Is Agile a Subset of Lean Manufacturing?

If you hang around agilists long enough, someone will mention lean manufacturing, Toyota Production System or Kanban. Since these concepts predate Agile, you might wonder how they relate, and perhaps why lean manufacturing wasn’t directly applied to software (until perhaps recently with Lean/Kanban). You might wonder whether Agile is just a subset of Lean Manufacturing.

Lean manufacturing floor

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Develop Agile Managers, or Agile Dies

Something is Wrong, It Must Be Agile

To sustain rapid adaptation and innovation, we need good agile managers. But management talent is rare, and agile management talent even rarer.

Danger lurks when executives and managers don’t understand agile. You can tell when managers don’t understand agile: they don’t use it themselves. Agile methods, Scrum particularly, are perfect for managing creative teams, including management teams planning and executing strategy (see Strategy Scrum Teams). [suth2014]

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Strategy Scrum Teams

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

White House Situation Room discussing mission against Osama bin Laden

Management teams can use Strategy Scrum to manage themselves and more effectively finish important work. It creates greater resiliency, a more collaborative culture and deeper agile understanding, which helps their Scrum development teams succeed.

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Are We Agile? Answer 5 Questions to Find Out

Iterations of the Light Bulb: Slow Motion Agility?

The strongest, most resilient agile entities (organizations, teams, individuals) follow 5 progressive agile base patterns. To assess your agility, ask how well you follow those patterns. To stay agile, follow the agile base patterns indefinitely. Continue reading

Senex Rex at Work: April 2014

Senex Rex is an agile and lean product consulting, coaching and training company. We tend to focus on metrics. We teach teams and managers how to measure, experiment, learn, improve and win. We help clients become highly profitable long term. When our clients make more money, they have greater freedom to innovate and their employees and shareholders have more freedom to enjoy life. We think agility helps in many cases, so we often teach and coach agile theory and practice. Few contractors teach clients how to sustainably retain and improve agility; we specialize in that. We have many other tools in our tool box. Here’s a snapshot of the work Senex Rex did in April of 2014.

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Two-Hour Scrum, Lean Startup Overview

We often offer a free 2-hour overview of Agile/Scrum, Lean Startup and Catalytic Leadership to company leaders in active client locations (currently San Francisco Bay Area, Seattle, Santa Barbara and Salt Lake City). In exchange, we ask an executive to write a LinkedIn review (positive or negative). This April, we spoke with a well-known logging and operational intelligence company. The attending vice-president wrote furiously during the session and followed up strongly with his teams. We evidently made an impression. Our highly empirical approach to Scrum and Lean Startup inspires executives, especially when they see how these practices radically reduce market, quality and delivery risk. Would your company benefit from our overview? Contact us. Continue reading

Agile Metrics: Modern Management Methods 2014

We love supporting the community; especially in our home town. Come see us talk about agile metrics, risk reduction and cost of delay at the Modern Management Methods Conference in San Francisco May 5th to 8th. Troy Magennis and Dan Greening are both speaking on the Risk Management and Metrics track, click here for more details. Register for the main conference (Wednesday and Thursday) to attend our talks. Sign up for the 4-day option to attend our interactive tutorials.

Get 15% off conference registration by using the discount code LKSPEAK when registering through the website.

Risk-Reduction Metrics for Agile Organizations
Dr. Dan Greening
Wednesday, May 7 • 2:20pm – 3:00pm

Agile and lean processes make it easier for organizations to measure company and team performance, assess risk and opportunity, and adapt. My colleagues and I have used delivery rate, concept-to-cash lead-time, architectural foresight, specialist dependency, forecast horizon and experiment invalidation rate to identify risk, and focus risk-reduction and learning efforts. With greater knowledge, we can eliminate low-opportunity options early and more deeply explore higher-opportunity options to maximize value. We’ve used these metrics to diagnose agility problems in teams and organizations, to motivate groups to improve, to assess coaching contributions, and to decide where to spend coaching resources. We face many problems in using measurement and feedback to drive change. Manager misuse or misunderstanding of metrics can lead organizations to get worse. Teams or people that mistrust or misunderstand managers often game metrics. And yet, what we can’t measure, we can’t manage. So part of a successful metrics program must involve creating and sustaining a collaborative, trusting and trustworthy culture.

