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Personal Reflections: Agile, Leadership, Technology, and Life

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Process Improvement

Interview with Tom Cagley re: Scaling Agile

I recently chatted with Tom Cagley on the Software Process and Measurement Podcast (SPaMCAST) about some of my experience helping scale operations at Halfaker using best practices from various business books (e.g. Good to Great), frameworks (e.g. CMMI), techniques (e.g. Agile Scrum), and tools (e.g. JIRA).  I really enjoyed our discussion on why I was excited to JIRA, a tool that is not very opinionated, so we could configure it in some specific ways for individual Halfaker departments and projects.

The SPaMCAST is a great resource for learning more from great thought leaders in the Agile, Process Improvement, and Software Engineering world. Check out the interview at:

And if you’re looking for a Podcast app recommendation, check out Castro for iPhone/iPad.  It has this great “Inbox” concept (works like an Agile backlog, where you can accept things into the backlog and then prioritize/re-prioritize them.

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Books, Podcasts, and Conferences related to Designing Great Organizations

Here’s a list of books, podcasts, conferences, frameworks, methodologies, models, and other resources related to designing and building great organizations that I think are worth checking out.

If you have any recommended additions, please email or send me a tweet.

Books, Frameworks, and Standards

Resource

Key Takeaways

Additional References, Summaries, Notes

The Scrum Guide
  •  Defines Agile Scrum implementation, including relevant ceremonies (meetings), roles (Product Owner, Scrum Master, and Team Member), and information radiators (tools)
  • David Anderson gave a great keynote at the CMMI Capability Counts 2017 conference — Kanban is often over-simplified for people who don’t appreciate the whole concept
  •  The Amazon reviews complain about the Kindle version of this, but I’m guessing they’re using the traditional Kindle — the figures look great on my Kindle Fire
Scaled Agile Frameworksafe-logo.PNG
  • Framework for scaling Agile practices to teams of over 50 people
  • Combines best practices from several other sources (e.g. Lean, DevOps, Scrum, Kanban) along with some good tactical recommendations, such as investing in a 2 day, in-person planning events every quarter for the whole team (Program Increment Planning)
Disciplined Agile (DA) process decision framework

DA-logo.PNG

  • Map (analyze) your operation, find the worst bottleneck, resolve it, and repeat
  • Optimize the system, not locally (don’t try to keep each individual machine or person “busy” or productive; instead focus on optimizing the whole system)
  • This is a classic book, written as a fictional story to teach the concepts of the Theory of Constraints
  • Note: A graphic novel version of this was recently released, which sounds interesting
  • Teaches the mindset and concepts of DevOps and why DevOps is so critical to increasing organizational agility
  • Quality Management standard, originally focused for manufacturing organizations, that provide a template on how to define best practices related to ensuring Quality in your organization’s operations, leveraging concepts such as formalized surveys asking your customers how you’re doing
  • Significant overlap with CMMI PPQA, but has some unique practices
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Podcasts

Podcast

Key Takeaways

Additional References, Summaries, Notes

Cover Image
  • Fascinating podcast by Reid Hoffman, where he interviews leaders who have scaled their organizations
Software and Process Measurement Podcast (SPaM CAST)

spamcast-logo.PNG

  • Tom Cagley interviews people related to process improvement and lots of related domains

Conferences

 Conference

Key Takeaways

Additional References, Summaries, Notes

Agile Alliance’s Annual Conference
LeanAgileDC
CMMI Capability Counts Conference
DevOpsDays

Serving Government Customers with SAFe Concepts

I recently spoke at the 2017 Capability Counts conference, put on by the CMMI Institute.  It’s a great event that isn’t focused just on CMMI maturity models — instead it’s a conference where a few hundred people get together to discuss process improvement, Agile, software engineering processes, and a variety of other related topics.

