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What is DevOps, Anyway?

VersionOne Agile Management Blog -

We just got done moderating the latest webinar in the AgileLIVE series… “The Challenges and Rewards of DevOps.” The series started last week with Damon Poole, chief agilist at Eliassen Group. Damon did a really good deep-dive into What is DevOps? and we wrapped up today in Part 2 with Andy Powell and Ian Culling of VersionOne.

Here are some of the comments in my notes:

  • DevOps is inextricably linked to Continuous Deployment/Delivery/Everything.
  • DevOps automates and accelerates the build-test-deploy infrastructure.
  • DevOps reinforces that “working software in customers’ hands is the measure of DONE, not features that made it into the release.”
  • DevOps is a goal. You can’t just leap into it. It requires trust, people working closely together.
  • Ops often hears: “’Those dev cowboys’ want to deploy every minute of every day.” Ops is here to make sure nothing breaks in production. DevOps aligns ‘em.
  • For DevOps to work, it is critical to have really good collaboration and trust between development and operations teams.

But the most interesting comment I heard came over the Q&A panel from an attendee:

“Is DevOps infecting Dev people with Ops thinking, or is it the other way around?”

What do you think? Whether you are already rolling with DevOps at your organization, or just trying to learn  what is DevOps… we’d like to hear your opinions.  If you want a copy of the recordings for AgileLIVE: The Challenges and Rewards of DevOps, simply post a comment here and we’ll send them.

Using Agile Pods to Realize the Potential of Your Team

Agile Connection -

Agile pods are small custom agile teams, ranging from four to eight members, responsible for a single task, requirement, or part of the backlog. This organizational system is a step toward realizing the maximum potential of agile teams by involving members of different expertise and specialization, giving complete ownership and freedom, and expecting the best quality output.

Scrum Versus Kanban: An Interview with Cory Foy

Agile Connection -

In this interview, Cory Foy speaks about his upcoming presentation at Agile Development & Better Software Conference East, why choosing Scrum or Kanban is similar to climbing a mountain, how organizational change is all about experimentation, and why companies should use Innovation Games.

Sense, Create, and Respond to Change

Rally Software - Agile Blog -

Last week we looked at how today’s global markets require new ways of doing business, so that you can respond quickly to threats and opportunities. We showed you why it’s not enough simply to implement Agile practices into your development shop; you need to build agility into the culture and behavior of your entire organization. And we defined agility as the integral characteristic that allows you sense, create, and adapt to change -- quickly and confidently.

The compelling driver of agility is the speed and impact with which innovations are changing entire industries -- what many refer to as disruption. McKinsey advises that the companies that have survived and thrived amid disruptive change are those that have developed capabilities for speed, transformation, and innovation:

“ … these companies built the organizational capacity and agility required to lead during the disruption. They made big shifts in leadership focus and major changes to resource allocation, and they developed a faster organizational clock speed and leaner cost structure.”

Lest you think disruption is something that hits you like a freight train, one you see coming from a mile away, consider the phenomenon of dematurity: this is what happens when companies in an established industry (say, healthcare, automotive manufacturing, or power) experience a series small innovations over a short period. Over time these “mini-disruptions” add up, and in the aggregate they can cause radical changes to the industry.

“It is all too easy to be caught off guard—to ignore the small changes that appear one by one, to fail to believe they will affect you, and to end up at the tail of the wave, outpaced by competitors who saw the possibilities earlier,” says PwC strategy and innovation advisor John Sviokla.

“The solution lies in gaining better sensitivity—in other words, improving your ability to recognize and respond to the signals of incremental change."

Get Outside the Building

To sense change, your entire organization needs to be attuned to shifts in the market. You need to leave the office, in a literal and figurative way. You need to gain understanding of the technology driving change and innovation, and you need to regularly take the pulse of the customer.  

As you sense change, your organization must be prepared to both “create” opportunities and “respond” to threats. This is where speed and agility come into play.

