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.

About this Blog


View Posts By:

Tatsiana Balshakova
Mark Lines
Mike Griffiths
Scott Ambler
Bjorn Gustafsson
Curtis Hibbs
James Trott

Past Contributors:

Joshua Barnes
Michael Richardson
Daniel Gagnon
Valentin Tudor Mocanu
Kashmir Birk
Glen Little
Klaus Boedker

Recent Posts

DA 5.6 is released

Disciplined Agile 5.5 Released

Choose Your WoW! Second Edition Is Now Available

Requisite Agility applied in Project Management

Disciplined Agile and PMBoK Guide 7th Edition

Transform One Engineer at a Time


The Institution of Engineering and Technology has recently published a paper entitled An Academic Approach to Transform Organizations One Engineer at a Time by Eduardo Juarez Pineda, Rocio Aldeco-Perez, and Jose Manuel Velazquez.  The DA toolkit features in this paper so I thought you’d be interested.

Paper Abstract:

Every year software development industry requires a higher number of trained software engineers who are not only skilled programmers but also talented software projects managers. To deliver high quality software projects, engineers require of the application of sound engineering competencies along with discipline. Obtaining those practices usually require years of experience. Companies are not prepared to invest this time on engineers resulting in a high percentage of deficient projects. In this paper we present a bachelor level competency-based approach that develops and evaluates such competencies during a challenge-based learning experience. In this way, the rate of successful projects where software engineers are involved will be higher, as they have obtained the appropriate competencies to deliver such projects.

Posted by Scott Ambler on: July 14, 2019 06:50 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Teal is the New Black

Just as your process must be flexible and adaptive, so must your organization. In Reinventing Organizations Frederick Laloux works through the history, and arguably a maturity model, for organizational design. The premise, which is overviewed in the diagram below (you can click on it for a high-res version), is that over time we’re seeing organizations evolve from tribal and often violent structures (Red) through more formalized hierarchical structures (Amber/Orange) to agile approaches (Green/Teal). Today the vast majority of organizations, believed to be 80-90%, are somewhere on the Amber through Green scale.

Laloux Teal Organizations

There are several important observations we’d like to make about Laloux’s organizational maturity scale:

  1. For your organization to support agile it should at least be (mostly) Green, with a participative and values-based culture, or better yet Teal with a truly adaptive and aware strategy (as we’ve been preaching throughout this chapter).
  2. Your organization will start its improvement journey wherever it currently is on the scale. Laloux’s model provides insights into what your current challenges are likely to be and what potential improvements you should consider making.
  3. Teams can still be agile within Orange and Amber organizations, but the organization itself will struggle with agility due to cultural impediments.
  4. It is difficult to jump organizational levels – in other words if your organization is currently Amber then you need to move through Orange, then Green, and finally Teal.
  5. To move between levels you need the both top-down support from leadership as well as bottom-up support from front-line staff – bottom up, “stealth” improvement efforts will fail on their own when organizational antibodies fight back.

You Want to be At Least Green

Why does your organization need to be at least Green or Teal to become agile? Green organizations support a participative culture style that enables collaboration within and between teams. Green organizations explicitly align people around common values, so injecting any missing agile and lean philosophies often proves to be straightforward. Teal organizations go one step further and bring it all together by explicitly recognizing that they are complex adaptive systems (CASs). This provides an environment where agile teams are able to experiment, learn, collaborate, and most importantly thrive as they find new ways to delight their customers.

Improving Horizontally is Much More Realistic

Laloux himself is very clear about the importance of top-down support if you want to become a Teal organization, or frankly just to move up the hierarchy (say from Red to Amber).  In chapter 3 of Reinventing Organizations he states that for an organization to become Teal that it requires the support of both the CEO/founder and the owners of the company.  Our experience is that a third factor is required, the support of the front-line staff (and better yet middle management), for your transformation to be successful.

Laloux believes that it’s much easier for organizations to improve horizontally – become the best Orange or Amber organization that you can be.  In many ways this is much more conducive to a lean continuous improvement strategy than an “agile transformation” strategy.

Your Organization is Probably a Rainbow

It’s attractive to think that your organizational culture is consistent across the entire enterprise, but it is far more likely that you have teams or divisions with differing color ratings according to Laloux’s model. This is because the culture of a team (or division) is greatly influenced by the leader of that team, and leaders vary in their style, and because teams face unique situations – sometimes a red strategy is the most appropriate given what the team faces. Context counts!

Suggested Reading

Posted by Scott Ambler on: July 01, 2017 05:50 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Agile Transformation: Comparing Transformation Strategies

Three-legged stool

In Agile Transformation: Being Agile, Doing Agile, and Supporting Agile we described three factors – people (being agile), process (doing agile), and tools (supporting agile) – that in our experience must be addressed during your agile transformation.  In this blog posting we compare agile transformation strategies in terms of addressing combinations of the three factors.  The following diagram overviews the eight potential strategies that you may embark upon.

