XP 2016 – Dan North – Software Faster

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Today I attended Dan North’s @tastapod Workshop “Software Faster” at XP2016.

Here are a few things I learnt:

Learning #1

What is the goal of agile? Predictability

Learning #2

5 Steps in an Organisatonal Change journey:

  1. People Break
  2. Tools Break
  3. Governance Breaks
  4. Money Breaks
  5. Organisation Breaks


Typically alot of Agile Transformations focus on stages 1 and 2. They struggle to move to stages 3, 4 & 5. Often there is a conflict between people at each stage. In many cases stages 3, 4 & 5 are controlled by the “Frozen Middle”; Middle Management. Real breakthroughs only occur once issues are tackled at the later stages. Dans tip to change these stages is to “Use the system to change the system”

More: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Agile-Adoption-Patterns-Roadmap-Organizational/dp/0321514521

Learning #3

Marginal Gains will focus on optimising the existing system. For example if we focus on a 10% improvement we won’t rip up the rule book. For example, people might just starting working longer hours or doing over time. However if we focus on a 50% or higher improvement it will often make us think more fundamentally about our currently processes.

Learning #4

The point of Agile is not to create Software, it is a tool to deliver business capability.

Learning #5

The Goal of software is to:

“Minimise lead time to Business Impact.”

Lead time defined as:

“Having a need to having a need met”

It is easy to improve Lead time once or twice in isolation but it’s really hard to increase lead time “Sustainably”

When does the lead time clock start? As soon as you make a commitment to the person who requested it.

Can you measure lead time if you cannot measure business impact? No.

The big challenge is that measuring business impact is hard! Often teams use proxies such as Story Points rather than genuine impact: Number of users, Profit etc.

If you just focus on Lead Time it will lead to local optimisations.

More: https://dannorth.net/2013/07/05/are-we-nearly-there-yet/

Learning #6

Definition of a stakeholder: “People who’s lives you touch”

Learning #7

A good facilitation technique is to use the analogy of travelling between islands to explain the days agenda.

“Today we will start on Organisation Island, the swim across to Legacy Land, then drive to Core City and finish at the Planning Plateau.”

Learning #8

Three Ages Model can be used to explore where an organisation is:

Age 1 = Explore

Age 2 = Stabalise

Age 3 = Commoditisation


Often Organizations will misuse the ages. For example: try to commoditise testing by offshoring when it is an inherently exploratory activity.

More: https://www.slideshare.net/mobile/AdrianTreacy/dan-north-embracinguncertaintyv3

Leaning #9

PARC Model


More: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Modern-Firm-Organizational-Performance-Management/dp/0198293755

Learning #10

Apply “training from the back of the room” Encourage the attendees to teach each other. Example: In the next 3 minutes put together a pitch to explain what the PARC model is. At the end you will present this to another group”

Here is a group teaching each other:


More: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/0787996629/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_rshrxbDSR808Y

Learning #11

Value Stream Mapping Tips:

  • It’s easy
  • Get the real people who do the process involved
  • Don’t worry about rounding numbers
  • Make it viable

“Become less efficient to improve flow. Introduce sub optimisation.”

More: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1935401009/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_6HhrxbNF4G6C6

Learning #12

Focus on reduction of Value at Risk(VAR) by working incrementally.

More: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Value_at_risk

Learning #13

Dan finished the session playing a game called Taboo. Each person had to create a taboo card and then we played the game in groups.

This was an excellent way to reinforce the learning. Also another great example of “Training from the back of the room”

More: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taboo_(game)

Thanks Dan for a great day. Now onto post workshop drinks!

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