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To Tom Sylvester, A Fellow Practitioner

October 31, 2014

We wrote Adopting and Sustaining the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) to contribute our experience to the ever growing SAFe community.

To that end, we offer this note of gratitude to Tom Sylvester (LinkedIn, @tsylvest, BlogPaychex Case Study) based on his review of Adopting and Sustaining the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe):

The Missing Element in SAFe Adoption. A MUST Read
(October 31, 2014; 5 out of 5 stars)
By Tom Sylvester

I’ve recently had the pleasure of working with 2 of the 3 authors (Si & Mark) and must say it has been a truly amazing experience.

Agile (in the broad sense) has been a growing collection of knowledge, especially since 2001 when the Agile Manifesto was created. Prior to, and especially since then, a lot of great knowledge and experience has been contributed. At the same time, there has also been a lot of confusion within and outside of the community. Various frameworks have been created and supported by consultants and practitioners with mixed success (including SAFe). Often times the success/failure is not with a specific framework itself, but instead a direct result of the implementation. There are cases of organizational adoption of SAFe with great success, and others where it has been a failure and disregarded. If the framework is the same in both cases, then what is the difference? Implementation.

As mentioned above in the book description, “However, the SAFe readily acknowledges that ‘SAFe does not implement itself and indeed makes no attempt to describe the significant organizational change management, cultural impacts, implementation strategies, and training and services provisioning that are typically required for successful implementation’ and only offers brief ‘recommendations for implementation’.” This is the heart of this book.

Often times when an agile adoption fails, it does so because an organization is trying to simply transition from their current set of processes and tools to a new set, without addressing the underlying dysfunctions. Time and time again I’ve seen organizations that try to adopt Scrum, for example, and initially see success with a pilot team, but long term it fails and they regress. Why does this happen? A few of the reasons are because the organization doesn’t see the challenges that they face, they don’t address the organizational culture and they often don’t co-create the solution that will work for them. To address these items, we must go much deeper than attending few day training class or simply implementing a framework, we must understanding the underlying elements of dysfunction, address them and work together with an organization to co-create a solution. This approach is rooted in collaboration, facilitation and guidance, addressing dysfunction and bringing in the appropriate elements that are available within and outside of the agile community.

If you simply want to learn SAFe and lay it on top of an organization without addressing the “hard” items such as culture and long term sustainability, this book is not for you. It will not tell you how to run a PSI Planning session, for example. For that, read some of Dean’s books, check out the publicly available SAFe framework and attend the SPC certification class. But if you have an understanding of SAFe and want to go deeper to learn a pragmatic approach for implementing and adopting SAFe in an organization, then I recommend you spend a few dollars and a few hours to read (and re-read) this book.

Adopting and Sustaining the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) is organized into three parts. Part 1 summarizes or briefly explores the SAFe, Part 2 summarizes or briefly explores Conscious Agility, and Part 3 provides an empirically-derived and pragmatic approach for how organizations may embrace the SAFe using Conscious Agility.

Its always amazing to us as to what a practitioner (for example, see Tom’s Paychex Case Study) will recognize in a work from other practitioners — versus someone who merely offers a reactionary response and is toeing the “company” line or who is more indoctrinated within a community (for example, see Kim Bucksen’s thoughts).

As Tom emphasizes — to learn SAFe without addressing the “hard” items:

If you simply want to learn SAFe and lay it on top of an organization without addressing the “hard” items such as culture and long term sustainability, this book is not for you. It will not tell you how to run a PSI Planning session, for example. For that, read some of Dean’s books, check out the publicly available SAFe framework and attend the SPC certification class.

And as Tom emphasizes — if you want to go deeper with a “pragmatic approach”:

But if you have an understanding of SAFe and want to go deeper to learn a pragmatic approach for implementing and adopting SAFe in an organization, then I recommend you spend a few dollars and a few hours to read (and re-read) this book.

Looking forward towards the future and all its potential — Thanks again Tom.

To Kim Buchsen, A Response and Invitation

October 25, 2014

We wrote Adopting and Sustaining the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) to contribute our experience to the ever growing SAFe community.

To that end, we offer this response and invitation to Kim Buchsen (LinkedIn, @AgileKim, Scaled Agile Academy) based on her review of Adopting and Sustaining the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe):

Not Worth It
(October 23, 2014; 1 out of 5 stars)
By Kim Buchsen

Don’t waste your money. Written by someone who has just parroted the high level tenets of SAFe. If you’re looking for information to help you better understand the Scaled Agile Framework, this is not it.

