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Sooner Safer Happier

Antipatterns and Patterns for Business Agility
by Jonathan Smart
with Zsolt Berend, Myles Ogilvie, and Simon Rohrer

Winner of the Bronze Medal in Leadership from the 2021 Axiom Business Book Awards.

Jonathan Smart, business agility practitioner, thought leader, and coach, reveals patterns and antipatterns to show how business leaders from every industry can help their organizations deliver better value sooner, safer, and happier through high levels of engagement, inclusion, and empowerment.

"One of the most important Agile books since The Phoenix Project."
—Charles Betz, Principal Analyst, Forrester Research

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Better Value Sooner Safer Happier

It’s no secret that we are living in the Digital Age. Technology companies make up seven of the world’s ten largest firms by market capitalization. And the key to their success is the key to all modern organizations.

Jonathan Smart, business agility practitioner, thought leader, and coach, reveals patterns and antipatterns to show how business leaders from every industry can help their organizations deliver better value sooner, safer, and happier through high levels of engagement, inclusion, and empowerment. Through his decades of experience in the technology world, Smart provides business leaders with a blueprint for creating a world-class organization of the future.

Through Agile and Lean ways of working, business leaders can empower teams to improve production, grow together, and create better services for their customers. These better ways of working have overflowed from the IT department to every corner of successful organizations, taking root in every industry from aerospace to accounting, insurance to shipping.

This book is not about software development. It is not a book about the computer industry. This book is about applying agility across the entire organization. It’s a book that will put you at the front of change and ahead of the competition.

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“It is a real pleasure to read a book that doesn’t assume 'Agile is the solution, now what is your problem?' This is a realistic approach to adopting (or not adopting) agile in your organization. The theory is sound; the practice is extensive. I strongly recommend this book.”

—Dave Snowden, Chief Scientific Officer, Cognitive Edge, Creator of Cynefin


JONATHAN SMART is a business agility practitioner, thought leader, and coach. Smart leads Deloitte’s Business Agility practice, helping organizations deliver better value sooner, safer, and happier through the application of agile, lean, and DevOps principles and practices organization wide. Previously Smart lead Ways of Working globally for Barclays Bank, helping to triple productivity, where he and his team won the Best Internal Agile Team at the Agile Awards in 2016.

Smart is also the founder of the Enterprise Agility Leaders Network, a member of the Programming Committee for the DevOps Enterprise Summit, a member of the Business Agility Institute Advisory Council, a guest speaker at London Business School, and speaks at numerous conferences a year.

JONATHAN SMART is a business agility practitioner, thought leader, and coach. Smart leads Deloitte’s Business Agility practice, helping organizations deliver better value sooner, safer, and happier through the application of agile, lean, and DevOps principles and practices organization wide. Previously Smart lead Ways of Working globally for Barclays Bank, helping to triple productivity, where he and his team won the Best Internal Agile Team at the Agile Awards in 2016.

Smart is also the founder of the Enterprise Agility Leaders Network, a member of the Programming Committee for the DevOps Enterprise Summit, a member of the Business Agility Institute Advisory Council, a guest speaker at London Business School, and speaks at numerous conferences a year.

ZSOLT BEREND is a business agility practitioner, coach, and trainer. He helps global organizations on their journey to achieving Better Value Sooner Safer Happier. He began his early career as a research fellow in astronomy, and then spent twenty years across industry sectors in various roles applying agile and lean practices, mainly in telecom, healthcare, financial services, and consulting. He was the global chair of the Agile Community of Practice at Barclays with more than 2,500 members, and with the Ways of Working Center of Enablement team, won “Best Internal Agile Team” at the Agile Awards 2016. He writes on Medium and is a speaker at conferences and meetups. His passion is data, measurements, insights, and the creation of learning organizations.

ZSOLT BEREND is a business agility practitioner, coach, and trainer. He helps global organizations on their journey to achieving Better Value Sooner Safer Happier. He began his early career as a research fellow in astronomy, and then spent twenty years across industry sectors in various roles applying agile and lean practices, mainly in telecom, healthcare, financial services, and consulting. He was the global chair of the Agile Community of Practice at Barclays with more than 2,500 members, and with the Ways of Working Center of Enablement team, won “Best Internal Agile Team” at the Agile Awards 2016. He writes on Medium and is a speaker at conferences and meetups. His passion is data, measurements, insights, and the creation of learning organizations.

MYLES OGILVIE has led, supported, and coached change initiatives within large and small enterprises for over twenty-five years. An advocate of no-nonsense problem-solving, he seeks to build transparency, improve collaboration, and enable outcomes that produce Better Value Sooner Safer Happier During 2016, when leading ways of working for a major UK investment bank during a period of intense regulatory and controls scrutiny, Myles applied lean and agile principles to risk management in the product development process. He is now a passionate advocate of patterns that can help foster a safer, leaner, and more innovative controls culture. 

