Scaling Agile: A Lean JumpStart

As we ramp up for Agile2015 and the Agile Executive Forum, we are thrilled to announce the LitheSpeed Agile Executive Series.  The first installment, by our President Sanjiv Augustine (check out his bio), jumpstarts your Agile journey.

CoverSmallIn Scaling Agile: A Lean JumpStart, Sanjiv dives into the challenge of breaking down barriers to enterprise Agile adoption.  He provides an essential set of Lean building blocks as a starting foundation for larger Agile scaling frameworks, including the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe), Large-Scale Scrum (LeSS), and Disciplined Agile Delivery (DAD).  Sanjiv provides step-by-step actions, with a keen focus on a few core Lean practices.  With this JumpStart approach, the power is in your hands to apply Agile ideas from the team to the top, and to totally transform an organization.  


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Scrum Practitioner Acronym Quick Guide

Scrum practitioners come in many forms, leading to a maze of acronyms. Here’s a quick guide to get you started.  (Descriptions from ScrumAlliance)

CSM: Certified Scrum Master.  A Certified ScrumMaster® helps project teams properly use SCR20146-Seals-Final-CSMScrum, increasing the likelihood of the project’s overall success.

CSD: Certified Scrum Developer. Certified Scrum Developers have demonstrated through SCR20146-Seals-Final-CSDa combination of formal training and a technical skills assessment that they have a working understanding of Scrum principles and have learned specialized Agile engineering skills.

SCR20146-Seals-Final-CSPO (1)CSPO: Certified Scrum Product Owner. Certified Scrum Product Owner® professionals have been taught the Scrum terminology, practices, and principles that enable them to fulfill the role of Product Owner on a Scrum team.

SCR20146-Seals-Final-CSPCSP: Certified Scrum Professional. Certified Scrum Professionals have demonstrated experience, documented training, and proven knowledge in the art of Scrum. CSPs challenge their Scrum teams to improve the way Scrum and other Agile methods are implemented for every project. If you are an active CSM, CSPO, or CSD who has reached that next level of experience and expertise in the art of Scrum, elevate your career even further by earning the CSP credential.

SCR20146-Seals-Final-CSCCSC: Certified Scrum Coaches are experts in Scrum — in both theory and practice. They have in-depth understanding of the practices and principles of Scrum and real-world experience in actual Scrum organizations. CSCs successfully guide organizations through the challenges of Scrum adoption.

SCR20146-Seals-Final-CSTCST: Certified Scrum Trainer: The CST® certification has always been and remains a rigorous certification. Scrum Alliance® strives to make the CST application process fair and thorough. The objective measures taken ensure that the trainers selected will be excellent ambassadors for Scrum and Scrum Alliance.

Bonus Agile Acronyms:

SAFe: Scaled Agile Framework.

LeSS: Large-Scale Scrum.

Calling All NYC ScrumMasters

NYC ScrumMasters- We are looking for you!

But first- If you are attending a training at our Herndon office today, we have already met (Hi again!).  My name is Audrey and i’m excited to join the LitheSpeed team as a marketing specialist.  I will see you at conferences and trainings but I am based out of Tucson, Arizona- home of the Saguaro cactus.  You can expect to hear from me about events, fun facts and jobs.


The mighty Saguaro

Speaking of jobs, BIG NEWS: We are scouting Agile and Scrum talent right now in the New York City area.  We are looking for passionate team and lead ScrumMasters to champion an Agile transformation.
If you or someone you know if a good fit, head over to our LinkedIn job posting here.


Please welcome me to the team by joining our Agile community –>Connect with us on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.


Join us at the 2015 Agile Executive Forum

Business Hurdler

This year, the Agile Executive Forum (AEF) will be held on August 03rd at the Center for
Innovative Technology (CIT) in Herndon, VA.  For those senior leaders and executives who considering, or current transforming their organizations with Agile and Lean methods, this event represents an awesome opportunity to engage, connect, and learn.

The theme is Building the Lean Enterprise.  As change accelerates worldwide, enterprises have to learn to innovate.  Today, responding to changing market needs, and driving growth and learning through continuous experimentation is no longer a luxury, but a critical necessity.

At this year’s AEF, we’ll examine and explore the state of the art of the Lean Enterprise:

1. The basics of agile transformation, presented through case studies at Cox Target Media and PayChex. Chris Cate and Mike Gioja will share how their teams transformed their culture into one of innovation and change.

