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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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Disciplined Agile: An Executive's Starting Point

Start

We used to say that software is eating the world, but the fact is today software is the world. Gone are the days where IT could be treated like a utility, one that more often than not was outsourced in the belief that you needed to focus on your core competencies and IT didn’t make it onto that list. These days being competent at IT is mere table stakes at best, you need to excel at IT if you hope to become an industry leader. Today business executives must focus on disruptors, new competitors entering their market space using technologies in new ways. Becoming an agile business – an adaptive, responsive, and learning organization – is the true goal. Business agility requires true agility across all of your organization, not just software development, not just DevOps, and not just IT. There isn’t a single industry now that either isn’t dominated by agile businesses or isn’t under threat of disruption by new agile competitors.   

The Disciplined Agile (DA) tool kit was created to apply agile in complex enterprise agile implementations. DA has been well received and implemented in organizations around the world. According to Gartner, Disciplined Agile is also the only available agile process explicitly allowing enterprises to customise agile for their unique enterprise challenges at both the organization and project levels.  In their research report, Adopt Disciplined Agile Delivery for a Comprehensive and Scalable Agile IT Approach, Gartner reported: 

Success with agile development is important, but comes in different forms across enterprises. Technical professionals responsible for application development can use Disciplined Agile Delivery to tune agile processes and practices, including SAFe, to their specific needs."

In this article, we address several common questions executives have about Disciplined Agile (DA):

  1. What is DA?
  2. Why should I consider DA?
  3. Where is DA being used?
  4. Are there any DA success stories?
  5. How can we get started?

 

What is Disciplined Agile (DA)?

The Disciplined Agile (DA) tool kit provides straightforward guidance to help organizations streamline their processes in a context-sensitive manner, providing a solid foundation for business agility. The figure below provides a high-level overview of the scope of DA (click on the diagram to zoom in).

The scope of Disciplined Agile

DA provides a foundation for business agility does this by showing how the various activities such as Finance, Portfolio Management, Solution Delivery (software development), IT Operations, Enterprise Architecture, Vendor Management and many others work together. DA also describes what these activities should address, provides a range of options for doing so, and describes the trade-offs associated with each option.

DA also provides a straightforward strategy for implementing value streams, overviewed in the following diagram (click on it to zoom in).

Value stream workflow

You can read more about DA in Introduction to Disciplined Agile.

 

Why should I consider Disciplined Agile (DA)?

There are several reasons why your organization should adopt the Disciplined Agile (DA) tool kit:

  1. DA enables you to become a learning organization. Rather than helping you to adopt the “best practices” of a specific agile framework, the DA tool kit instead gives your team the tools they need to learn and to improve their ways of working (WoW). 
  2. DA enables you to increase your rate of process improvement. The DA tool kit provides straightforward guidance for identifying potential improvements that are likely to work in the context that you face, enabling your teams to reduce the number of failed experiments and thereby increase their rate of improvement.
  3. DA supports the entire range of complexities faced by your teams, not just team size. Every person, every team, and every organization is unique. The implication is that you need a tool kit that provides you with choices so that you can tailor, and later evolve, an approach to address the situation that you face in practice. 
  4. DA is agnostic and hybrid. DA adopts pragmatic techniques from a wide range of sources – agile sources, lean sources, and even traditional sources – and does the work of putting them into context so that you don’t have to. 
  5. Support all types of teams, not just software teams. As you saw earlier, there are over twenty process blades/areas within the DA tool kit. Only one of them, Disciplined Agile Delivery (DAD), is focused on software development teams.  
  6. Consistent governance across disparate teams. Luckily, it’s not only possible but highly desirable to have a light-weight, lean governance strategy in place. In fact, the DA tool kit builds lean governance strategies into most process blades and has an overarching, enterprise-level process blade called Governance. 
  7. DA is the foundation for business agility. We’ve been talking about teams a lot, but it’s not just about teams. It’s really about how your organization can become more competitive, how it can regularly delight your customers, and how it can continue to evolve and improve over time. It’s really about business agility, and the DA tool kit shows how it all fits together.