Speed is paramount. Information Week’s 2014 Strategic Survey of CIOs cites speed of execution as their top concern. Market windows are incredibly tight, and big companies face competition from nimble start-up competitors.

Agility is what gives companies the ability to move quickly and with confidence. It’s the product of having a disciplined approach to managing change. Agility isn’t a one-time thing; it should become part of your organization’s DNA.

Where to Start

We’ve identified three kinds of agility you need to build across your organization.

Your foundation is execution agility, where speed and performance in your software development help you deliver value faster and gain a competitive advantage.

Then you need to connect your execution with your strategy. Portfolio agility lets you create opportunities with focus and insight into your organization’s highest-value initiatives.

At the broadest level, business agility builds responsiveness into your company culture. You’ll have the confidence to create change through lean innovation and the resilience to respond to change however it impacts you.

Keep learning. Get a copy of the Business Agility Survival Guide.

Rally Software

Agile: Don’t Worry, It’s Natural

Agile Connection -

Although the idea of repeatedly exercising the full development lifecycle on smaller chunks of the requirements is newer to the software industry, it isn’t at all new to many other aspects of life and nature. We have been agile practitioners for quite some time, and the software development industry is just catching up. John Ryskowski addresses a few examples.

Cancel Your Executive Status Meetings (Do This Instead)

Rally Software - Agile Blog -

Last week I met with a strategy leader for an Australian financial services organization, who was trying to work out how to bring his executive team together on a regular cadence to align around strategy. He’d built a great Kanban board to visualize the large strategic projects the organization was pursuing -- sort of an executive-level roadmap -- and wanted some ideas for how to bring execs together around it.

In my role I spend a lot of time promoting a quarterly, one-day, Agile business steering meeting that brings leaders together to align on strategic priorities and harmonize their quarterly tactics. I think that such a meeting really is the heartbeat of business agility at scale. But once you’re aligned around your intentions for the quarter, how do you steer within the quarter?  

I recommend thinking about three cadences. These include:

  1. A weekly, extended management “impediments” meeting
  2. A weekly executive staff meeting
  3. A bi-monthly metrics meeting
1. Weekly Extended Management Impediments Meeting 

This Scrum of Scrums (SoS) is a short standup meeting involving your extended management team, usually 20-40 people depending on your organization’s size. The purpose of this meeting is to bring junior and senior executives together across departments to raise and resolve impediments encountered on any top priorities.

This is not a status meeting, and indeed, if you have any meeting reporting red / yellow / green status on your tactical initiatives, cancel it right now; you’re wasting time. Initiatives are often green until they’re suddenly red, and by then it’s too late to do anything. Huge amounts of waste goes into producing beautiful status reports that obscure what’s actually going on.

We run the SoS meeting standing in two concentric circles. The inner circle (close to the conference table) is for anyone with important news or significant impediments that they need help with; they’re the ones who speak. The outer circle (against the wall) is for everyone else: they only listen, unless they want to offer help with an impediment. This meeting often lasts just a few minutes, and never more than 30. The group leaves when the inner circle is done and all impediments have been managed.  

an example of an executive meeting format with concentric circles

It can help to track the readouts from this meeting on a simple impediments board, logging recent results, issues, and actions, so that when people walk into the meeting they can quickly recall the context of the last meeting without taking up meeting time.

Just like team-level Scrum, a meeting like this needs a facilitative leader who can keep people focused, handle distractions, and help the group move to action. But at this level, your facilitator needs to be comfortable interrupting senior executives who are rambling. This requires a tricky balance. It can help to ask the group explicitly, “Do I have your permission to facilitate so we can get to results quickly?”

2. Weekly Executive Staff Meeting

It usually makes sense to hold the SoS meeting just before your standing (closed) executive staff meeting, because it gives your senior leadership team the pulse of the issues before doing a deeper dive on their own work. If you’re doing a meeting like this, keep it. If you’re not doing it, start one.

3. Bi-monthly Metrics Meeting

This meeting is a deep dive on key metrics for the business, and may last 1-2 hours. It usually begins with key financial results (revenue, cash flow, and whatever other macro business results make sense for your organization.) Then it dives deeper into your business improvement metrics.

