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Disciplined Agile Applied

This blog explores pragmatic agile and lean strategies for enterprise-class contexts.

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Recent Posts

Book Review - Agile Transformation: Organizational Agile Transformation in 5 Steps

Disciplined Agile at the Agile 2022 Conference

How to Get Proposals Accepted at the Agile Alliance Conference

Answering Questions About Disciplined Agile

The Art of Guesstimation

Book Review - Agile Transformation: Organizational Agile Transformation in 5 Steps

Categories: book, Transformation

Agile Transformation Book Cover

I recently had the pleasure of reading Agile Transformation: Organizational Agile Transformation in 5 Steps by Eren Ozdemir and Orhan Kalayci. As the title suggests, the book describes strategies for agile transformation. The approach reflects the Disciplined Agile (DA) mindset and other aspects of the DA toolkit, which is what got my attention.

To describe the transformation process the book applies the analogy of treating a patient. As a result, they describe the five steps of agile transformation as:

  1. Occurrence of the disease. In this case, the organizational disease is not serving your customers well as the result of not working in a rapid, faultless, efficient, and integrated manner.
  2. Diagnosing the patient. The aim is to assess what is going wrong and why it is going wrong.  This requires expertise and experience. It also requires you to look at the whole picture, not just portions of it. To help illustrate this point, they use the DA Value Stream to illustrate the interconnectedness of your overall way of working (WoW) and work through the implications of that.
  3. Making a treatment plan. Every person, team, and organization is unique. You need to identify an improvement strategy that reflects the context that you face.  Furthermore, it's about improving your WoW, it isn't about adopting a prescriptive agile framework (regardless of what the purveyors of such frameworks may tell you).
  4. Administration of the treatment. This is the execution of your improvement strategy, which will evolve as you learn and as your situation changes.  Flexibility is key and it requires you to put your people at the center of the transformation.
  5. Healing of the patient and sustaining a healthy life. The true goal of any transformation is to become a learning organization, one that has the ability to adapt and improve over time. In DA we promote the strategy of Guided Continuous Improvement (GCI) to do exactly that, and it is a skill that you want to teach your people during step 4.

Here is what I think you will find valuable about this book:

  • It is based on the real-world experience of its authors.
  • It is insightful, providing great advice that you will be able to apply in your own environment.
  • It recognizes that agile transformations tend to be fragile, requiring flexibility and context sensitivity.
  • It doesn't present a "one size fits all roadmap" and is clear from the start that there are no simple solutions. 
  • It is a short, easy read at less than 100 pages.
  • It aligns well with DA's Transformation Strategy - Steps 1-3 map to the Align stage, Step 4 maps to the Improve stage, and Step 5 maps to the Thrive stage. 

In short, if you are in the process of an agile transformation, or thinking about embarking on one, this book contains significant wisdom that you will benefit from. It is worth your while to read Agile Transformation: Organizational Agile Transformation in 5 Steps.

Posted on: January 16, 2022 11:45 AM | Permalink | Comments (4)

Disciplined Agile at the Agile 2022 Conference

Categories: Agile Alliance, Conference

Disciplined Agile Logo Agile Alliance Logo PMI's Disciplined Agile (DA) is a platinum sponsor at Agile 2022, being held in Nashville July 18-22 2022. We're very excited about this opportunity to showcase the great work that has been going on within the DA community and to share with our agile colleagues.

We've written this blog posting to ask you to get involved and consider submitting one or more session proposals.  This is something that we can help you to do, see below. In this blog, we work through the following topics:

  1. Why should you submit a session proposal(s)?
  2. How do you submit a proposal?
  3. How can you increase your chance of acceptance?
  4. What are some great DA-oriented topics?
  5. What about non-DA topics?
  6. What Is PMI hoping to do?
  7. How can PMI help you?


1. Why Should You Submit a Session Proposal(s)?

The Agile Alliance 20XX conferences are always great learning experiences for attendees and great opportunities for speakers to share their knowledge and wisdom.  If you get accepted to the conference you get free attendance to the event and 4 nights at the conference hotel, a $3000+ value.


2. How Do you Submit a Proposal?

Visit the Agile 2022 site and click on the Submissions button, then follow the instructions.


