make a profound statement.

Anchoring the cast this week is Gene Hughson.  Gene writes at the Form Follows Function blog. This week we talk about a piece titled, Dependency Management – Anti-Patterns as Art from The Daily WTF.  It really is art —  but really a visualization of anti-patterns at the same time.

Re-Read Saturday News

This week we conclude our re-read of The Checklist Manifesto with a few final thoughts and notes and a restatement of a checklist for a checklist that Stephen Adams contributed in the comments for Chapter 9 – they deserve more exposure.  

This is an excellent book that is very useful for anyone involved in worrying about whether work is done consistently.  My punchline, “try using a checklist because they make sure our actions matter.” I hope you enjoy the book as much as I do.  

Next week we will lay out the plan for our read of Bad Blood (buy your copy today  and support the blog and the author).  Bad Blood is a new book for me, therefore a “read” rather than a re-read.

All of the entries for our re-read of the Checklist Manifesto:

Week 11 – Concluding Notes (more…)

Shoot the Messenger?


I struggled with the order of the last five items in this list. Over the past month, I believe every one of the issues has spent at least a few moments in the top position based on the conversation. Being in the top spot of the indicators of virtual agility is not like being at the top a typical league table, but like being in Dante’s seventh circle of hell. Virtual Agility is not a place to be if your goal is to deliver value.

The top five are: (more…)

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SPaMCAST 471 features our essay on the top 20 transformation killers.  Each transformation killer is a big deal, but if you combine two or more you are in big trouble. That said, forewarned is forearmed . . .hopefully?

In the second spot, this week is Jeremy Berriault and the QA Corner!  Jeremy and I discussed involving testers in requirements.  The ultimate in shifting “left.”    

In the third spot, Gene Hughson completes the cast by bringing a discussion of a recent missive, Systems Thinking Complicates Things.  Rock, paper, scissors, lizard, Spock and more!

Re-Read Saturday News (more…)

Sometimes you just need to walk!

Change is hard, change is easy, change is scary, change is expensive; change is many things to many people.  Change is many things because people and organizations are complex.  In order to help an organization, transform change leaders have to put down their magic wands and get their hands dirty facilitating lots of moving parts.  Lots of moving parts provide the potential for lots of different train wrecks.  As train wrecks go some are worse than others but avoiding any of them is a worthwhile effort.

Round Three: Transformation Killers 10 – 5:

10. Poor Change Management

Transformations generally require coordination of many teams, lots of money, and careful messaging to many stakeholder communities.  Managing the change is often as important as implementing the technical components of change.  A change management plan (whether a formal plan or backlog items matters less than having a plan) is necessary to communicate, sell and generate useful feedback or the change will be at risk of failing, not because there are technical faults but because the change has not been sold to all of the stakeholders.

9. All Flash and No Substance

Transformations need to address the fundamental issues an organization has delivering value; otherwise, simple incremental process improvement is a better solution.  Addressing fundamental issues requires a real change that includes both organizational structure and behavior.  Just rebranding or relaunching an old way of working with a new name (or new and improved sticker) rarely delivers substantial change.  For example, several years ago I observed an organization during what was making a big deal out of “transforming” to “agile.” To accomplish this transformation, they added daily meetings and a demonstration to the end of each phase in their phased methodology. Lots of flash in the rollout but no substantial change was made.  Putting lipstick on a pig results in a pig with a messy snout.

8. Starting Too Late

I have heard it said that a good near-death experience is a great motivator for change. The problem is waiting for a near-death experience can be … fatal to an organization (or any other group).  As noted in Transformation Killer 18, organizations need a compelling reason to provide the motivation for change, but they should not wait until panic is the driving force or they risk having clouded judgment.  Early in my career, I worked for a firm whose products slowly lost favor with our intended demographic.  Little was done to address the core issue until cash flow began to tighten which constrained the options we had and lead to a poorly thought-out bet-the-farm change.  The firm no longer exists.

