In Sooner Safer Happier: Antipatterns and Patterns for Business Agility by Jonathan Smart, Zsolt Berend, Myles Ogilvie, and Simon Rohrer, each chapter’s essence is distilled into guiding principles, to guide behavior and the millions of decisions that we make every day. For example, “Invite over Inflict” and “One Size Does Not Fit All.” They apply across contexts.
Specific practices emerge by applying the principles to a unique context and by using coaching and experimentation, leveraging many bodies of knowledge. As Dan Terhorst-North has said: “Practices = Principles + Context.”
The successful pattern is to identify the top ten or so principles that you feel are most important to encourage across your organization, communicate them relentlessly, and recognize behaviors in line with them. They are positive behavioral guardrails.
The intentionally long list provided in the book and below is intended to help you get started. The principles themselves are self-referential. You are invited to use them, and there is no one size fits all. Your context and impediments will determine which are more important to encourage.
- Focus on Outcomes: Better Value Sooner Safer Happier.
- Whole Organization Value: Agile in IT only is a local optimization; Everything is in scope.
- Achieve Big Through Small: Think Big, Start Small, Learn Fast; Apply agility to agility.
- S-Curve Approach to Change: People have a limited velocity to unlearn; People adopt change in an S-curve.
- Descale Before You Scale: Scaling agility is descaling the work and the system of work.
- Scale Agility Vertically then Sideways: Join up, top down, and bottom up.
- One Size Does Not Fit All: Organizations are complex adaptive systems; You have a unique VOICE; If the path ahead is clear, you’re on someone else’s path.
- Invite over Inflict: Invite participation with intrinsic motivation and empowerment; The words “resist” or “convince” should not enter the vocabulary.
- Leaders Go First: Leaders lead; Role model desired behaviors; Exhibit courage and vulnerability; Tell stories, reward desired behaviors in others.
- Foster Psychological Safety: Invite participation; Foster an open culture of learning through intelligent failure; Listen and act; Foster a blame-free culture
- Leverage Emergence: Leverage emergence to maximize outcomes; Adopt an emergent mindset; Move authority to the information, with transparency; Coach and support; supporting lines over reporting lines.
- Optimize for Sustainable Fast Flow of Safe Value: Long lived multi-disciplinary teams, on long lived products, on long lived value streams, aligned to the customer.
- Tribal Identity by Value Stream: Humans are tribal; primary identity should be to the value stream and the
customer over job role specialism.
- Outcome Hypotheses over Solution Milestones: Outcome hypotheses and experimentation to leverage emergence to
your advantage; Nested outcomes for strategic alignment.
- Stop Starting, Start Finishing: Limit WIP at every level; The fewer cars on the road, the faster they go.
- Pull Work, Don’t Push It: Pulling work shines a light on the natural capacity of the system and impediments to flow; Impediments are not in the path, impediments ARE the path.
- Safety within Safety: Foster psychological safety; Seek the presence of positives, not only the absence of negatives.
- Safety Teams Aligned to Value Streams: Long-lived Safety teams on long-lived value streams; Optimize for the sustainably fast flow of safe value; Shared ownership of Safety; Keep the discussion on risk alive.
- Minimal Viable Compliance (MVC): Right size risk mitigation taking context and risk appetite into account.
- People, Process, Tooling, in That Order: Behavior, collaboration, conversation is the biggest lever.
- Continuous Attention to Technical Excellence: Technical excellence, operational excellence, good design, and good designers are key to sustainable business agility; If you’re living with legacy, allocate more time to pay off the debt.
- Architect For Flow: Sustainably fast flow of value is the primary goal of software delivery.
- Punctuated Gradualism (Multiple Speeds in Parallel): Evolution and periodic revolution in order to realize most value; From daily continuous attention to periodic revolutionary architectural change.
- Autonomation—People and Machines In Harmony: DevOps doesn’t mean automating smart people out of a job; Use automation and tooling judiciously to make good people even better; Culture is the biggest lever; sometimes tools won’t improve outcomes.
- Optimize for Fast Learning: Intentionally optimize for collaboration and sharing of tacit knowledge; Pop the learning bubbles.
- Create Nested Learning Loops: Establish nested learning loops, daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, yearly, multi-yearly; Enable learning at the individual, team, and organizational levels.
- Communicate, Communicate, Communicate: Communicate three more times than you think you need to and you’re a third of the way there; Dissolve the disconnected bubbles through practices like ASREDS, CoPs and awards.
- Learn to be Comfortable with Uncertainty: Maintain options, encourage experimentation, have a growth mindset, adapt.
- Measure For Learning: Have data-driven feedback loops; Create the dials on the dashboard; Support data led experimental mindset and unlock measurability of Better Value Sooner Safer Happier.
For an enhanced experience, we’ve created two downloadable posters to help remind you of the #BVSSH Principles. Click the pictures below for free downloadable versions.