3. How Can You Increase Your Chance of Acceptance?

We've published a detailed blog posting, How to Get Proposals Accepted at the Agile Alliance Conference, that provides advice for how to do so.  I've had many proposals accepted, many rejected, and have been involved with the conference committee several times. Similarly, Mark Lines and Mike Griffiths have also presented and been involved with the conference. There's some great advice in that blog, we hope that you choose to adopt what makes sense for you. The submissions process ends on February 15th but we highly suggest that you get your proposals in sooner than that.


4. What are Some Great DA-Oriented Topics?

We would love to see a lot of DA-oriented sessions at the conference. Within the PMI DA team we recently brainstormed some ideas for each track that may get your creative juices flowing.  These are only ideas, many of which are generic, and all of which need better titles than what we're presenting below. Furthermore, you might want to combine ideas.

4.1 Track: Energizing People and Teams

  • Agile Business Teams: Applying Agile Outside Software Development - This is a generic title.  We suspect that specific topics, such as Agile Marketing Teams, Agile Procurement Teams, ... would be the way to do.
  • Agile transformation experiences, strategies, ...
  • Solving Hard Challenge - Generic idea where you address a hard challenge that you've been struggling with by applying Guided Continuous Improvement (GCI), advice from a process blade, ...
  • Beyond Scrum/SAFe/LeSS/... - How you improved upon one of the common frameworks to tailor and evolve it for your context.  OR, how to do exactly that (perhaps run a workshop on how to address common challenges with a common framework with DA)
  • How Role X Can Successfully Transition to Agile - Role X being project managers, business analysts, architects, risk managers, program managers, .... For anyone who's been through DASM training, or read Choose Your WoW!, you know that this is an important topic where people can really use some help.
  • From Team Coach to Senior Coach - Strategies for moving beyond mainstream agile team coaching.  This could be a great topic for anyone who has gone through the DAC workshop and is now applying those strategies in practice.


4.2 Track: Accelerating Products

  • Hybrid Agile in Practice - How have you mixed agile, lean, and traditional strategies to fit your context, and then how did you need to evolve them as your context evolved?
  • Emergent Architecture and Design in Practice - This is class of topics that organizations tend to struggle with. Talks along the lines of "How we applied agile strategies to UX/Data/Security/... architecture/design, what problems we ran into, and how we overcame them" can be popular.
  • Practice-oriented talks - How have you applied technical work practices successfully, evolving away from more traditional ways of working (WoW) to agile/lean WoW.


4.3 Track: Enriching Organizations

  • Agile X, where X is risk management, governance, procurement, marketing, ...
  • The Agile PMO 
  • Experiences in Measurement - How did you need to evolve your measurement strategy for agile?  How are you addressing the complex nature of your organization (you have agile teams, lean teams, traditional teams, hybrid teams, project teams, product teams, software teams, marketing teams, ....)
  • The Idealized value stream - For those of you who have been through DAVSC, what are your experiences applying it in practice?
  • A Mindset for Agile X. A critical aspect of DA is that it goes beyond the Agile Manifesto to explicitly adopt a mindset for enterprise agility. An truly unique and important aspect is that DA recognizes that people from different backgrounds will come to the table with unique perspectives.  As a result it provides a mechanism to extend the mindset to respect that fact, and provides domain-specific advice to do so.  For example, many process blades now extend the DA mindset with domain-specific philosophies.  See the data management mindset, the security mindset, and the vendor management mindset for example.  



5. What About Non-DA Topics?

You bet!  We'd love to see great agile talks, particularly in the "agile and project management" space, at Agile 2022. There is a lot of opportunity, as you likely noticed above, to share agile experiences about topics that PMI members are typically strong in.


6. What Is PMI Hoping to Do?

PMI Disciplined Agile will definitely have a significant presence at this conference.  As a platinum sponsor we'll have a large booth where you can come by and chat with DA folks, get some information, and maybe pick up some DA swag.  Several people on our team will be submitting presentation proposals and we're hoping to be accepted as speakers.  I'll blog more about what we're doing as the event gets closer.


