Project Management

Disciplined Agile

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This blog contains details about various aspects of PMI's Disciplined Agile (DA) tool kit, including new and upcoming topics.

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Scott Ambler
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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, 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)

Evolving Disciplined Agile: The DA Mindset

Disciplined Agile Mindset

As I posted recently, the new version of our book Choose Your WoW! is now available.  With this new release we have evolved the Disciplined Agile (DA) tool kit, and one of the things that we have updated is our approach to describing the DA Mindset.  In this blog posting I overview our previous approach to describing the DA mindset and then describe our new strategy, which is summarized in the diagram above.

Our Previous Approach to Describing the DA Mindset

Until recently, we described the DA mindset as the combination of the DA Principles and the DA Manifesto.  The DA Manifesto in turn was described in terms of five values and 17 principles behind the manifesto.  The DA Manifesto was based on the Manifesto for Agile Software Development, or more colloquially known as the Agile Manifesto.  

Three issues motivated us to move away from this approach:

  1. It was a bit confusing given that there were two levels of principles. We had originally developed the DA Manifesto in 2010 to reflect our belief that the Agile Manifesto wasn't sufficient for enterprise-class software development, let alone to support business agility. Over the years we evolved the DA Manifesto to reflect our learnings. Then around 2015 we found that we needed a layer above the DA Manifesto to capture key aspects of the DA mindset with respect to business agility, hence the DA principles.  At this level the term principles made the most sense, even though the DA Manifesto had principles at a lower level.  
  2. The Agile Manifesto was too constraining. The Agile Manifesto was written in 2001.  While it was an incredibly important milestone for both the software world and now the business world, we've found that we need a more robust strategy.  We've also found that some people struggle with why we would even need to extend the Agile Manifesto at all, or wanted to extend it in different ways, and we've grown tired of debating various nuances of the various extensions. It is time to move on.
  3. FLEX proved that a different approach works.  When PMI decided to merge Al Shalloway's FLEX into DA one of the benefits was that we are able to benefit from Al's deep experience and thinking that is encapsulated in FLEX. The mindset behind FLEX wasn't based on the values and principles of the Agile Manifesto but instead on concepts based on lean and flow.  Al had approached the same problem from a different direction and had found a different way to communicate very similar concepts.  So we worked it through and developed our new approach.


Our New Approach to Describing the DA Mindset

Our new approach to describing the DA Mindset is straightforward: We believe in these principles, so we promise to adopt these behaviours and follow these guidelines when doing so. There is a purpose for each aspect of the mindset:

  • Principles. The principles provide a philosophical foundation for business agility.  They are based on both lean and flow concepts.  
  • Promises. 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.  
  • Guidelines. These guidelines help us to be more effective in our way of working (WoW) and in improving our WoW over time.

We will soon be updating DA pages on and the Disciplined Agile courseware to reflect the changes being described in this blog series.  Our strategy is to let the books lead, in other words we update the relevant book and then shortly afterwards we release updates to related material.  

Future postings in this series explore the principles, promises, and guidelines behind the DA Mindset in greater detail.  


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 20, 2020 10:27 AM | Permalink | Comments (10)

"Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age 18."

- Albert Einstein