I really wish that these self-published book authors would have someone edit their writing, particularly when it is so obvious that English is not their first language.

Response

Adopting and Sustaining the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) is organized into three parts. Part 1 summarizes or briefly explores the SAFe, Part 2 summarizes or briefly explores Conscious Agility, and Part 3 provides an empirically-derived and pragmatic approach for how organizations may embrace the SAFe using Conscious Agility.

While we acknowledge that this work offers a “summary” of the SAFe, we hardly believe it is “parroted”.

While we acknowledge that this work offers a “summary” of the SAFe, we did not indicate that it is “to help you better understand the Scaled Agile Framework.”

And while we acknowledge that our “English” skills are not perfect, it is our “first language” and unsure what is intended with “so obvious” (or what it really communicates about the author of the review)!

Thus, while we acknowledge Kim’s review, we believe it is not as authentic as it may appear to be but more so a reactionary response by Kim among others who are indoctrinated within the SAFe community — as the SAFe’s approach to adoption and sustainment is merely training when the “real world” and the “reality of business” requires something a bit different for success!

Invitation

Again, we wrote Adopting and Sustaining the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) to contribute our experience to the ever growing SAFe community.

And given that Kim cares enough likewise to read our work and offer a public review, we extend an invitation to Kim:

Kim (kim.buchsen@gmail.com),

Based on your review of Adopting and Sustaining the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe), we would like to invite you to join us as a fourth author (with Brad, Mark, and Si) for Adopting and Sustaining the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) where we can work together to refine the book and “re-publish” it so that it contributes our experience and adds value to the community.

Given that you care enough to post a review, we can’t imagine you saying “No” to our invitation!

Please reach out via salhir@gmail.com to advance the conversation.

Regards,
Si, Brad, and Mark

PS — We are interested in working with those who have “soul in the game” but are only slightly amused and entertained by those who are “with skin in the game” and completely un-amused and un-entertained by those who are “without skin in the game”!

Again, Kim, please reach out via salhir@gmail.com and let’s collaborate!

Demystifying Antifragility: Beyond Agility Workshop

October 11, 2014

On October 3rd, 2014, the Center for Technology Innovation (CTI) generously hosted the Demystifying Antifragility: Beyond Agility workshop focusing on Antifragility for business and technology professionals based on Nassim Nicholas Taleb‘s “Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder”, which introduced the concept of Antifragility.

This post was intended to be published on October 4th, 2014, but I confronted my own “fragility” (and heart condition) on Oct-4th and demonstrated a degree of “antifragility” (returned from the incident/episode) soon thereafter — so apologies to the workshop participants (in particular)  for the delay in providing this blog, content, and presentation (below, at the end of the blog post).


Please see the following for background. . .
Antifragile, Flexibility, Robust, Resilience, Agility, and Fragile
The Emergence of the Antifragile Organization
The Triad: Fragile, Robust, and Antifragile
Antifragility: From Details to Nuances [LinkedIn]


Foundation

As a foundational introduction to the workshop, we explored being “prisoners of our paradigms,” our “mental handicap” of domain dependency, and the Six Diseases; and we emphasized the need for curiosity when approaching this topic (Jack Johnson‘s Curious George song and video “Upside Down”).

Why Curious George? I have often been compared to this “little monkey” given my (and his) curiosity, and those who I work with often joke regarding “who has the yellow hat” (as George is routinely with “the man [or woman or person] with the yellow hat”).

I want to turn the whole thing upside down
I’ll find the things they say just can’t be found
I’ll share this love I find with everyone
We’ll sing and dance to Mother Nature’s songs
I don’t want this feeling to go away

Introducing Antifragility: What is Antifragility?

First, we introduced the concept of Antifragility and explored Agility, Antifragility, Risk, Black Swans, the Antidote to Black Swans, and Mother Nature.

Business organizations live in a VUCA world (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity) (which arouses fear) and (implicitly, if not explicitly) use OODA (Observe, Orient, Decide, and Act) loops/cycles — ultimately, we must confront fear with empathy, catalyze the human element, and become future ready!

