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This week we tackle Chapter 6 of Holacracy: The New Management System for a Rapidly Changing World by Brian J. Robertson published by Henry Holt and Company in 2015.  Chapter 6, Facilitating Governance, puts the ideas and processes defined in governance to work. (more…)

Book Cover


This week we tackle Chapter 5 of Holacracy: The New Management System for a Rapidly Changing World by Brian J. Robertson published by Henry Holt and Company in 2015.  Chapter 5, Operations, puts the roles and policies defined in governance to work.

Robertson starts Chapter 5 by recalling the adage – slow down to speed up. We are being exhorted to pull back from the day-to-day work in order to improve how the organization is organized by listening to a diverse group of people.  The use the structure of the organization defined as part of governance to do work is operations. Said differently, everything that does not fall into the responsibility of governance is operations. Operations are about using the structure to find a governance. (more…)

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And welcome back!  For those who are interested, The Frederick Half Marathon last weekend was great.  I met my goal; I crossed the finish line, collected my medal and got to hang out with my family in Frederick.  This week, we begin Part Two of Holacracy: The New Management System for a Rapidly Changing World by Brian J. Robertson published by Henry Holt and Company in 2015.  Part Two is titled Evolution At Play: Practicing Holacracy.  In my opinion, Part Two provides readers with the nuts and bolts needed to use Holacracy.  Chapter 4, Governance, takes all of the building blocks from previous chapters and starts to weave them together. (more…)

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The Software Process and Measurement Cast 433 features our interview with Jeff Dalton discussing holacracy. defines holacracy as, “a complete, packaged system for self-management in organizations. Holacracy replaces the traditional management hierarchy with a new peer-to-peer “operating system” that increases transparency, accountability, and organizational agility.” Jeff has implemented holacracy in his own firm and others and has a lot to share about this exciting form of management and leadership.

Jeff Dalton is President of Broadsword, a Process Innovation firm, and Chief Evangelist at, an Agile Leadership Research and Development center that develops models for high-performing agile teams.  Jeff is principle author of “A Guide to Scrum and CMMI,” published by the CMMI Institute, and is a SCAMPI Lead Appraiser and Certified Agile Leadership Consultant that specializes in software product development, self-organizing teams, and performance modeling.  His upcoming book, the “Agile Performance Holarchy: A New Model for Outrageously High Performance” will be released in September of 2017. (more…)

Listen to the Software Process and Measurement Cast 288. SPaMCAST 288 features our interview with Susan Atkinson on Agile contracts, governance and trust.  Quite a set of topics that get at the heart of why governance of Agile projects requires different tools than we use today.

Susan Atkinson is a Consultant Solicitor at Keystone Law. She is a commercial lawyer, focusing on IT, outsourcing, e-commerce, intellectual property and payment services. She has over 15 years of legal experience, and has typically worked on high-value, complex commercial contracts, primarily in the technology, financial services and public sector, and often in an international context.


Twitter: satkinson42

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Next week we will feature our essay on sprint planning. If you don’t start a sprint well you will have problems that ripple through whole sprint.  Our essay will help all teams start a sprint so they have a better chance at delivering value.

Upcoming Events


I will be speaking at the StarEast Conference May 4th – 9th in Orlando, Florida.  I will be presenting a talk titled, The Impact of Cognitive Biases on Test and Project Teams. Follow the link for more information on StarEast.

 ITMPI Webinar!

On June 3 I will be presenting the webinar titled “Rescuing a Troubled Project With Agile.” The webinar will demonstrate how Agile can be used to rescue troubled projects.  Your will learn how to recognize that a project is in trouble and how the discipline, focus, and transparency of Agile can promote recovery. Register now!

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May 22 11:30 EDT – Agile User Stories

June 19 11:30 EDT – How To Split User Stories

July 24 11:30 EDT – The Impact of Cognitive Bias On Teams

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Mastering Software Project Management: Best Practices, Tools and Techniques co-authored by Murali Chematuri and myself and published by J. Ross Publishing. We have received unsolicited reviews like the following: “This book will prove that software projects should not be a tedious process, neither for you or your team.” Support SPaMCAST by buying the book here.

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Use principles to guard the projects value.

Use principles to guard the projects value.

To some, adding a formal meeting to your project calendar for backlog grooming smacks of heavy methodologies. It is as if adding a standing meeting, onE just before a sprint begins to review and hone the backlog will unbalance Agile as we know it. I have heard Alistair Cockburn suggest than anything outside of the original definition of Scrum represented barnacles (barnacles grow on the hulls of ships and cause extra drag).  I believe Alistair’s the comment was meant to cautionary, and any step added to the process better deliver more value than it costs in process drag. Regardless of how it was meant, let’s take the cautions to heart and make sure we do no harm. When we add a backlog grooming session there are six governance principles to make sure we don’t reduce the amount of value the project can deliver.