MYLES OGILVIE has led, supported, and coached change initiatives within large and small enterprises for over twenty-five years. An advocate of no-nonsense problem-solving, he seeks to build transparency, improve collaboration, and enable outcomes that produce Better Value Sooner Safer Happier During 2016, when leading ways of working for a major UK investment bank during a period of intense regulatory and controls scrutiny, Myles applied lean and agile principles to risk management in the product development process. He is now a passionate advocate of patterns that can help foster a safer, leaner, and more innovative controls culture. 

SIMON ROHRER has been a hands on practitioner across both software engineering and enterprise architecture for over twenty-six years, and has had a passion for agile software development since picking up the eXtreme Programming white book in 1999. He’s passionate about an eclectic and pragmatic approach to modern ways of working, incorporating lean, agile, systems thinking, DevOps and other principles and practices at the right pace and in a human context in enterprises, typically with a legacy of existing technology and a drive to do things better.

SIMON ROHRER has been a hands on practitioner across both software engineering and enterprise architecture for over twenty-six years, and has had a passion for agile software development since picking up the eXtreme Programming white book in 1999. He’s passionate about an eclectic and pragmatic approach to modern ways of working, incorporating lean, agile, systems thinking, DevOps and other principles and practices at the right pace and in a human context in enterprises, typically with a legacy of existing technology and a drive to do things better.

“Most organizations would say they have a solid strategy, and some are pursuing new ways of working to achieve that strategy; however, often not in an optimal way. BVSSH is the unlock for organizations, and this book gives the practical guidance to WIN.”

—Courtney Kissler, VP, Global Technology, Nike

Downloads & Extra Materials
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BVSSH Principles Posters

Sooner Safer Happier nails the point that many leaders miss—transformation in itself is not a worthy goal, it is a vehicle for optimizing business outcomes. This book provides an indispensable guide for leaders who wish to run truly agile organizations. Sooner Safer Happier is a must-read for any business leader looking to succeed in the digital age.

—David Silverman, coauthor of Team of Teams and CEO of CrossLead

BVSSH Articles
Antipattern 1.2: Using Old Ways of Thinking to Apply new Ways of Working
By Jonathan Smart

A capital “A,” capital “T” Agile Transformation, from the perspective of employees, infers involuntary, mandatory change being done to them, whether they like it or not. The capital "A" denotes how they are going to change. The capital “T” tells them they have to change. Both of these words carry baggage. They suggest extrinsic (push) rather than intrinsic (pull) motivation.

BVSSH Principles

By Jonathan Smart

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.

Antipattern 1.1: Doing an Agile Transformation
By Jonathan Smart

It’s not about “Agile,” or “Lean,” or “DevOps” for “Agile’s” or “Lean’s” or “DevOps’s” sake. Figuratively speaking, they are tools in a toolbox. Of course, they are much more than tools; they are behavioral principles, practices, and tools. The point is that you have a collection of bodies of knowledge to deploy optimally in context. A tool transformation, such as an “Agile Transformation,” is not optimizing for outcomes, it’s optimizing for the tool.

Pattern 1.1: Focus on Outcomes

By Jonathan Smart

No one in their right mind is not going to want to improve on Better Value Sooner Safer Happier outcomes. There was an incentive to improve, without mandate and without targets. The optionality at the end is full autonomy and hence intrinsic motivation. Resistance dropped away as there was nothing to resist. I’ve learned that the words “convince” and “resistance” should not enter the vocabulary when improving on outcomes.

A Sense of Urgency: Surviving in the Age of Digital
By Jonathan Smart

The world changed on June 26, 2018. It happened quietly. Few people even noticed. But that was the day that, after more than a century, General Electric, the last original member of the Dow Jones Industrial Average, was removed from the index. GE was one of just a dozen firms that Charles Dow included in his list in 1896. 

Ways of Working: How We Got Here 

By Jonathan Smart

In my previous post "A Sense of Urgency", I set the stage for what is at risk today. Now, in order to understand how to change, it is critical that we fist understand how we got here. How we came to have the traditional ways of working that are in place in most large organizations today.  

What is Better Value Sooner Safer Happier?
By Jonathan Smart

This is the number one lesson I’ve learned after almost thirty years as an agile and lean practitioner delivering business value through software in the Age of Digital, from leading Ways of Working at a large, old, global, regulated organization to working with many large firms across different industry sectors. Together as a team-of-teams, as servant leaders, we experimented, learned, and pivoted.

The Ways of Working 5-Part Series

By Jonathan Smart

Given the importance of taking an optimal approach for the type of work, it is important to understand what agile, lean, DevOps, and waterfall are and their history. People, historically, have spent very little time thinking about or improving how they do what they do. This is the first in a series of posts adapted from the book Sooner Safer Happier addressing these different frameworks.

BVSSH Videos

“I can’t recommend this book enough. BVSSH is kind of a 'meta framework'—flexible yet explainable, realistic yet capable of step changes in effectiveness. Jon is a master coach and guide. Read, read again, and share.”

