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Methods, Practices, and Outcomes

Posted on September 1st, 2009 by Dennis Stevens  |  No Comments »

There continues to be discussion about Scrum (as a brand) vs. Kanban (capital K) vs. Crystal vs. FDD, etc. If fact, I received a comment today on a March post discussing the Scrumbut test. My comment became to long and is so relevant to recent discussions that I turned it into a blog post. From my perspective these method wars tend to fall into “How Trap” discussions. How Trap discussions are not about specific outcomes you are trying to achieve and developing a situationally specific approach to achieving those outcomes.

Take a look at the Scrumbut test I learned about from Jeff Sutherland. Whether you are doing (or even like) Scrum – when viewed through an outcome lenses, these questions lead to discussion regarding clearly important outcomes. Below, I list the question category from the Scrumbut test, then the outcome that is desired from the practices described in the Scrumbut test, then a hopefully clarifying description.  The practices are detailed at the Scrumbut link.

Question 1 – Iterations: Limit Work in Process – don’t start anything you can’t finish

Question 2 – Testing within the Sprint: Maintain Code Quality – Shorten quality feedback loops to zero to maintain code quality and reduce the waste of rework

Question 3 – Agile Specification: Communicate Business Needs to Development – Ensure developers understand outcomes while minimizing coordination and transaction costs, maintain traceability to business need

Question 4 – Product Owner: Maintain Product Roadmap – The business communicates a plan of what is being built

Question 5 – Product Backlog: Prioritize Investments Based on Return – the business prioritizes work based on a current understanding of business value

Question 6 – Estimates: Provide Meaningful Effort Estimates – Understand rate the team can produce work to support planning, investment decisions, and customer commitments

Question 7 – Burndown Chart: Communicate Release Schedule – Be able to predict content and timing of future releases. This clarifies corrective action, next most valuable investment decisions, marketing decisions and customer commitments

Question 8 – Team Disruption: Maintain Productive Work Environment – Management understands and supports the focus on rapid delivery. Trust is established that the team will be able to meet current and future commitments.

Question 9 – Team: Develop an Empowered Team – The team feels empowered to make decisions about how to move forward. Management has provided sufficient guidance and direction that they trust the team will make operational and tactical decisions aligned with the best interest of the business.

Yes, Jeff has a brand he is protecting. If you think you are doing Scrum and you aren’t achieving these outcomes then you aren’t doing what was intended. Bad Scrum and Scrumbut hurts the Scrum brand. In fact, since Scrum is a dominant Agile brand, it hurts all of us trying to move Enterprises towards improved software agililty.

But, Scrum isn’t the only way to achieve these outcomes. I can map these outcomes to mature implementations of XP, DSDM, FDD, Crystal and Kanban (etc.). Now the interesting conversations sound like –

  • In what situations does Kanban reduce transaction and coordination costs more than Scrum?
  • In what situation does one method lead to better adoption over another? Why?
  • In a specific organization, what approach to developing empowered teams and upstream trust will be most likely to succeed?

The outcomes described in the Scrumbut test can be achieved by applying specific strategies that are consistent within an organization’s environment. When these outcomes are adopted development teams tend to become more mature, better at delivering software (many times dramatically), and improve their work environment. Regardless of method, you need to be focused on the outcomes that result in improvements in productivity and find the way that works in your organization to adopt and sustain the outcomes.


Posted on March 25th, 2009 by Dennis Stevens  |  No Comments »

Ric Merrifield, led the development at Microsoft of what has become the Microsoft Business Architecture Service offering. He is also a coauthor of mine on “The Next Revolution in Productivity”, a June 2008 Harvard Business Review article focused on case studies that highlight needs of the organization and the opportunity to rethink business operating models before making major technology changes. Under Ric’s leadership, I was a significant contributor to the development of the Business Architecture offering and performed several of the projects that serve as case studies in the HBR article. We have spent a lot of time together over the last five years and he is a really smart guy and a friend of mine.

The concepts we have been leveraging revolve around using capabilities to help organizations clearly connect their business model to customer value. Typically, executives don’t have a good view of this except through their intuition. Organization charts are about the chain of command. P&L’s provide a historical view but a limited in what to do to improve performance. Process charts are too granular and change frequently. Technology architecture doesn’t help clarify how the business model connects to delivering customer value. Using the capability model based approach we can describe “what” a business does and “why” it is important without getting tied up in “how” they do it.  This approach overcomes the limitations of the current views most executives have.

This is important stuff to be talking about and I have been harassing Ric for several years about getting online because we need to have a broader discussion around the concept of capabilities or “hows”. Ric finally signed up for Twitter about three months ago, you can follow him at ricmerrifield. 

He has also written a book “ReThink: A Manifesto for Cutting Costs and Boosting Innovation” coming out in May (I am mentioned in it so ;-D). The book is endorsed by guys like Jim Champy, Robert Scoble, and David Anderson so you know it’s good. The book guides readers through a strategic re-think to efficiently set priorities, achieve goals, reduce costs, and unlock hidden value in today’s challenging business environment and set a course tailored for them. I will let you know 

And now, Ric has launched a blog at This is an important concept and it matters to business leaders, project managers and technology agilists.  We need to get involved in this conversation and help shape it and spread the work. Rick has his first two posts up.  Please go read them and add Ric to your blogroll.