  • Future Looking: Backlog grooming sessions are about the future. In a grooming session, participants are exploring where the project will be going in the relatively short-term future.  What the session is not is a platform to whine about or rehash the past. Use a coach to help set the tone for grooming sessions when they are introduced or if problems start to crop up.
  • Not Final Plans: Decisions made in backlog grooming sessions, estimates for example, are starting points for discussion in sprint planning.  The grooming session does not reflect a new form of hierarchy that dictates direction and how work will be done, but rather reflects a need to make sure everything is ready to maximize the time available to the team. Grooming sessions that deliver final plans for team rubber-stamping have missed the concept.
  • Identify Emerging Risks: Risk and risk management activities should be incorporated into the day-to-day activity of the team (or teams), however the grooming session provides a time to discuss whether there any emerging risks, whether there are new stories that are needed to address risk and whether any stories previously identified to address risk need to be re-prioritized.
  • Grooming Sessions Require Homework: Participants need to review that they think will be covered during grooming session before they walk in the door.
  • Time Box:  Grooming sessions should be time-boxed, just like every activity in Agile.  I have found that once a project has reached a steady state, the formal grooming session will need 30 minutes each week of sprint duration (a grooming session for a two week sprint should be one hour). Grooming sessions for a brand new project may take longer and grooming sessions for project nearing completion may need less.
  • Retrospectives: Just like any process in Agile the participants in the grooming session need reflect on what was accomplished, how it was accomplished and how it can be done better.

Backlog grooming sessions help get stories ready for the team to plan. As we have noted stories are honed, split, prioritized, and risk stories reviewed so that the sprint planning session is effective and efficient. The process sounds nearly too good to be true, which means that it probably is not true unless we remind ourselves of the principles that will govern backlog grooming.

Outsourcing:  Metrics and Governance
Thomas M Cagley Jr.

Successful outsourcing arrangements require that all parties pay continuous attention to the goals of the arrangement.  The phrase ‘continuous attention’ is nearly an oxymoron given differing corporate cultures, short attention spans and competing channels of information.  Outsourcing contracts often contain one or more tools intended to focus attention (typically as a portion of the governance convents). The tools currently in vogue include metrics, service level agreements, balanced scorecards and the prescription of CMMI®[1] maturity levels.   In many cases these tools are used as weapons to interrogate and control the parties in the contract.

The goal of governance is to manage and reduce risk. A better practice is to construct governance covenants so that they build and strengthen the capabilities of both parties. CMMI, metrics and scorecards done correctly can fall in this category while at the same time mitigating risk. The choice of tool and the construct of the governance convents are as critical as the financial portions of the contract. All too often, the development of the governance processes is by contract personnel without a through understanding of process or metrics. The lack of process or metrics knowledge is exacerbated when the idea is championed by parties on one side of the table or other (Note: Someone has to champion the concept or most outsourcers will run, not walk, away from the idea.  Each side of the negotiation needs to have a metrics counsel.). These scenarios lead to agreements governed by convents that incent unbalanced behavior, that do not add capabilities or strengthen the relationships between parties to the contract.  Examples can be found across a range from contracts which pay penalties and bonuses on a single metrics (typically indexed productivity or time-to-market) to contracts with scores of embedded metrics which sap time and effort from delivering value. Soliciting input from and the involvement of your organizations process and metrics personnel (or consultants if you do not have these capabilities) is a best practice that does not find its way into many contract negotiations.

There are many techniques that can be used to facilitate developing a balanced approach to using metrics in the governance process. Goal driven metrics techniques are processes for developing useful metrics for the core of contract governance.  A few of the techniques that have been found useful include:

  1. Goal, Question, Metric (GQM)
  2. Practical Software Measurement (PSM)
  3. Goal-Question-Indicator-Measurement (GQIM)


A basic tenant of all of these techniques is to begin with an understanding of your business goals. A through and honest appraisal of the reasons why you are outsourcing will allow you to build a set of measures that have a chance at allowing you to know whether those goals have been met. The set of measures will also provide a filter to discriminate between what data will provide information and which will provide extraneous noise (this requires a careful and thoughtful understanding of data analysis).  Without the use of goal driven approach it is possible that the contract will incent behavior that does not accurately reflect the goals, targets and objectives of executive management (an old adage points out that you get what you measure).

As noted earlier the two worst-case scenarios typically are a focus on a single goal (cost reduction, increased productivity or better quality) or the development of scorecards with too many contributors (if you need an econometric model to understand the impact of metric you certainly have gone too far). Kaplan and Norton’s work on the Balanced Scorecard has certainly driven the point home that a single view of performance is at best not very useful and more than likely dangerous.  At the same time balanced and overly complex do not have to be synonymous concepts.

Dashboards and scorecards are excellent summarization techniques however they are not adequate to develop knowledge or to direct action. A granular level of detail will provide organizations with the facility to have event-centric and experience-based interaction with data in order to generate actionable insights rather than to rely purely on personnel interactions. Granular, query-able data will allow you to develop mechanisms to defeat the tyranny of average, which looses the ability to identify special cases (both good and bad).

Continuous attention does not have to be an oxymoron.  It does mean all parties in an outsourcing arrangement must decide on what is important when the contract is being framed (and have the guts to change when the business dictates). This process provides a basis from which to develop a well-grounded metrics program that will let you know if you are attaining your goals while increasing capability and value.

[1] Capability Maturity Model Integration® and CMMI® are registered trademarks of Carnegie Mellon University.