—John Cutler, Product Evangelist, Amplitude

More Praise for Sooner Safer Happier
"This book provides an indispensible guide for leaders who with to run truly agile organizations."
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David Silverman
Co-Author of Team of Teams, CEO of CrossLead
"What [Jon] has achieved and created to help others succeed is nothing short of exceptional."
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 Barry O'Reilly
Business Advisor, Entrepreneur, and Author of Unlearn and Co-Author of Lean Enterprise
"This is a realistic approach to adopting (or not adopting) agile in your organization. The theory is sound; the practice is extensive. I strongly recommend this book."
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Dave Snowden
Chief Scientific Officer, Cognitive Edge, and Creator of Cynefin
"[Jon] and his co-authors' observations and lessons succinctly summarize and teach what decades of books have failed to do."
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Gene Kim
Bestselling Author of The Unicorn Project and The Phoenix Project, Researcher, and Multiple Award-Winning CTO
"There are many books on WHAT was done and WHAT excellent firms do in their quest for success...This gem of guidance is destined to become the manual on HOW to deliver better value, sooner, safer, and happier."
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Michael Harte
Researcher, Advisor, Investor, Director, Ex-COO/CIO Santander, Barclays, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, PNC, Citi, Fonterra
"...a very practical guide on how to embrace agility in an ever increasingly digital, chaotic, and challenging world where the path to delivering outcomes is uncertain."
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Ian Buchanan
Independent Board Director and Advisor, Former CIO/COO Barclays, Societe Generale, Nomura
"This book is not just a great handbook to draw from to assist you on your journey, it is also a great read!"
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Sally Clark
Executive Coach, NED, Strategic Advisor and Avid Agilist
"Sooner Safer Happier covers business agility learnings thoroughly...Compelling."
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Patrick Eltridge
Seek, Westpac, Telstra, RBS, Nationwide
"If you want to improve how your organization works, read this book!"
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Julian Birkinshaw
Professor and Deputy Dean, London Business School
"...a must-read for leaders who have recognized the need to connect the cultural and the technological aspects of digital transformation."
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Mik Kersten
CEO, Tasktop
"A true business-wide perspective on Digital Transformation and the need for the whole business agility."
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Adam Banks
Non Executive Director and Former CTIO of AP Moller Maersk
"This is as close to a field guide as I have seen, and speaks of real and practical experience."
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Dawie Olivier
GM for Enterprise Transformation, Westpac
"This book is a treasure trove for anyone involved or interested in the theory and practice of business agility...A game-changer for our organization and I'm confident for others' too."
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Richard James
Ways of Working Enablement Leader, Nationwide Building Society
"[Sooner Safer Happier] describes a set of patterns and antipatterns—with a great set of skills—to help you understand what is happening to stop teams delivering SSH and why it may be happening.'"
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Jenny Wood
Delivering Customer Value
"...a handbook for overall organizational effectiveness and successful transformation..."
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Werner Loots
EVP Transformation, U.S. Bank
"BVSSh is kind of a 'meta framework'—flexible yet explainable, realistic yet capable of step changes in effectiveness."
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John Cutler
Product Evangelist, Amplitude
"Highly recommended. This book is an absolute must-read for business leaders responsible for leading transformational change."
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Brijesh Ammanath
CIO, Trade & Working Capital, Barclays
"[Sooner Safer Happier] is a must-read book if you want to stay relevant in your market and run a forward thinking organization."
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Christian Metzner
CIO, Volkswagon Financial Services UK
"This is a book that can be picked up by anyone across the business and is one that I will certainly be recommending to all our business and technology partners alike."
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Chris Orson
Head of Digital and Data, HSBC Securities Services
"BVSSH is the unlock for organizations, and this book gives the practical guidance to WIN."
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Courtney Kissler
VP, Global Technology, Nike
"[Sooner Safer Happier] has so many valuable enterprise agility lessons that it could be used for an MBA course."
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Leah Jochim
Experienced Enterprise Leader on Agile Ways of Working
"Truly a great and essential book for every agilist, leader, or change agent!"
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Ahmed Sidkey
PhD, President of the International Consortium for Agile (ICAgile) and Head of Business Agility at Riot Games
"Better Value Sooner Safer Happier. These five words, taken to heart, could very well change everything...The book itself is a masterpiece of both insight and practical advice...I couldn't stop reading."
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Evan Leybourn
Co-Founder and CEO, Business Agility Institute
"This book is an invaluable guide for change agents looking to help organizations to remain relevant and indeed thrive in an increasingly challenging business environment."
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Mark Lines
Co-Creator of Discipline Agile
"This advice comes 'from the trenches' and has been proven to work in practice. You will return over and over to this book for strategies to make your transformation a success."
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Scott Ambler
Vice President and Chief Scientist of Disciplined Agile
"Jonathan Smart's book is a timely call to action for organizations that wish to survive and thrive in the emerging digitally enabled, people-centric landscape."
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Matthew Skelton
Co-Author of Team Topologies
"This book is essential reading for organizations stuck with large 'scaling' frameworks that treat people and teams as interchangeable units."
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Manuel Pais
Co-Author of Team Topologies
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