If you’re doing strategy deployment well, you have tactics for improving your business results and leading indicators that tell you whether you’re making progress towards achieving your results. If you’re using a balanced scorecard, all this should be sounding familiar.  

On a regular two- or four-week cadence, your senior leaders should be able to dive deeply into these leading indicators so you can sense whether you need to steer your tactics. If you expected your pipeline to be twice as big in the current quarter, or if you’re seeing a growing backlog in a specific part of your business, you can take action to adapt in the coming business steering meeting. The metrics cadence gives you time to get ahead of this work, so you can steer tactically during your quarterly meeting.

Bringing It All Together

The quarterly meeting is essential to building alignment at this level; once you’re doing it, these three regular meetings enable to you to steer and deliver on your tactical plans.  

What’s the heartbeat of business agility for your organization? 

Learn more about business agility: why you need it, and how to get it. Find out more about how good meetings help you take the pulse of your organization.

  Alex Pukinskis

The Scrum Guide: An Interview with Jeff Sutherland

Agile Connection -

In this interivew, Dr. Jeff Sutherland, one of the inventors of Scrum, talks about a new community website, ScrumGuides.org. He covers the backbone of the Scrum concept, how Scrum can increase productivity, how organizations fail to implement it properly, and how Scrum is like a martial art.

Performance Appraisals and Scrum Masters

Scrum Alliance -

Agile is known to increase transparency in the functioning of a team in which there is no hierarchy. How is a team member's performance evaluated so as to recognize performance and provide him or her with a career path? Should the ScrumMaster appraise the team members?

I am a defender of the oppressed

Alistair Cockburn -

I am a defender of the oppressed,

not those with burkas who are so oppressed
(not that all with burkas are oppressed),
for they have champions, however inadequate, however still in need,

not the poor, nor the handicapped, nor the white, nor the black,
the red, the yellow,
the sick, the dying, the new-born, the unborn,

for they all have voices,
still not sufficient, still in demand;

but for the artists,
the musicians, the mimes, the dancers,
the people without words,
for whom words are not a thing,

antagonized, minimized, oppressed
by philosophers,
the system,
who think words are all,

who use words to declare that words are all,
and those without words aren’t.

While the dancers, the musicians, the sculptors, the mimes,
dance, sing, sculpt and play their experience of the world,
that rich, so much wider world they inhabit,
without words,

so richer than the impoverished world
of the legalized words
that imprison them,
remove the validity of their world,
declare them empty,

while the painters, the drummers, the dancers
see, feel, hear, move, the vastness of the world
without words.

I am words, defending them.

(© 2014, Alistair Cockburn)


Scrum Alliance -

From my own coaching experience, I have learned that one of the best ways to instill the Agile values and principles in [people's] minds, and to make following them a continuous-improvement effort, is through self-realization.

Enterprise Agile Adoption

Scrum Alliance -

While most of our clients focus on teams and projects, some have reached out to us to scale Agile to large programs and portfolios. This article identifies the key challenges we have encountered when organizations want to adopt Agile at the enterprise level.

Mitigating Team Hazards without a Typical Scrum Product Owner

Agile Connection -

A good product owner should be collaborative, responsible, authorized, committed, and knowledgeable. But what do you do if yours doesn’t exemplify these characteristics? This article aims to showcase mitigation plans that can be effective for overcoming Scrum violations due to the fact that you’re not working with a typical product owner.

Agile Metrics for Organizational Productivity

Scrum Alliance -

Scrum projects are characterized by their iterative nature, delivering incremental customer value by self-organized teams. . . . While the Agile software development life cycle provides metrics, there need to be some guidelines on how to use those metrics to measure organizational productivity.

A Game of Imagination

Scrum Alliance -

We all know that Scrum games are helpful in building team cohesion, energizing everyone, and breaking the ice for shy teammates. Here is a game that I found very interesting and easy to play.


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