The essence of agility is re-orientation within the OODA loop/cycle. The essence of antifragility is evolution. This is the business context for Taleb’s “non-predictive decision making under uncertainty” and antifragility.

Exploring Antifragility: Demystifying Antifragility

Next, we demystified the concept of Antifragility and explored the Triad (Fragile, Robust, and Antifragile categories) and the Map of the World (Triad against domains/subjects) to distill and organize the various aspects (and essence) of Antifragility around the notions of parts forming wholes, their dynamics, and how they respond to randomness and stress.

Operationalizing Antifragility

Next, we explored how the concept of Antifragility may be operationalized or put into practice by business organizations through a Foundation (pillars), Worldview, Modus Operandi, and Intent that organizes Antifragility around three core concepts (or concept clusters):

  • Stakeholders, Enterprises, and Ecosystems: Self-designing Individuals and Collectives
  • Dynamics: Teaming, Communities, and Focal/Schelling Points
  • Evolution: Adaptive Cycles, Panarchy, and the Cynefin Framework

Stakeholders, individuals and collectives, form an enterprise within an ecosystem. While all business organizations embrace this notion, what makes an enterprise antifragile includes the dynamics among stakeholders and the evolution of the enterprise within the ecosystem.

The Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) and the Scaled Antifragile Framework (SAfFe)

We spent significant time in the workshop exploring these three core concepts (or concept clusters) and how they are put into practice. We also spent significant time in the workshop exploring how the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) — given its popularity — can fragilize versus antifragile an enterprise (or how SAFe makes an enterprise more fragile versus more antifragile) — especially when adopted and sustained in an unhealthy manner.

Even with so-called SAFe success stories, SAFe fails to address “digital transformation issues beyond the enterprise’s software development challenges” and adopting and sustaining agility (in mixed environments or enterprises with a variation of approaches) let alone achieving antifragility!

The need for an Antifragile Framework was more than apparent from the conversation, and we explored how to make SAFe more Antifragile — that is, perhaps the Scaled Antifragile Framework (SAfFe) by applying an Antifragile Framework to SAFe. More to come!!!

Design for Antifragility

Finally, we offered an actionable roadmap for how business enterprises can achieve greater Antifragility and explored how fundamental change (or renewal) involves designing (defining, creating, and refining) an Antifragile enterprise using the concepts of stakeholders, enterprise, ecosystem, dynamics, and evolution.

Various Voices on Antifragility

The workshop’s most interesting conversations focused on the Various Voices on Antifragility — all contributions were deeply appreciated by the participants:

  • Agility Board (www.agility-board.com) emphasized sense and respond.
  • Jonathan Anthony (@ThisMuchWeKnow) emphasized making life or business antifragile.
  • Fred Aubin (@FM_Aubin) emphasized revolution and evolution.
  • Brad Barton (@Brad_Barton) emphasized intuition through awareness and deep understanding.
  • Tony Bendell (@AntiFragileUK) emphasized that “Anti-Fragility is the most important potential breakthrough in business thinking”. Tony’s book Building Anti-Fragile Organizations directly addresses antifragility and is definitely worth exploring!
  • Dr. Andrew K. Black (@AntifragileDoc) emphasized thriving under stress and blossoming when encountering adversity and volatility. Andrew’s book The Antifragile Doctor directly addresses antifragility and is definitely worth exploring!
  • Paul Cottrell (@paulcottrell) emphasized the need for smart institutions that reduce fragility.
  • David Cushman (@davidcushman) emphasized how antifragility is about networks (Facebook, Twitter, Internet, Hierarchical and Networked Organizations, and Families).
  • Steve Fastabend (@SteveFastabend) emphasized creativity and innovation.
  • Mark Ferraro (@mark4ro) emphasized how “chasing risk is like chasing ghosts” and antifragility is the root of flourishing.
  • Gary Gagliardi (@StrategyGary) emphasized how antifragility is a vital part of the science of strategy (slide 97 of the presentation). Gary is the only other individual who, in his quote and work, directly echoes the connection and synergy between The Art of War and antifragility.
  • Judith E. Glaser (@CreatingWE) emphasized how conversations are our “hardwired human design tools” around designing for antifragility.
  • Tom Graves (@tetradian) emphasized how “everything depends on everything else” is a “people-problem”.
  • David Griffiths (@KMskunkworks) emphasized seeking variety.
  • Stephan Haeckel (LinkedIn) emphasized a sense & respond model.
  • Daniel Horton (@Dan_Horton) emphasized stoic antifragile practices.
  • Faly Ranaivoson (@falyranaivoson) emphasized that antifragility is about thriving.
  • John Hagel (@jhagel) emphasized how nature is inherently antifragile.
  • Mike Henry Sr. (@mikehenrysr) emphasized how antifragility involves a consistent, default, outcome of growth and improvement from difficult circumstances.
  • Leandro Herrero (@LeandroEHerrero) emphasized remarkable organizations as organisms (rather than organizations).
  • Graham Hill (@GrahamHill) emphasized looking beyond mere agility.
  • Ken Homer (@ken_homer) emphasized questions and brittle systems.
  • Semira Soraya-Kandan (@SemiraSK) emphasized the distinction between advantage and disadvantage (slide 120 of the presentation). Semira is the only other individual who, in her quote, directly echoes the connection and synergy between The Art of War and antifragility.
  • Tim Kuppler (@TimKuppler) emphasized how high-performing cultures embrace antifragility.
  • Jack Martin Leith (@FuturegenLabs) emphasized how antifragility is a generative capability.
  • James Key Lim (@jameskeylim) emphasized how antifragility emerges from genuine conviction and dedication to helping others thrive.
  • Hayim Makabee (@hayim_makabee) emphasized that “Agile is Dead”.
  • Dan Martin (@Best_Thought) emphasized the study of chaos and chaordic systems.
  • Anne McCrossan (@Annemcx) emphasized the logic of connectivity inherent in chaos.
  • Kenneth Mikkelsen (@LeadershipABC) emphasized leadership.
  • Russell Miles (@russmiles) emphasized antifragility in architecture and design.
  • Lisa Nemeth / Cavanagh (LinkedIn) emphasized the power of choice and offered an evocative picture to emphasize her point (slide 144 of the presentation)! Lisa is the only other individual who, in our conversations, echoes the connection and synergy between The Art of War and antifragility.
  • Lucie Newcomb (@NewCommGlobal) emphasized leadership.
  • Todd Nilson (@toddnilson) emphasized the “blueprint for business agility” and creating a work life that reflects the core principle of antifragility.
  • Christine Ogozaly (LinkedIn) emphasized that antifragility is not merely a new concept in change management.
  • Dan Pontefract (@dpontefract) emphasized open leadership.
  • Wim Rampen (@wimrampen) emphasized the connection between the Singularity and antifragility.
  • Janessa Huber (LinkedIn) emphasized relentlessly experimenting, embracing disruption fearlessly, and deliberately failing forward.
  • Kenneth Rubin (@krubinagile) emphasized agile principles.
  • Jean Russell (@NurtureGirl) emphasized going beyond being agile and responsive with the distinction between Survival, Sustainable, Resilient, and Thrivable.
  • Jennifer Sertl (@JenniferSertl) emphasized Resilience, Responsiveness, and Reflection.
  • Elinor Slomba (@artsint) emphasized Creative Ecosystems.
  • John Spence (@AwesomelySimple) emphasized embracing chaos while still striving for simplicity.
  • Luc Taesch (@luctaesch) emphasized awareness of cognitive biases.
  • Barbara A. Trautlein (@btrautlein) emphasized change intelligence leaders and their role in fostering antifragility.
  • Wouter IJgosse (@WouterIJgosse) emphasized his outreach regarding antifragility.
  • Dave Zwieback (@mindweather) emphasized the asymmetry of pain versus gain.
  • Vincenzo De Florio (@EnzoDeFlorio) emphasized Antifragile 2015.

Again, all contributions were deeply appreciated by the participants — and personally, I am genuinely grateful for the privilege of intersecting some of these voices as the concept and application of Antifragility continues to emerge and evolve in the marketplace and world!

Welcome all feedback regarding the final presentation — and — please reach out if you’d like to share your thoughts or get more involved in advancing concept and application of Antifragility.

Constructively (rather than Destructively) Adopting and Sustaining the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe)

September 7, 2014

Brad Barton, Mark Ferraro, and I recently published Adopting and Sustaining the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) — after repeatedly witnessing the ongoing “excessive suffering” of many people and organizations confronting the challenge of achieving greater Agility at scale, particularly with the SAFe (among other approaches). And while there is a more-general Dual-Track Value Co-Creation metaphor or pattern — which includes Strategy, Discovery, Delivery, and Infrastructure — for achieving scalability (and Agility at Scale), this book focuses on the SAFe (again, among other approaches).