Understanding Risk, Impediments and Dependency Impact:
Applying Cost of Delay and Real Options in Uncertain Environments
Troy Magennis
Wednesday, May 7 • 4:20pm – 5:00pm

Many teams spend considerable time designing and estimating the effort involved in developing features but relatively little understanding what can delay or invalidate their plans. This session outlines a way to model and visualize the impact of delays and risks in a way that leads to good mitigation decisions. Understanding what risks and events are causing the most impact is the first step for identifying what mitigation efforts give the biggest bang for the buck. Its not until we put a dollar value on a risk or dependency delay that action is taken with vigor.

Most people have heard of Cost of Delay and Real Option theory but struggle to apply them in risky and uncertain portfolios of software projects. This session offers some easy approaches to incorporate uncertainty, technical risk and market risks into software portfolio planning in order to maximize value delivered under different risk tolerance profiles.

Topics explored include

  • how to get teams to identify and estimate impact of risks and delays
  • how to identify risk and delays in historical data to determine impact and priority to resolve
  • how risks and delays compound and impact delivery forecasts, and what this means to forecasting staff and delivery dates
  • how to calculate and extend Cost of Delay prioritization of portfolio items considering risk and possible delays
  • how Real Options can be applied to portfolio planning of risky software projects and how this can change the bottom line profitability

Capturing and Analyzing “Clean” Cycle Time, Lead Time and Throughput Metrics
Troy Magennis
Thursday, May 8 • 11:00am – 12:30pm

On the surface, capturing cycle time and throughput metrics seems easy in a Kanban system or tool. For accurate forecasting and decision-making using this data, we better be sure it is captured accurately and free of contaminated samples. For example, the cycle time or throughput rate for a project team working nights and weekends may not be the best data for forecasting the next project. Another choice we have to make is how we handle large and small outlier samples (extreme high or low). These extreme values may influence a forecast in a positive or negative direction, but which way?

This interactive session will look for the factors attendees have seen that impair data sample integrity and look for ways to identify, minimize and compensate for these errors. The outcome for this session is to understand the major contaminants and to build better intuition and techniques so we have high confidence in our historical data.

We’re really looking forward to this conference and hope to see you there!
— Troy and Dan

Senex Rex at Work: February 2014

You may be interested in what Senex Rex does. Our mission is to help clients become highly profitable long term. When our clients make more money, they have greater freedom to innovate and their employees and shareholders have more freedom to enjoy life. We happen to think agility helps in many cases, so we often teach and coach agile theory and practice. Few contractors teach clients how to sustainably retain and improve agility; we specialize in that. We have many other tools in our tool box. Here’s a snapshot of the work Senex Rex did in February 2014. Continue reading

Smart and Lazy: Our best generals!

400px-Kurt_von_Hammerstein-Equord

 

“I divide my officers into four groups: smart, diligent, stupid, and lazy. Usually two characteristics are combined. Some are smart and diligent—their place is the General Staff. Some are stupid and lazy—they make up 90 percent of every army and are suited to routine duties. Some are both smart and lazy; they are qualified for the highest leadership duties, because they possess the intellectual clarity and the composure necessary for difficult decisions. Beware of those who are stupid and diligent—they must not be entrusted with any responsibility because they always cause mischief.”
—Kurt von Hammerstein-Equord (1933)

Born September 26, 1878, Kurt Gebhard Adolf Philipp Freiherr von Hammerstein-Equord was a German general who served for a period as Commander-in-Chief of the Reichswehr. He is famous for being an ardent opponent of Hitler and the Nazi regime. He died on April 25, 1943 [Wikipedia]

Metrics, Trust and Communication

Good managers try to measure important aspects of their business with leading metrics (aka “key performance indicators”) that precede desired outcomes. Managers seeking agility often try to measure behavioral compliance to agile practices, but can inadvertently create a lying culture. When  people don’t understand the metrics or can’t provide feedback, they perceive metrics as bureaucratic nonsense that gets in the way of “real work”. Trust-building lies at the heart of good metrics programs, particularly those that involve self-reporting. Managers can promote honesty by revealing their own personal motivators (their “internal metrics”), by researching others’ personal motivators, and by working to align business goals with all those motivators. Managers build understanding by collaboratively developing and retrospecting on measurement efforts. This honesty and understanding improves the accuracy and utility of the metrics.

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Why succeed?

“It’s not about money. It’s about the willingness to outwork and outlearn everyone.”
—Mark Cuban