Here’s a packed room with Tom Cagley presenting on how to use storytelling to create better requirements:

Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) is a great set of Agile and engineering best practices, pulling together great ideas from Lean, Scrum, eXtreme Programming, DevOps, and many others.  That said, I’ve found it to be a great mental model on how to structure large Agile programs and a useful of great ideas to pull from, rather than a framework to deploy entirely.  

I gave a presentation at the conference on some of the great ideas we’ve found in SAFe and how we’ve deployed them, while also giving a bit of a SAFe 101 for those interested.

Please note:  I’m not a SAFe certified trainer, nor do I speak on behalf of SAFe.

Using JIRA to Scale your Business

I recently spoke at the 2017 Capability Counts conference, put on by the CMMI Institute. David Anderson Keynote 2017.PNG It’s an interesting event that isn’t focused just on CMMI maturity models — instead it’s a conference where a few hundred people get together to discuss process improvement, Agile, software engineering processes, and a variety of other related topics.

The keynote (shown in the picture above) is David Anderson of LeanKanban University talking about the core concepts of Kanban, which go far beyond most people’s understanding of 3 column boards.

I spoke on using Atlassian’s JIRA product to help an organize scale — sharing some best practices/recommendations on how to use a tool like JIRA to get information out of email, hallway conversations, and meetings and into a system where work can be clarified, prioritized and tracked.

How does a CTO Spend Time?

I’ve recently realized that I’ve been drawing a similar pie graph several times recently, explaining how I spend my time as a Chief Technology Officer (CTO) at a small business.  I thought I’d share for those interested in how I spend my time juggling the demands of CTO across various company priorities.

CTO_time

If you’re interested in learning more about small business CTO activities, including technology strategy when you’re too small to have a dedicated CTO, check out this free, upcoming training in Old Town Alexandria, sponsored by Capitol Post, that I’m teaching next month (Sept 2015):  Technology 101 for Entrepreneurs (How to Choose to the Best Systems for your Business).

Magnet Ball vs. Zone Defense: How Mature is your Organization?

There are a lot of ways you can measure and categorize organizational maturity.  I’m sureCMMI_maturity_levels there are several classes you can take on it if you get a MBA.  The CMMI Institute, as an example, talks about how organizations move from being managed, to defined, to starting to self-optimize.  These frameworks are all valuable, but I like to think of this concept as a simple spectrum between two extremes:

  • Magnet Ball – One extreme for an organization’s maturity is like watching small children play soccer.  Everyone, except maybe the goalie, surrounds the ball and you from away it looks like the soccer ball is a magnet pulling all the children toward it, into a swarm of chaos
  • Zone Defense – The other extreme is watching an organized group of people who know their role, they know where their role ends and someone else’s on the team starts, they know how to do their job well, and they know how to help their teammates when they need — this is like watching a great professional sports team work

magnet-ball-spectrum

Another great way to think about this is Tuckman’s Stages of Group Development (forming, storming, norming, and performing) is a great framework to understand how a group develops, and how you can help move a group through those phases.

Where does your organization (whether it’s a company, or a meetup group, or a church) fit on this spectrum?  How could you move it a little more to the right and out of the chaos?

CMMI Maturity Levels Explained

The CMMI process improvement model is focused on improving the overall processes involved with designing, creating, and supporting technology products and services.  While the overall framework can be confusing, I enjoyed Watts Humphrey’s explanation of the focus for each of the maturity levels in Looking Ahead:

  • Maturity Level 2 – Move an organization from crisis-driven to plan-driven by focusing on the fundamentals that can reduce/prevent crises (planning, configuration management, requirements management, subcontract management, quality assurance)
  • Maturity Level 3 – Create a learning organization by identifying what works best in an organization and standardizing it across the enterprise (e.g. process definition, training, decision making approaches)
  • Maturity Level 4 – Focus on quantitative management and quality control to ensure that processes are measured and improved using tangible measurements
  • Maturity Level 5 – Focus on continuous process improvement, taking best practices from within and outside of the organization and applying them to the organization

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