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Assessments in agile 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. There are many approaches to assessing agile in a team or organization ranging from self-assessment questionnaires to formal observer-led appraisals. What gets assessed and the approach an organization chooses depends on the point of the assessment. All assessments create a baseline, a line in the sand from which to measure change.  At the same time, an assessment is a benchmark. Benchmarks are a comparison against a standard (real or implied). For example, an organization could use the principles in the Agile Manifesto or the framework in the Scrum guide as a standard to compare their behavior against to generate a benchmark. Put very succinctly, baseline defines where an organization (or team) is at a point in time, while a benchmark is a comparison to a standard. Assessments of any type, whether to generate a baseline, a benchmark or both, require time and effort which might be better spent creating a product, unless there is a good reason to do an assessment. There are three macro reasons why an organization might assess the agile journey that can generate value:

Process Improvement – If a team or organization doesn’t have a clear understanding of their performance and/or behavior improvement there can only be random change (which is rarely very effective). Process improvement begins by assessing how a group has performed and then uses that assessment in order to generate a course of action.  A retrospective is a form of appraisal in the same way as a formal audit IF a team or organization uses the data to improve their performance. The degree of rigor often depends on how urgent the perceived need for a change is.

Marketing Material – If you have ever taken a long trip, you will recognize that the excitement for taking the journey is inversely related to the time spent on the road. Another way of saying this is that the longer a journey goes on, the more frequently the “are we there yet” question gets asked.  An appraisal shows the progress made and helps keep the energy for moving forward high. Somewhat more commercially, successful (the word commercially is chosen on purpose) assessments are useful tools for in the pursuit of contracts.

Flag Planting – An assessment can be a mechanism to recognize and declare victory.  Benchmarks against a standard are a tool to determine whether an organization has attained a goal.  An appraisal, for this reason, seeks to definitively answer the “are we there yet” question not to impart to keep going but rather so that a victory party can be held and a new endeavor can be chosen.

 

At reason at their most extreme, is exclusive of the other however very few teams or organizations pursue an assessment purely for one just one reason. For example, in the government contracting space, the classic CMMI appraisal is a tool to show achievement and a tool for securing contacts (marketing).  Blending reasons for an assessment generates the need to develop hybrid approaches to target different groups, behaviors, and outputs. For example, reviewing not only whether teams did the work correctly but whether they did the right work. These are two very different perspectives.

Next – Health Checks Focused On Mindset and Behaviors.

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SPaMCAST 534 features our interview with Al Shalloway.   Al returns to the SPaMCAST after far too long. This week we discuss the trials and tribulations of scaling agile, and his passion about getting knowledge transfer right! I hope you have as good of a time listening to this interview as I had creating it.

Bio

Al Shalloway is the founder and CEO of Net Objectives. With 45 years of experience, Al is an industry thought leader in Lean, Kanban, product portfolio management, Scrum and agile design. He helps companies transition to Lean and Agile methods enterprise-wide as well teaches courses in these areas. Al is a former SAFe Program Consultant Trainer. Al has developed training and coaching methods for Lean-Agile that have helped Net Objectives’ clients achieve long-term, sustainable productivity gains. He is a popular speaker at prestigious conferences worldwide.

Website:  https://www.netobjectives.com/

Email:  alshall@netobjectives.com

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/alshalloway/

Re-Read Saturday News
This week we continue our re-read of The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. Chapter Three of Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point is a reminder of why this book continues to be important and useful. The density of ideas in this chapter is amazing. Stop borrowing your best friends copy and buy a copy of the book for yourself!  

Current entry:

Week 4 – The Stickiness Factorhttps://bit.ly/2GuSJ96 (more…)

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SPaMCAST 533 features our essay titled, Can Agile (SAFe) Be Interfaced With Waterfall? The long answer is yes, but the short answer is yes, but try to find a way to avoid the self-inflicted complexity. If you can’t avoid mixing and matching frameworks, there are paths to success you can leverage.

Other essays in our series on interfacing SAFe and waterfall efforts include:

Can Agile (SAFe) Be Interfaced With Waterfall? – https://bit.ly/2SLUmou

Interfacing Agile (SAFe) With Waterfall? – Transparency – https://bit.ly/2MWNYFT

Interfacing Agile (SAFe) With Waterfall? –  Synchronization – https://bit.ly/2WVgLio

Interfacing Agile (SAFe) With Waterfall? –  Code – https://bit.ly/2I6eUUR

This week we also have a quick visit from Tom Henricksen.  Tom created the popular Online Agile Summit. Today he announces the DevOps Online Summit that will be held on April 8th through 11th.  After you listen, check out the website! https://www.devopsonlinesummit.com/2019

Jeremy Berriault brings a new installment of the QA Corner (https://qacorner.blog/) to the cast this week.  Jeremy leverages work by Simon Sinek and tackles the “why” of testing.

