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About this Blog


View Posts By:

Scott Ambler
Glen Little
Mark Lines
Valentin Mocanu
Daniel Gagnon
Michael Richardson
Joshua Barnes
Kashmir Birk

Recent Posts







This is the first part of a six-part series developed exclusively for PMI Members.

The aim of this series is to explore how our personal and professional values can be used as a proactive, precision tool to shape the future, especially as we all prepare for the new realities of the post-COVID-19 world. 

Alan Kay invented the GUI interface used on all Macs, iPhones, iPads and Windows applications. Alan also invented object-oriented programming and early prototypes that supported the development of the mouse, tablets and laptops. 

Alan Kay was asked how he was able to predict the future year after year, with such precision and consistency? He responded:

“The best way to predict the future is to invent it.”

He was paraphrasing Abraham Lincoln who had said “The best way to predict your future is to create it

We can wait for experts to tell us how the future is going to unfold or we can use our professional and personal values to create our future.

Instead of treating values as simply standards to be adhered to, or characteristics of people or descriptions of culture in a reactive way, we would like you to think of values as precision tools that enable you to manage and lead change, proactively. 

Our character and reputation are defined by our values in action. Not by what we say we believe in but how we apply our values in all our decisions and relationships. 

Mahatma Gandhi said "Your habits become your values, your values become your destiny". 

Values are the lynch-pin between our habits and our destiny.

When we are conscious of our values it allows us to examine our habits objectively and shape our destiny permanently. We will not only be remembered by what we did in life, but also how we did it.

When our values are crystal clear, decisions, even tough ones in times of uncertainty, become much clearer. 

Through this series we are going to build on the foundation of the existing standards and definitions of the four PMI Core Values - Responsibility, Fairness, Respect and Honesty.

The aspired and mandatory standards for these values are described in the PMI Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct.

The six blog postings in this series are:

  1. Creating the Future
  2. Values as a Precision Tool
  3. Responsibility
  4. Fairness
  5. Respect
  6. Honesty

The world has already begun to change through the upheaval of this global pandemic. More change are going to come. We may as well apply our leadership capabilities to transform the future on our terms. 

There are many things that we cannot choose in life, but our most important choices of all, who we are, how we show up, what we stand for and how we create the future through our values – these choices are in our complete control.

Please share in your comments your thoughts on the importance of values, so we can all learn from each other.

How are you going to use values to create the future through the chaos and turbulence of your new realities?


Posted by Kashmir Birk on: June 08, 2020 08:37 PM | Permalink | Comments (6)

What Does it Mean to Be Awesome?

Categories: Principle

Awesome - Getty Images

One of the principles of the Disciplined Agile (DA) mindset is to "Be Awesome."  Who doesn’t want to be awesome? Who doesn’t want to be part of an awesome team doing awesome things while working for an awesome organization? We all want these things. Recently, Joshua Kerievsky has popularized the concept that modern agile teams make people awesome, and, of course, it isn’t much of a leap that we want awesome teams and awesome organizations too. Similarly, Mary and Tom Poppendieck observe that sustainable advantage is gained from engaged, thinking people, as does Richard Sheridan in Joy Inc. Helping people to be awesome is important because, as Richard Branson of the Virgin Group says, “Take care of your employees and they’ll take care of your business.” 

There are several things that we, as individuals, can do to be awesome:

  1. Act in such a way that we earn the respect and trust of our colleagues. Be reliable, be honest, be open, be ethical, and treat them with respect.
  2. Willingly collaborate with others. Share information with them when asked, even if it is a work in progress. Offer help when it’s needed and, just as important, reach out for help yourself.
  3. Be an active learner. We should seek to master our craft, always being on the lookout for opportunities to experiment and learn. Go beyond our specialty and learn about the broader software process and business environment. By becoming a T-skilled, “generalizing specialist” we will be able to better appreciate where others are coming from and thereby interact with them more effectively.
  4. Seek to never let the team down. Yes, it will happen sometimes, and good teams understand and forgive that.
  5. Be willing to improve and manage our emotional responses to difficult situations. Innovation requires diversity, and by their very nature diverse opinions may cause emotional reactions. We must all work on making our workplace psychologically safe. 

Awesome teams also choose to build quality in from the very beginning. Lean tells us to fix any quality issues and the way we worked that caused them. Instead of debating which bugs we can skip over for later, we want to learn how to avoid them completely. As we’re working toward this, we work in such a way that we do a bit of work, validate it, fix any issues that we find, and then iterate. The Agile Manifesto is clear that continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility.

Senior leadership within our organization can enable staff to be awesome individuals working on awesome teams by providing them with the authority and resources required for them to do their jobs, by building a safe culture and environment, and by motivating them to excel. People are motivated by being provided with the autonomy to do their work, having opportunities to master their craft, and to do something that has purpose. What would you rather have, staff who are motivated or demotivated?