2. Elements of agile at scale, presented by Randy Salley of Walmart. Randy will share how his team built on the rich history and culture of the retail giant, and are now using agile methods as a way of accelerating value delivery.

3. Advances in agile and lean at the nexus of development and operations (DevOps), presented by Mark Schwatrz of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (US CIS).  Mark will share how his team is creating a Lean bureaucracy by “chunking” work into smaller batches.

4. The need for personal leadership in transformations, shared by Gill Haus of Capital One. Gill will share on how not to neglect the human angle and thus eliminate unnecessary risk.

5. A look into the future, with DevOps: Next, presented by Nicole Forsgren of Chef.  Nicole will show the connection between IT investments and organizational agility, and share her thoughts on how to build the right mix of IT, culture and practice.

When agile methods like Scrum appeared on the horizon two decades ago, they help drive innovation at the team-level. After a decade and a half, industry leaders have scaled agile methods through the use of Lean Thinking.   Today’s scaling frameworks for agile methods, including the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe), Large-Scale Scrum (LeSS) and Disciplined Agile Delivery (DAD) all embed Lean Thinking, especially at the program and portfolio levels.

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We’re privileged to have thought leaders Scott Ambler, Dean Leffingwell, Craig Larman and Jeff Sutherland discussing all of these and more on a star studded panel, moderated by Dot Tudor (former DSDM Board Member).

Here’s some more information on the forum, and here’s a link to register:  Seats are limited, so please make sure you act quickly, and see you there!


LitheSpeed Announces the Agile Leadership Academy™

As agile methods evolve and agile adoptions mature, the need to grow leaders to nurture and shepherd them has become critical.   Based on 15+ years of experience with enterprise agile adoptions, landmark thought leadership and learning from our Executive Summit networks, our team has created the program behind the Agile Leadership Academy™.

We’re pleased to announce the inaugural session of the Agile Leadership Academy™, launching on October 08, 2015, and featuring:

  1. Four(4), quarterly 1-day sessions:
    1. Foundations of Lean and Agile Leadership (October 08, 2015)
    2. Scaling Agility
    3. Lean Product Management and Design
    4. Agile Engineering and DevOps
  2. Access to the Lean+Agile DC conference (in Spring) and the Agile DC Summit (in Fall)
  3. Site visits to leading agile organizations
  4. An elite group of peers on a shared journey of learning, discovery and self-development
  5. Open Space discussions with experts and peers
  6. Basis for the Certified Agile Executive™ accreditation

Register your agile leaders now at:

LitheSpeed Community Learning Events

At LitheSpeed, giving back to the community is one of our core values. From lending a helping hand to folks temporarily out of employment, to contributing to learning events, our team is always finding ways to “pay-it-forward.”

Over the past decade, giving back to the community through speaking at agile and project management events has been pretty constant. More recently, growing out of the work done by Bob Payne in establishing Agile DC, we have begun hosting our own events. Over the past three years, we’ve established a twice-yearly event cadence for larger events with Lean+Agile DC in Spring and the Agile DC Executive Summit in Fall. We also host the Lean Enterprise Meetup monthly at our Herndon, VA headquarters.

2014’s Agile DC Executive Summit was a great event, and we enjoyed learning from Max Keeler from The Motley Fool, Christina Handley and Sujatha Augustine from the Millenium Challenge Corporation, Mark Perine from Marriott, Gill Haus and Elliot Susel from AOL, and Dave Merkel from FireEye/Mandiant. Watch the video recap below.


This year, Sanjiv Augustine is the volunteer Chair of the Agile Executive Forum. In this role, Sanjiv is contributing lessons learned from hosting LitheSpeed’s own executive summits.

For those in the DC Metro area, we hope you can join us at these upcoming events:

May 20, 2015: Lean + Agile DC
August 03, 2015: Agile Executive Forum
Monthly – Second Thursday: Lean Enterprise Meetup

For our friends outside of the DC Metro area, we will be at these events:

May, 2015: Global Scrum Gathering, Phoenix, AZ
May, 2015: Agile Austin 2015, Austin, TX
June 2015: Agile Development Conference West, Las Vegas, NV
June 2015: PMI Houston Expo, Houston, TX
June 2015: PMI Silver Spring, Silver Spring, MD
August 2015: Agile 2015, National Harbor, MD
November 2015: Agile Development Conference East, Orlando, FL

Walk Before You Run: Understanding CI in CD by Raj Indugula

rsz_rsz_hires_lithespeed-5_rajWith the buzz around Continuous Delivery (CD) these days it might seem like an antiquated notion to even speak of, let alone write about Continuous Integration (CI). However, in the many conversations we’ve had with organizations looking to implement CD or in the midst of an implementation (and stumbling), it has become rather clear to us that there exists a wide chasm that needs to be bridged on the foundational aspects that support an organization’s desire to adopt CD. CI is a key supporting construct whose principles are still not understood/implemented with sufficient clarity, and hence worth a revisit.

