Archive for the ‘learning’ Category

Lean Camp New England: Boston, May 13

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012

OK, OK, so it’s Mothers’ Day in the US… but we all miss out on family matters all the time for things far less awesome than this.

Lean Camp New England is a one day open space event led by Jim Benson, author of Personal Kanban. It is an opportunity to share and learn about Lean and Kanban in software development, IT operations and services, and other knowledge work fields.

Lean Camp New England is an all day event at the World Trade Center Boston, on May 13th (Sunday).
Registration is open now at a cost of $300 – catering is included.
Register at

Boston is the center of gravity for lean thinking in the US. However, much of that thinking has been in fields outside of IT and Software and Systems Engineering/Development.

If you live in New England, or people you know live in New England, and are interested in getting up-to-speed among the leading thinkers and practitioners in Lean in IT and Software and Systems Engineering/Development, I highly encourage you and them to register for Lean Camp New England.

This is a rare opportunity to enjoy a regional 1-day open space / unconference in conjunction with a large international conference, Lean Software & Systems 2012 – as a result a significant number of international experts will be present and participating.

Where else can you get direct coaching from the experts for only $300?

Accidental Level-Chasing

Monday, January 24th, 2011

Even organizations who sincerely want the benefits and improvement that comes with many well-established, well-respected practices may be undermining their own efforts.

By placing a premium on practices (agile/lean, CMMI, etc.) without the underlying values and principles, organizations risk becoming accidental level-chasers.

As an earlier post discussed, level-chasing is very deleterious and, frankly, stupid, but how and why would organizations find themselves doing so — accidentally?

They do it by focusing on practices and by putting practices in place without understanding the values and principles these practices are derived from.  In fact, these practices are merely examples of what can be manifested from the values and principles and don’t represent a complete concept of any one value or principle.  By worrying about practices (and often, the evidence from them), organizations fail to get the most out of the practices themselves, let alone the values and principles of the practices — which have much greater depth and utility.

Without getting into the details, it’s now a fairly well-accepted understanding that focusing on what you don’t want does not necessarily get you closer to what you do want.  In fact, it’s shown that focusing on what you don’t want will more likely lead you closer to exactly what you don’t want!  This translates precisely to what I see each year with many clients.  If you don’t want to change your practices in unnecessary ways, focusing on practices will pull you farther from what works best for you.  If you don’t want to generate artifacts for the sake of artifacts, focusing on which artifacts you do/don’t have will cause you to generate non-value-added artifacts.

At the center of this issue is that practices are just singular (or sets of) examples that typify a particular value or set of principles.  When an organization performs a practice without understanding the value and principles from which the practice evolves, they often don’t know how to respond when challenged with the need to change the practice.  They fear that changing the practice will negate something bigger, such as a CMMI rating.  The mere concern for such ratings is an obvious red flag, but it’s sometimes not because of a need for the rating as much as it is due to not understanding the role the practice in achieving that rating.

Here’s where a favored analogy works really well:

Anyone who’s learned to play an instrument (or a sport) knows the value of practicing.  Sometimes, we practice things that aren’t songs, per se, but are musical study pieces.  Sometimes we practice scales and progressions.  And yes, sometimes, we spend a lot of time practicing a specific piece.  But the practicing of one piece doesn’t land us to be masters of a piece we’ve never seen.  Practicing one piece helps us master that one piece but brings us no closer to mastering an entirely new piece.

However, what all forms of practice are, are examples of certain values and principles of playing music and learning to play an instrument.  It’s the value of practice (growing our capabilities, evolving our understanding, enhancing our dexterity, etc.) that we all appreciate.  With this appreciation we’re able to justify and enjoy the practice.  We don’t just practice one piece in hopes of being able to master all other pieces.  It’s the same as why we don’t just practice one play or one maneuver in sports as though learning this one thing will help us learn and master the other plays and maneuvers.  We practice and when things change, we change the practices.  When the specific application of what we’re doing changes, the practices change, but the values don’t change, and principles change very little (if at all). 

A few of the values that lead organizations to being able to both perform practices appropriately as well as being able to change them when needed and still see the benefits of the practices include commitment to TQM, lean, disciplined/deliberate review, communication, transparency, learning, solid engineering, solid service management, and clearly articulated, S.M.A.R.T. goals everyone can sign-up to support.

Arguing over whether or not your practices “comply” with CMMI, or to one of many flavors of agile or lean is the wrong argument, and, leads an organization to limited benefits.  It’s a fast path to being a level-chasing, pathological box-checker.  Avoid this path by understanding the values and principles of the practices.

This topic will be one I’ll spend much time these next several months speaking on in many venues.  Hope to see some of you at one!

Services and Agility

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

I’ve been given several opportunities lately to be thinking about the relationship among product development, agility, and services.  In a recent conversation regarding (of all things) how to sample work for artifacts in a CMMI for Services appraisal, it became clear that taking a services view of development actually makes a lot of things more obvious when it comes to where and how to make performance improvements.

Furthermore, the idea that product development can be modeled as the organization of particular services – such that the culmination of all the services results in a product – not only enhances the understanding and performance of the development flow, but it also creates a strong affinity to agile management and development values, principles and practices.  In fact, a service-oriented development flow is how Kanban views and manages development, and even shares many parallels with traditional services such as “cumulative” work and flow.  And, seeing development as a flow of services simplifies if not eliminates the endless catch-22 of dealing with planning, resource allocation and work volume.

In the video, I was at the tail end of a week-long exposure to a very demanding product development and services delivery context: aboard a pleasure cruise ship.  At this stage of our family’s development, pleasure cruising has emerged as our vacation of choice so this was my sixth cruise in over 10 years.  The first three cruises were with three different cruise line companies and the most recent three were with the same line.  What struck me most about the ship’s (and this cruise company’s) operations were its flexibility and responsiveness to change.

Despite many constraints, within those constraints the ship was autonomous, and, the various departments within the ship had degrees of autonomy.  Beyond autonomy, there were clear components run centrally and just as clearly there were components that were decentralized.  But it all worked as a single service: the ship.  Within nearly every service were products to be developed, whether produced from scratch or recreated afresh over and over again.  Yet again, the massive, highly complex service system operated in an agile way by nearly any measure of ‘agility’ in nearly every facet of how it ran.

A few days after my return from the ship I had the opportunity to teach Introduction to CMMI.  This offering was to one of my clients and a guest.  All participants were sharp and involved – which isn’t always the case with such classes.  The class was special in that I was experimenting with new course material for the SEI in which I was delivering content from the CMMI for Development constellation following content from the CMMI for Services constellation.  This experience reinforced for me and exposed the participants to the strong relationship between Services and Development, the strong benefits of viewing development as a service (from both operational and improvement perspectives), and, helped my client (who uses Scrum, Kanban, and traditional development in various parts throughout the company) see common threads to help improve performance irrespective of how they approach management and development.

The learning for agile and CMMI cooperation may very well be found in services.  Think about it.  Now, class, discuss. ;-)