7. How Can PMI Help You?

We are going to support several channels where we will help support people in submitting talks to Agile 2022.  These channels are:

* The three CoPs are invitation only.  When you enroll in either the DAC or DAVSC workshops you are invited to join the corresponding CoPs, and as you would guess all DA Instructors are invited to participate in the instructor CoP.

Posted on: January 09, 2022 12:35 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

How to Get Proposals Accepted at the Agile Alliance Conference

Categories: Agile Alliance, Conference

Every year the Agile Alliance Agile Alliance Logoholds the Agile 20XX conference, what many people consider to be the preeminent agile conference in the world. The Agile 20XX conference is typically held in mid-to-late July and its location varies year by year. Common locations have been Nashville, Orlando, San Diego, Washington, and one time in my home city of Toronto. Attendance tends to be between 2,000-2,400 including speakers and staff. In this blog posting I share my advice for how to increase the odds of getting a submission accepted.

Why Listen to Me?

There are several reasons why you should listen to this advice:

  • I've helped to successfully shepherd dozens of people through the submission process in the past.
  • I've been accepted at every Agile Alliance conference that I've submitted proposals to.  
  • I've had many proposals rejected over the years, and have a pretty good understanding of why.
  • I've been on the conference committee several times, including being the co-chair of a track one year.

Strategies for Increasing Your Odds

Here are several heuristics that I have found to work over the years:

  1. Read the call for submissions. The conference committee is doing everything that they can to have a successful conference, and a big part of that is to ensure there are great conference sessions. The Agile 20XX conference is multi-track and each track s defined in the call for submissions. While there is wiggle room in what appears in each track, it behooves you to submit proposals that are aligned with a specific track. This makes it easier for the organizers to see where a proposal fits in.
  2. Avoid common topics. The conference will receive between 10x and 20x more proposals than they have room on the schedule to accept. Probability distributions being what they are, they are likely to receive a large number of proposals about a small number of topics, and a small number of proposals that are truly unique across a wider range of potential topics.  For example, I'm guessing that the Agile 2022 conference will receive a very large number of proposals about how to successfully run remote daily stand up meetings. Although that's a great topic, if your proposal is one of the multitude of proposals on this topic it's going to be really hard for yours to stand out from the crowd to be the one accepted. 
  3. Prefer niche topics. There is a very wide range of "niche topics" in the agile world that many organizations are struggling with yet get very little air time.  Such topics include agile in government, architecture, procurement, data warehousing, working with legacy systems, agile project management, regulatory compliance, and many more. If you have valuable experience to share in such a topic then you should submit a proposal around that.  If you think "nobody else seems to be covering this topic" then that's likely a very good sign that you've got a shot. 
  4. Consider a truly introductory topic. Interestingly the conference has fallen short in the past on submissions around introductory topics. There will be people at the conference who are completely new to agile and hoping to learn about it, yet many of the topics will be too advanced for them. This is particularly true for people outside of the IT space, working in government or not-for-profit agencies, or working in traditional roles.
  5. Be realistic. If you're submitting a talk about topic X, and someone who has written a book about topic X also submits a talk about it, who do you think is most likely to get accepted?  Having said that, if your talk is "How to Apply X in Situation Y", and situation Y is interesting and relevant to others, then you've got a better chance.  For example, where Mike Cohn is very likely to get an "Introduction to Agile Planning and Estimation Techniques" proposal accepted you could have a good chance with "Agile Planning and Estimation on Life-Critical Projects" proposal.
  6. Have a catchy title. Which talk would you rather attend - "Agile Management Reporting" or "The Top 7 Agile Reporting Strategies"?  Everything else being equal, likely the latter.  Or, how about "The Top 5 Agile Risk Management Techniques" vs. "Don't Look Up: How Agile Teams Can Get Serious About Risk Management"?  Catchy titles sell.
  7. Prefer interactive sessions over speaking sessions. There is a clear preference for interactive, hands-on workshops because people are likely to learn more in them.
  8. Provide all the information they ask for. The Agile 202x submission form is detailed.  Give the reviewers the information that they need to make the decision to accept your proposal.
  9. Get your topics in early. One of the really great things about this conference is that the review process is interactive, and the reviewers will provide feedback to you.  The earlier you get your proposals in, the more likely you'll get feedback and the better your ability to act on that feedback. There is always a rush of people submitting at the last minute, and by that time reviewers are swamped and typically aren't going to provide as much feedback.  And you may have run out of time to act on the feedback anyway.
  10. Listen to the feedback and act on it. The reviewers are there to help you.  Let them do that.
  11. Submit ideas to multiple tracks. You're generally better off to submit 3 ideas to 3 different tracks than 3 ideas into the same track.  Proposals in the same track are effectively competing against one another.  Also, submitting the same idea 3 times to 3 different tracks will be noticed - the reviewers are smart people.