Agile Transformation Strategies

Let’s compare each agile transformation strategy one at a time:

  1. None of the factors are addressed.  Good luck with that.  ??
  2. Focus on people only.  When you focus solely on being agile your teams don’t really learn how agile techniques fit together, nor do they understand the implications of how they’re working.  An example of a people only strategy is to give everyone training and coaching in leadership and collaboration skills and then expect them to self-organize into effective agile teams because “they already have the skills and they’re smart people who can figure it out”.  We saw this sort of strategy fail at a large product company when the teams who received this coaching and training invariably went back to their former ways of working.
  3. Focus on process only.  With this approach you get “cargo-cult agile” that is layered on top of your existing processes. What we mean by cargo-cult agile is that the team adopts many of the straightforward management practices, the ones that Scrum tends to focus on, such as holding a daily coordination meeting, an iteration/sprint demo, an iteration/sprint retrospective, and iteration/sprint planning.  You end up with people holding “all of the agile meetings” and who on the surface take on their version of agile roles such as Product Owner and Team Lead.  They have the appearance of working an an agile manner but they really aren’t, and worse yet they don’t even know it and usually nor does senior management.  This is a very common problem when an organization’s entire agile transformation strategy is to send their people on two-day workshops so that they may become “certified masters.”
  4. Focus on tools only.  Some organizations believe that if they buy several agile tools, or even an entire agile tool suite, and then force their staff to use them that the tools will somehow make their teams agile.  The actual result is that you end up with a “standardized” approach to agile that is both overly complex (the tools typically include far more features than you’ll ever want, many of which provide functionality completely inappropriate for your situation) and incomplete (you can’t automate everything and even if you could the vendors haven’t gotten to it yet).  The worst offenders are the Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) suites, many of which seem to be offered by vendors who themselves are struggling to deliver consumable products into the marketplace.
  5. Focus on people and process. A common agile coaching refrain is to address tooling once you understand the process, which is good advice to an extent, but it quickly falls down when you realize that many technical practices such as continuous integration (CI) and automated testing require adoption of tooling from the very start. When you ignore or at least greatly downplay tooling issues you tend to grow “agile purists”, and even “agile zealots”, who only know how to apply agile in simple contexts.  Ignoring tools can ease your agile transformation at first but eventually tends to get you into trouble when you start to apply agile in more complex situations.
  6. Focus on process and tools. When you don’t coach people in the skills and mindset around
    “being agile” you tend to end up with cargo-cult agile with automated bureaucracy.  Agile transformation requires a paradigm shift, which inherently implies you need to address what it means to be agile.
  7. Focus on tools and people. When you downplay how to “do agile” you tend to get agile children playing with shiny new toys.  They tend to know the agile language and mindset, and will often have a cursory understanding of simple agile practices that they learned on their two-day certified mastery workshop, but they really don’t know how to successfully build consumable solutions from beginning to end.  Teams who receive little help on “doing agile” tend to spend a lot of time, and a lot of money, figuring out the agile process.  Worse yet, they often adopt a WaterScrumFall approach where Inception and Transition tends to be more traditional and heavy and only Construction is lightweight and agile.
  8. Focus on people, process, and tools simultaneously.  When your agile transformation strategy addresses all three factors at once you have the potential to create Disciplined Agile teams that can work at scale.  This only happens when your “being agile” efforts help people to shift to an agile mindset, when your “doing agile” efforts teach a comprehensive yet flexible (think goal driven) view of agile strategies and practices, and your “supporting agile” efforts lead to a context-driven, enterprise aware approach to tool selection.

In your agile transformation you will spend much more effort addressing people-oriented (being agile) issues than you will either of process (doing agile) or tooling (supporting agile) issues.  Think of it like this: these three factors are effectively the legs of a stool, if you don’t address all three then your agile transformation will fall over.

If you’d like help with your agile transformation, please contact us via

Posted by Scott Ambler on: March 21, 2016 11:02 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Agile Transformation: Being Agile, Doing Agile, and Supporting Agile

Many organizations struggle to transition to a more agile or lean way of working.  In this blog posting we address three questions:

  1. What factors should your agile transformation address?
  2. How important are these factors in practice?
  3. How difficult are these factors to address?

What factors should your agile transformation address?

Our experience is that successful agile transformations need to address three fundamental issues:

  1. People (being agile).  This factor addresses issues such as individual mindset, team and organizational culture, and team and organizational structure.  As a Disciplined Agile coach you must help people to evolve to an agile mindset, learn new skills, adopt improved collaboration strategies, and evolve the way they are organized to reflect their new ways of working.  As you can see below, this factor typically comprises between 80 to 85% of your agile transformation effort.
  2. Process (doing agile).  As a Disciplined Agile coach you need to help organizations adopt new agile and lean practices, strategies, and the Disciplined Agile (DA) toolkit itself.  This tends to be between 10 to 15% of the overall transformation effort.
  3. Tools (supporting agile).   Agile teams will need to adopt new tools, such as continuous integration (CI) tools, testing tools, and perhaps even agile task board software to name a few.  Agilists will use existing tools, such as their configuration management environment, in new ways.  And they will abandon some existing tools, in particular traditional test management tools, that aren’t applicable in the agile world.  Reworking your tooling strategy tends to take about 5 to 10% of your agile transformation efforts.

Agile Transformation: Focus of Effort

How important are these factors in practice?

In the 2014 Agile Transformation survey we asked a series of questions around how important it was to address various people, process, and tooling factors.  The survey respondents had either been through an agile transformation or were currently well into one.  The figure below shows that the first and third most important transformation factors were aligned with being agile, the second and fourth most important factors were around doing agile, and the two least important factors were around tooling (supporting agile).

Agile Transition Factors - Importance

How difficult are these factors to address?

In the 2014 Agile Transformation survey we asked a similar series of questions around how difficult organizations found it to address various people, process, and tooling factors.  The first and third most difficult factors to address were cultural (being agile).  The second and sixth most difficult factors to address were process oriented (doing agile) in nature.  The fourth and fifth most difficult factors addressed tooling.

Agile Transformation Factors - Difficulty to address

Our experience is that if you don’t address all three factors in your agile transformation effort that you will run into serious trouble.  This topic will be explored in our next blog posting.

If you’d like help with your agile transformation, please contact us via

Posted by Scott Ambler on: March 18, 2016 03:31 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

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- T.S. Eliot