Posted by Scott Ambler on: May 28, 2020 06:03 AM | Permalink | Comments (9)

Failure Bow: Choosing Between Life Cycles Flowchart Update

An important part of agile culture is to be honest and forthcoming about your mistakes, so I'd like to share one that I've made in a key diagram that exists in both our Disciplined Agile Lean Scrum Master (DALSM) courseware and in the book Choose Your WoW!  This blog posting is my "failure bow" regarding mistakes that I made in the flowchart for how to choose between DA life cycles.

Figure 1 presents the original flowchart as it currently appears in the book and courseware.  Don't worry, we're in the process of updating both.  I'm writing this blog now because I want to make this update publicly available as quickly as possible to support people's learning journeys.  There are two problems in Figure 1:

  • The decision in the bottom right corner has two "yes" options coming out of it.
  • The decision in the bottom-right corner is poorly worded.

Figure 1. Choosing a DA lifecycle (original diagram).

Choosing a DA Lifecycle (original)


The update to the diagram is presented in Figure 2.  You can see that we've changed one of the Yes options to be No.  More importantly, we've reworded the decision point so that it's clearer.  We had several people point out that they didn't understand the original wording of the question about potential disruption.  I had written that question from the point of view of a team composed of people with a traditional background.  But, many teams now have an agile background, having gotten started with a framework like Scrum only to find it insufficient for their needs.  Such teams wouldn't be disrupted, at least not very much, by adopting the Agile lifecycle.  Thus we've reworked the question to instead ask about the team's agile background. 

Figure 2. How to choose a DA life cycle (updated).

Choosing a DA Life Cycle (updated)


An important point that I would like to make about the flowchart of Figure 2 is that this is the logic that we suggest you follow, but you may still decide to make other decisions.  For example, consider the decision point in the bottom-right corner.  You may be working with a team that is new to agile but still decide to adopt the agile lifecycle over the lean lifecycle because you're willing to invest in the time and expense of training and coaching them in agile ways of working (WoW).  Fair enough, that's your call.

I hope that this update has cleared up any confusion you may have had around this diagram.

Posted by Scott Ambler on: May 21, 2020 07:10 AM | Permalink | Comments (12)

Evolving Disciplined Agile: Guidelines of the DA Mindset

Categories: Evolving DA, Guideline, mindset

The Disciplined Agile Mindset

In the recent release of Choose Your WoW! we have evolved some aspects of the Disciplined Agile (DA) tool kit.  One of the things we evolved is how we communicate the DA mindset (pictured above). The guidelines help us to be more effective in our way of working (WoW) and in improving our WoW over time. In this blog posting we explore the eight guidelines:

  1. Validate our learnings. The only way to become awesome is to experiment with, and then adopt where appropriate, a new WoW. In guided continuous improvement (GCI) we experiment with a new way of working and then we assess how well it worked, an approach called validated learning. Being willing and able to experiment is critical to our process-improvement efforts. 
  2. Apply design thinking. Delighting customers requires us to recognize that our aim is to create operational value streams that are designed with our customers in mind. This requires design thinking on our part. Design thinking means to be empathetic to the customer, to first try to understand their environment and their needs before developing a solution. 
  3. Attend to relationships through the value stream. The interactions between the people doing the work are what is key, regardless of whether or not they are part of the team. For example, when a product manager needs to work closely with our organization’s data analytics team to gain a better understanding of what is going on in the marketplace, and with our strategy team to help put those observations into context, then we want to ensure that these interactions are effective. 
  4. Create effective environments that foster joy. Part of being awesome is having fun and being joyful. We want working in our company to be a great experience so we can attract and keep the best people. Done right, work is play. We can make our work more joyful by creating an environment that allows us to work together well. 
  5. Change culture by improving the system. While culture is important, and culture change is a critical component of any organization’s agile transformation, the unfortunate reality is that we can't change it directly. This is because culture is a reflection of the management system in place, so to change our culture we need to evolve our overall system. 
  6. Create semi-autonomous self-organizing teams. Organizations are complex adaptive systems (CASs) made up of a network of teams or, if you will, a team of teams. Although mainstream agile implores us to create “whole teams” that have all of the skills and resources required to achieve the outcomes that they’ve been tasked with, the reality is that no team is an island unto itself. Autonomous teams would be ideal but there are always dependencies on other teams upstream that we are part of, as well as downstream from us. And, of course, there are dependencies between offerings (products or services) that necessitate the teams responsible for them to collaborate.
  7. Adopt measures to improve outcomes. When it comes to measurement, context counts. What are we hoping to improve? Quality? Time to market? Staff morale? Customer satisfaction? Combinations thereof? Every person, team, and organization has their own improvement priorities, and their own ways of working, so they will have their own set of measures that they gather to provide insight into how they’re doing and, more importantly, how to proceed. And these measures evolve over time as their situation and priorities evolve. The implication is that our measurement strategy must be flexible and fit for purpose, and it will vary across teams. 
  8. Leverage and enhance organizational assets. Our organization has many assets—information systems, information sources, tools, templates, procedures, learnings, and other things—that our team could adopt to improve our effectiveness. We may not only choose to adopt these assets, we may also find that we can improve them to make them better for us as well as other teams who also choose to work with these assets. 