  7. Transformation Not Tied to the Organization’s Goals

Transforming a team, product or organization is a tall order. The reason anyone will agree to spend the blood, sweat, and tears required to change how work is accomplished needs to be tied directly to the organization/s goals.  Tying change to the organization goals helps to ensure that support, funding, and people are available when roadblocks are encountered (and they always are).  Perhaps more importantly, linking change to the organization’s goal steers decision making and focuses organizational politics in a manner that will favor the transformation.

6. Poor Leadership

Poor leadership drains energy from the transformation and will tend to metastasize and foster a myriad of transformation killers.  Poor leadership can have many negative impacts.  Impacts range from crushing morale and motivation to generating poor decision making.

The goal of exposing these risks is to facilitate a conversation amongst change agents (we are all change agents) about risk and change management.

Catch-up on transformation killers:

Round One: Transformation Killers 20 -16

Round Two: Transformation Killers 15 – 11

Next Transformation Killers 5– 1

Transformations Aren’t A Safe Place


Organizational transformations have been around since two people got together to cooperate for any length of time.  Mentally I can see Neanderthals changing their approach on a hunting expedition.  In today’s terms organizations reorganize, they embrace agile or they pivot.  Those are just a few terms and phrases that describe organizational transformations.  While our forebearers may have understood they were transforming the term, organizational transformation has only lately become a thing.  Google’s NGram viewer shows the startling rise in popularity of the term ‘organizational transformation’.

Organizational Transformation

The popularity of the term is a reflection of the perceived need to radically change how and what we are doing.  The term ‘transformation’ evokes large scale, rather than continuous tweaks to your product or service.  Large-scale changes are risky and often fail.  Reflecting on changes ranging from CMMI deployments to Agile transformations, I have observed that transformations fail for a myriad of reasons.  The following list identifies 20 of the most nefarious transformation killing culprits.  Even though in reverse ranked order none of these are good. (more…)

Chips Pack Complexly!

Complexity introduces uncertainty. The operational definition of complexity is the interaction of components in which the outcome is not perfectly predictable based on the known or measured inputs.  The question posed in this discussion of the difference between complication and complexity is why we should care about complexity.  In the software centric part of IT departments, the simple answer is that complexity changes the behaviors of everyone involved in three major ways. (more…)

You Better Ask Questions!

The role of a coach often centers on diagnosing problems and helping people come to an understanding of how their behavior or feelings are affecting their team and organization. Rarely is an issue so obvious that simply observing behavior and then sharing observations generate organizational or self-awareness. Questions are an important tool in any coach’s data gathering arsenal. Some questions are useful to expose management or leadership behaviors while others are targeted to generate knowledge at the individual and group level.  A sample of questions useful when working with individuals or groups (outside the earshot of their managers).

  1. Is it harder to get out of bed to come to work than it used to be?

This is a fairly blunt question that can be used once you have established a rapport with a team or group.  It establishes an admission that something has changed and that the respondent is less motivated. (more…)

Sign - Door Blocked!

A locked door is a sign of resistance.

Over the years I have collected a set of questions that are useful to determine whether resistance is festering below the surfaces or is raging out of control (whether obvious or not).  They are a mixture of closed-ended questions, open-ended questions and questions that elicit stories.   A sample of questions that I ask managers and leaders include:

Questions to Leaders or Managers (more…)

Yield Sign

Don’t Yield to Resistance!

Change and its mirror image, resistance, is ubiquitous in the workplace.  The reasons for resistance are varied; they are driven by the business context for the change, the baggage each person involved in the change is carrying, and the macroeconomic environment.  Passing aside the “I just don’t like you” rationale for resistance there are many more actionable reasons for resistance. Some reasons people resist change are obvious (at least after examining how people are behaving) and some are less obvious (but still potent) without significant digging.  Some of the more pernicious reasons for resistance are: (more…)