Good Luck!

The Agile 20XX conference is always a great experience.  It's hard to get a session proposal accepted at it as a result, and I hope this blog posting has been helpful.  If you don't get accepted this year, then please keep trying until you do.


I'd love to hear about ways to improve this blog posting.  If you have any tips to share, please add a comment. Also, I'd appreciate it if you could give me a star rating (see to the left of the article). Thanks!

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Posted on: January 09, 2022 08:32 AM | Permalink | Comments (3)

Answering Questions About Disciplined Agile

PMI Poland LogoOn December 13, 2021 I gave a presentation to the PMI Poland chapter about Disciplined Agile.  Although we had left ample time to answer questions, we still didn't get to all of them.  So my hosts were gracious enough to capture the questions I didn't get to and send them to me.  I thought I would share them in this blog posting for everyone to see.


  1. Scott, you said at the beginning of your presentation that Agile based frameworks only increase efficiency on average by 7-12%. Are there already any studies that show the effectiveness of implementing DA in organizations?  We’re currently working with researchers now to gather that data.  My hope is that we’ll have something to share in 2022.
  2. Does DA act like an expert system?  No.  The idea is to provide people with the information that they need to make better decisions about their way of working (WoW).  The people are making decisions, not the computer.
  3. Why do we need DA right now?  To help your team to improve their WoW, and to help your organization become a learning organization that is able to continually improve and become more effective.  For more details, please read Why Disciplined Agile?
  4. What is the difference between DA and DAD?  Disciplined Agile Delivery (DAD), is one of the 24 process blades of the Disciplined Agile (DA) tool kit.  DA started as DAD and evolved from there, addressing more and more aspects of your organizational WoW over time.  For a full understanding of the scope of DA, read Introduction to Disciplined Agile.
  5. What tips would you give to any team member who wants to propose using GCI in their project? Where should he or she start? You really want to invest some time to learn about Disciplined Agile, and good starting points are the Disciplined Agile Scrum Master (DASM) or Disciplined Agile Senior Scrum Master (DASSM) certifications.  Another good starting point is the Basics of DA eLearning from PMI.  You need to do this to learn about the DA tool kit and how to navigate it.  That will provide you with the background to be successful with the Guided Continuous Improvement (GCI) approach.
  6. I often hear from other PMs "DA is an artificial creation, it's not useful for anything”.  How can I explain the value to them in a few words, skipping the formulas I can find on the internet?  DA is clearly not artificial.  It puts 1600+ strategies into context to help you to choose your own way of working (WoW) that is fit-for-purpose for you.  How is using the right strategy for the job an artificial concept?
  7. How can I encourage management/business stakeholders to bring DA into the company/team? What examples can I cite?  We have a page sharing Disciplined Agile success stories and we invite people to share more with us.
  8. Can the DA go wrong? Why? In what situations?  DA is a tool kit, so it all depends on how you apply the tools within it.  The aim of DA is to help you to identify ways of working (WoW) that is fit-for-purpose for your situation.  So it really gets down to your ability to understand your situation and choose strategies that are most likely going to work for you.
Posted on: December 21, 2021 10:19 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)

The Art of Guesstimation

Categories: estimation


In late 2019 and early 2020 I wrote a series of blogs called "The Art of Guesstimation."  This blog is a short "landing page" for that series.  The Art of Guessimation blogs, in order, are:

  1. Estimation on Software Projects
  2. Why should we estimate?
  3. Why shouldn't we estimate?
  4. Estimates are probability distributions
  5. The challenges surrounding ranged estimates
  6. Updating ranged estimates over time
  7. Truisms for better estimates

I hope you find this blog series valuable and thought provoking.



Posted on: November 27, 2021 07:57 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

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