While Scaled Agile, the organization behind the SAFe, readily acknowledges that the “SAFe does not implement itself and indeed makes no attempt to describe the significant organizational change management, cultural impacts, implementation strategies, and training and services provisioning that are typically required for successful implementation” and only offers brief “recommendations for implementation,” far too many practitioners are seemingly overlooking this acknowledgement and are using the “recommendations” as the way to “implement” the SAFe, which can be very “destructive”!

Adopting and Sustaining the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) offers an approach — with roots in decades of practice across many industry domains — for adopting, scaling, and sustaining Agility using the SAFe along with other approaches in Waterfall, Agile, and “mixed” enterprises.

Furthermore the “pure” or non-SAFe approach is known as Conscious Agility, and this brief book could have been easily named Conscious Agility for the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe)!

Additionally, the image of a maze on the cover of the book really emphasizes that the SAFe can be a bit of a “maze” to navigate and a bit of a “maze” to adopt and sustain — “with all due respect” — as one can get lost in a “maze” or hit a dead-end!!!

The intent of this brief book is not to answer all the possible questions or provide all the possible guidance, but to address some questions as well as establish the context (via the change journey) for addressing other questions and leveraging other guidance in a more “healthy” or “constructive” and less “toxic” or “destructive” manner. If you have specific questions you’d like us to address, don’t hesitate to reach us via LinkedIn or About.Me.

Not only does Adopting and Sustaining the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) offer a means for adopting, scaling, and sustaining Agility with the SAFe, but it also offers the ability to integrate aspects from any approach (from those already mentioned among others) together while explicitly recognizing and appreciating the nuances of the context in which adopting, scaling, and sustaining is to occur.

Most attempts to achieve greater Agility fail because of being exclusive to one approach, ignoring contextual nuances, or fundamentally overlooking the “human element” throughout the change journey.

Our approach’s uniqueness in being agnostic and embracing an all-inclusive viewpoint while integrating relevant perspectives yet keeping the “human element” paramount makes it only that much more essential for successfully adopting, scaling, and sustaining Agility.

Again, there is no need to “excessively suffer” — there is a more “healthy” or “constructive” and less “toxic” or “destructive” change journey possible!

Antifragility: From Details to Nuances [LinkedIn]

August 31, 2014

After having received many queries regarding the Practice of Antifragility . . . (read more)

The Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) [LinkedIn]

August 31, 2014

After having received many queries inviting my thoughts on the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) . . . (read more)

We are Alive!

August 11, 2014

I love Robin Williams! Not merely for what he did as an artist (actor, comedian, etc.), but for the quintessential truth he endlessly echoed in everything he did — We are Alive! He fully embraced the mystery called life through caring, being aware, expressing appreciation (for the bad, the good, the happy, the sad, etc.), being so intuitive and improvising in every situation, …, so free!

Reminded of David Foster Wallace

The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day.

And as Robin Williams struggled with his own daemons — as much as we each struggle with our own daemons — he and his whole life were cathartic to/for others…

You’re only given a little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it.
(Robin Williams)

Thank You dear Soul for reminding us each of our own little “spark”!

What will your verse be?

Seize the day!

Real lose… love somethign more than you love yourself!

When did you know? … I don’t regret…

His wife, Susan Schneider…

This morning, I lost my husband and my best friend, while the world lost one of its most beloved artists and beautiful human beings. I am utterly heartbroken. On behalf of Robin’s family, we are asking for privacy during our time of profound grief. As he is remembered, it is our hope the focus will not be on Robin’s death, but on the countless moments of joy and laughter he gave to millions.

The White House…

Robin Williams was an airman, a doctor, a genie, a nanny, a president, a professor, a bangarang Peter Pan, and everything in between. But he was one of a kind. He arrived in our lives as an alien – but he ended up touching every element of the human spirit. He made us laugh. He made us cry. He gave his immeasurable talent freely and generously to those who needed it most – from our troops stationed abroad to the marginalized on our own streets. The Obama family offers our condolences to Robin’s family, his friends, and everyone who found their voice and their verse thanks to Robin Williams.

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