You can read more about why you should consider DA at Why Disciplined Agile?

 

Where is Disciplined Agile (DA) being used?

DA is being used in numerous organizations, in a wide range of industries, around the world.  You can see a list of a subset of the organizations using Disciplined Agile.

 

Are there any Disciplined Agile (DA) success stories?

Yes. We have published several Disciplined Agile success stories with more on the way.

 

How can we get started with Disciplined Agile (DA)?

The answer to this question depends on what you're trying to achieve:

 

Getting personally started with Disciplined Agile

There are several ways that you can learn more about DA, and we recommend following the one(s) that seem best for you:

  1. Online reading. If you want to start with some online reading, then our Start Here article is a great option.
  2. Online eLearning. If you prefer eLearning options, our Basics of DA online course is a nice overview to get you going.
  3. Read a book. If you're looking for a quick read, the Introduction to Disciplined Agile Delivery 2nd Edition is it.  If you'd like a more in-depth understanding of the tool kit, then Choose Your WoW! is recommend (and it's free to PMI members). 
  4. Take some training. We have a variety of instructor led training (ILT) as well as online learning options to choose from, which are important parts of an agile certification journey.

 

Getting a team started with Disciplined Agile

There are also several options for getting a team going with Disciplined Agile, we recommend considering all three:

  1. Get a few individuals started with DA.  The easiest strategy would be to point them to the options for individuals above. Your goal is to have several people be sufficiently informed about DA so that you can determine if it's right for you.
  2. Get some training. PMI's agile certification journey includes training options for all team members at all levels of agile expertise. 
  3. Hire one or more Disciplined Agile Coach (DAC) or Disciplined Agile Value Stream Consultant (DAVSC). DACs can help you learn how to apply the DA tool kit with teams and across teams to improve their effectiveness.  DAVSCs help you to streamline your value streams so as to enable you to effectively delight your customers.  You can search for people who have earned their DAC accreditation here.

 

Getting your organization started with Disciplined Agile

Our fundamental advice is to start where you are, do the best that you can given the situation that you face, and always strive to get better.  To succeed, there are three key concepts to understand:

  1. Context counts. Your strategy to get started will vary based on your context - an organization that is new to agile will take a different path than one that has already (mis)adopted an agile framework.  An organization that has successfully adopted agile within their IT department and is now focusing on other parts of their organization will need a different strategy than one that is focusing on the entire organization at once.  As you can see in the following diagram, there are multiple paths that you can take to become a learning organization.
  2. The goal is to become a learning organization. Many organizations hope that adopting an agile framework such as Scrum or SAFe is what they need to do. That may be a good start, but it isn't your real end goal, instead you want to become a learning organization that is capable of evolving and improving beyond the confines of an agile framework/method. When you successfully adopt a framework, you typically find that the framework doesn't address all of the situations that you face. Nor do frameworks offer more than platitudes about how to evolve your WoW beyond what they prescribe, The aim of the DA tool kit is to teach you how to improve effectively, not prescribe one set of "best practices."
  3. There is no quick, easy fix. Improvement is a life-long journey, not a short-term project. To become a learning organization you must adopt a mindset and some tools that enable your people to experiment, learn, and improve.

Although every organization's journey is unique, we have found that at a high-level they all follow a similar 3-step transformation path:

Disciplined Agile Transformation

 

  1. Align. Fundamentally, you always start where you are. Because every organization is different, you must assess your situation, identify your challenges that you need to overcome, and then select an appropriate improvement path and strategy to journey on that path.
  2. Improve. Follow an improvement strategy that is fit-for-purpose, tailored to address the challenges that your organization faces.  This strategy will evolve over time as challenges are overcome and new challenges appear. The DA strategy is to improve in place, addressing your immediate needs while teaching you the skills and providing the tools to help you evolve into a true learning organization.
  3. Thrive. You will thrive when you've become a learning organization, one that is able to learn from and evolve with their changing environment. One that is focused on improving their way of working (WoW) so that they delight their customers.
Posted by Scott Ambler on: March 26, 2021 05:29 AM | Permalink | Comments (5)
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