These guidelines are described in greater detail in chapter 2 of Choose Your WoW!.  


Free Downloads

We have made several Disciplined Agile (DA) posters available to you for free download, including a Disciplined Agile Mindset poster.

Posted by Scott Ambler on: April 30, 2020 10:04 AM | Permalink | Comments (5)

Evolving Disciplined Agile: Promises of the DA Mindset

Categories: Evolving DA, mindset, Promise

The Disciplined Agile Mindset

In the recent release of Choose Your WoW! we have evolved some aspects of the Disciplined Agile (DA) tool kit.  One of the things we evolved is how we communicate the DA mindset (pictured above). The promises are agreements that we make with our fellow teammates, our stakeholders, and other people within our organization whom we interact with.  The promises define a collection of disciplined behaviours that enable us to collaborate effectively and professionally.  In this blog posting we explore the seven promises:

  1. Create psychological safety and embrace diversity. Psychological safety means being able to show and apply oneself without fear of negative consequences of status, career, or self-worth—we should be comfortable being ourselves in our work setting. Psychological safety goes hand-in-hand with diversity, which is the recognition that everyone is unique and can add value in different ways. The dimensions of personal uniqueness include, but are not limited to, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, agile, physical abilities, socioeconomic status, religious beliefs, political beliefs, and other ideological beliefs. Diversity is critical to a team’s success because it enables greater innovation. The more diverse our team, the better our ideas will be, the better our work will be, and the more we’ll learn from each other.
  2. Accelerate value realization. In DA we use the term value to refer to both customer and business value. Customer value, something that benefits the end customer who consumes the product/service that our team helps to provide, is what agilists typically focus on. This is clearly important, but in Disciplined Agile we’re very clear that teams have a range of stakeholders, including external end customers. Business value addresses the issue that some things are of benefit to our organization and perhaps only indirectly to our customers. For example, investing in enterprise architecture, in reusable infrastructure, and in sharing innovations across our organization offer the potential to improve consistency, quality, reliability, and reduce cost over the long term.
  3. Collaborate proactively. Disciplined agilists strive to add value to the whole, not just to their individual work or to the team’s work. The implication is that we want to collaborate both within our team and with others outside our team, and we also want to be proactive doing so. Waiting to be asked is passive, observing that someone needs help and then volunteering to do so is proactive. 
  4. Make all work and workflow visible. DA teams will often make their work visible at both the individual level as well as the team level. It is critical to focus on our work in process, which is our work in progress plus any work that is queued up waiting for us to get to it.  Furthermore, DA teams make their workflow visible, and thus have explicit workflow policies, so that everyone knows how everyone else is working. 
  5. Improve predictability. DA teams strive to improve their predictability to enable them to collaborate and self-organize more effectively, and thereby to increase the chance that they will fulfill any commitments that they make to their stakeholders. Many of the earlier promises we have made work toward improving predictability. 
  6. Keep workloads within capacity. Going beyond capacity is problematic from both a personal and a productivity point of view. At the personal level, overloading a person or team will often increase the frustration of the people involved. Although it may motivate some people to work harder in the short term, it will cause burnout in the long term, and it may even motivate people to give up and leave because the situation seems hopeless to them. From a productivity point of view, overloading causes multitasking, which increases overall overhead. 
  7. Improve continuously. The really successful organizations—Apple, Amazon, eBay, Facebook, Google, and more—got that way through continuous improvement. They realized that to remain competitive they needed to constantly look for ways to improve their processes, the outcomes that they were delivering to their customers, and their organizational structures. 

These promises are described in greater detail in chapter 2 of Choose Your WoW!.  In the next blog in this series we will explore the guidelines of the DA mindset.  Stay tuned!


Free Downloads

We have made several Disciplined Agile (DA) posters available to you for free download, including a Disciplined Agile Mindset poster.

Posted by Scott Ambler on: April 27, 2020 12:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (7)

"My goal is simple. It is complete understanding of the universe, why it is as it is, and why it exists at all."

- Stephen Hawking