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October 11, 2022

Revisiting Sooner Safer Happier

By IT Revolution
Cover of Sooner Safer Happier Antipatterns and Patterns for Business Agility by Jonathan Smart with Zsolt Berend, Myles Ogilvie, and Simon Rohrer

Online Marketing Assistant Lucy here again, to give you my thoughts on Sooner Safer Happier by Jonathan Smart with Zsolt Berend, Myles Ogilvie, and Simon Rohrer. Since its paperback version releases this week, I figured it was a good time to revisit it.

If you followed my summer read-along of A Seat at the Table by Mark Schwartz, you might remember me mentioning Sooner Safer Happier a few times. This was partly because I read Sooner Safer Happier directly before reading A Seat at the Table (so it was fresh of mind), but mainly because both are part of this ongoing conversation that can be summarized as “we did DevOps…now what?”

Beyond Lean and Agile

Sooner Safer Happier is not about methods, although it touches on many of them. Instead, it is focused on outcomes. As the authors say:

The intent is that this book will give you a tailwind for improved ways of working. This book is not just about agile. Or just about lean. It is about ways of working for better outcomes in the Age of Digital.

In other words, Sooner Safer Happier is not instructing you to follow one method; or any specific method at all. The book is entirely focused on helping you structure your company in a way unique to your circumstances, industry, and company culture while focusing on Better Value Sooner Safer Happier.

Well, I suppose we should define that, shouldn’t we?

What is “Better Value Sooner Safer Happier?”

  • Better – the quality of product, experience, and work time.
  • Value – varies depending on your company, but it’s what customers (internal and external) will appreciate.
  • Sooner – improving flow (however that may look for you), without arbitrary deadlines or speed for speed’s sake.
  • Safer – building in Governance, Risk, and Compliance, so your customers can trust your organization.
  • Happier – refers to customers, colleagues, and the culture and climate in general; all possible stakeholders. One can’t be sacrificed for the good of the others.

Using the Book

Sooner Safer Happier is divided into chapters around principles like “Achieve Big Through Small” and “Leadership Will Make It or Break It.” Within each chapter are a series of antipatterns to look out for and patterns to strive for. It is meant to be a handbook for leaders, one which you can open to whatever section seems most relevant to your current needs.

Throughout the book, the authors recommend against big transformations. Instead of trying to “do lean” or “transition to agile,” they encourage you to focus on the outcomes you and your customers want and then organize around the best methods that fit your needs and your existing customer culture. A company can be expertly agile and run very lean but still not be producing products that serve customer needs.

In the words of the authors:

Whatever patterns you choose to adopt, whichever road you choose to take, the destination, which will always be just over the horizon as you are never done improving, should be a place with each of the balanced Better Value Sooner Safer Happier outcomes.

Further Reading

If this book intrigues you, I’d recommend other books that are part of what I think of as 2nd Generation DevOps:

A Seat at the Table: IT Leadership in the Age of Agility
by Mark Schwartz

The Unicorn Project: A Novel about Developers, Digital Disruption, and Thriving in the Age of Data
by Gene Kim

Investments Unlimited: A Novel About DevOps, Security, Audit Compliance, and Thriving in the Digital Age
by Helen Beal, Bill Bensing, Jason Cox, Michael Edenzon, Dr. Tapabrata “Topo” Pal, Caleb Queern, John Rzeszotarski, Andres Vega, and John Willis

- About The Authors
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IT Revolution

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