Re-Read Saturday News
This week we continue our re-read of The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. In chapter two, Gladwell dives into the law of the few.  There are three types of people that are important to pushing an idea up to and over a tipping point: connectors, mavens, and salespeople.  All three are required. Remember to dust off your copy or buy a new copy and read along!

Current entry:

Week 3 – The Law of the Fewhttps://bit.ly/2Buau46 (more…)

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SPaMCAST features our interview with Julia Wester.  Julia returns to the cast to discuss spectrum thinking.  Specturn thinking is an important tool in system thinking and required to address complexity.  Even though using binary thinking is rarely the most effective path, it is rare to use spectrum thinking to address problems. Julia provides a path to more effective decision making.

Julia’s Bio

Julia is a Co-Founder of Lagom Solutions and its Principal Consultant. Lagom Solutions is an outcome-focused consulting and product company. Julia leads the consulting side of Lagom Solutions. When working with customers, she leverages her 18 years of experience working in and managing high-performing teams at companies such as Turner Broadcasting, F5 Networks, and LeanKit. Julia is passionate about teaching others how to tame the chaos of everyday work by embracing transparency, continuous improvement, and a lagom mindset. She also loves talking about how management doesn’t have to be a dirty word. Julia blogs at everydaykanban.com and tweets at @everydaykanban.

Re-Read Saturday News
This week we continue our re-read of The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. In Chapter one, Gladwell suggests that there are three factors that impact whether an idea or product crosses a tipping point; they are the law of the few, the stickiness factor, and the power of context. Chapter one introduces these concepts and presents real-life examples to illustrate the factors. Dust off your copy or buy a new copy.

Current entry:

Week 2 – The Three Rules of Epidemicshttps://bit.ly/2DQnRNV (more…)

 

Once you get to the point that you know you are going to have to interface a SAFe release train(s), with a waterfall program run outside your organization, success generally turns on three very related topics.  The three topics are transparency, synchronization, and code.  The timing of when the code from all parties is available and managing when the code can be integrated and tested is critical. Even if both programs produce the right code and the code works as it is expected, each program will produce functional code at very different times.  By definition waterfall projects create code after they have done a large part of the analysis and design while teams in a SAFe release train will have functional, demonstrable code earlier. By the time the waterfall project is ready to write code the agile project will have a significant investment in a code base.   Three suggested approaches (in addition to transparency and synchronization) for addressing the risk generated by the differential in code timing are: (more…)

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SPaMCAST 531 features our essay on Balancing Control and Self-Organization to Avoid Heat Death.  Control and self-organization represent a classic Goldilocks and the Three Bears problem. We discuss whether there is a solution. Interested in more on this topic?  Other blog entries include:

Balancing Control and Self-Organization to Avoid Heat Deathhttps://bit.ly/2UnzfGu  

Balancing of Autonomy with Alignmenthttps://bit.ly/2Sg1xFy  

VUCA, Heat Death and Gray Goohttps://bit.ly/2RhlGq8

In the second spot this week we hear from Jon M Quigley who brings his Alpha and Omega of Product Development to the cast.  Jon discusses the impact of cognitive biases on product development. Fighting biases is an important role for product owners and developers alike. The fight is rarely easy.

Re-Read Saturday News
This week we begin our re-read of The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. We are re-reading this book because it is important for any person involved in leading or participating in change (this is all of us).  Dust off your copy or buy a new copy.

Current entry:

Week 1 – Plans and Introductionhttps://bit.ly/2S8PPwc

Next SPaMCAST
SPaMCAST 532 will feature our interview with Julia Wester.  Julia returns to the cast to discuss her passion for the topic of spectrum thinking.  Rarely is using binary thinking the most effective path; however, it is rare to use spectrum thinking to address problems. Julia provides a path to more effective decision making.

 

Tipping Point

Today we begin our re-read of The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell.  My wife and I originally read the book in the early 00s.  We will be reading from is the paperback version published in 2002 by Back Bay Books (15th printing).  The book has an introduction, 8 chapters, an afterword (the 2002 version had a new afterword), endnotes and an index for a total of 302 pages. Dust off your copy or buy a new copy — I think I loaned my original copy to someone five years ago and I suspect it is not coming back.  I am reading my wife’s copy. (more…)