Read the rest of Raj Indugula’s blog post on the VersionOne web site.

Sanjiv Augustine Talks with Sticky Minds about the Critical Role of the Product Owner

Scrum_Product_Owner_SealSanjiv Augustine was recently interviewed by Josiah Renaudin of Sticky Minds about the critical role of the Product Owner. Sanjiv discusses the Product Owner role saying that it, ’sits at the junction between delivery and discovery’ and studies the product owner, a role in a Scrum team that works with customers, defines the product, prioritizes requirements and works with delivery teams.

Read the whole article to hear Sanjiv’s take on the barriers that hold people back from development success and the tools and techniques he uses in his Product Owner workshops to to teach students to overcome those barriers.

Agile Planning According to Arlen Bankston

LitheSpeed received a question from a student about an issue their company was facing during project planning. We believe this issue is a common one and therefore decided to share the conversation.

The company in question was experiencing growing pains, especially when it came to planning and forecasting. In their experience, the high level planning done months before a project began did not match the lower level, detailed planning done right before the start of each project. Large changes inrsz_rsz_hires_lithespeed-6_arlen cost and scope right before project starts made it hard to manage business expectations and set predictable delivery dates.

Arlen Bankston, LitheSpeed’s managing partner, had this advice:

Agile planning largely relies upon a rearview mirror approach, and in longer-term budgeting activities, this is going to be the most reliable method. Velocity is a simple local example of this; by paying attention to the output they’ve actually achieved recently, teams get a good average idea of their capacity over time. You quite often see consistent overcommitment by teams who ignore their previous velocities (or fiddle with the estimates too much) when forecasting future sprints. This empirical approach can also work at higher levels for business planning.

A local client of ours named Opower tried an interesting technique; they let business managers “buy” time from their teams by using tokens, where a single token represented the output of any given team over a single two-week sprint (the teams were similar enough that this was effective). They distributed the tokens over various stakeholder groups that requested development time, and were able to see that while they had roughly 100 tokens available the first year (five teams, ~20 sprints), the business demand for high priority efforts ended up closer to 200. So they hired more people, thus matching observed demand to real capacity. The key is that they maintained the discipline to keep teams stable and dedicated over time, rather than multiplexing them and moving people around. Many companies have very little idea of their true capacity, because constant adjustment of resource allocations makes it extremely fuzzy. They tell some of this story in an article they wrote for HBR.

Another core idea is that both planning and estimation work much better when you actually understand the work, which usually requires some reasonably in-depth analysis done by whomever is actually going to execute. You’ve already seen this, as your localized three-day sessions produce much better forecasts than the far-removed business side’s. However, as waiting until you’re starting the work to get a sense of its likely cost is unpalatable for the business, you can combine this with some projections based on something like the past few months’ output from the teams in question to get a decent mid- to long-term forecast for budgeting purposes. Put simply, whatever you spent last quarter will often be quite similar to what you’ll spend this one, as long as you’re not substantially changing team composition or making capital expenditures.

So, a few direct tips to sum this up:

  • Keep teams as stable as possible. This makes everything more accurate and consistent, notably velocity, and will more importantly tend to improve productivity and collaboration. Bring work to established teams, rather than establishing teams around projects.
  • Match estimation granularity to the timeframe:
  • For project portfolio management and ROI projections, use something very high level like S/M/L/XL, based on projects of similar budgets in the past.
  • For release planning in the 1-3 month timeframe, use something like story points or story count, but decompose anything larger than ~2 weeks of effort (roughly 8 points, if 1 point is similar to a day), as large things tend to be larger than you expect once you break them down.
  • For sprint planning, keep things to just a few days of effort, likely 1 or 2 points (or just use story count and a range, such as 6-8 stories/sprint).
  • Favor ongoing engagement over long-term projections. Encourage your business stakeholders to stay in the loop and ensure them that you won’t allow any nasty surprises to sneak up on them and will provide frequent updates and more accurate forecasts over time. Don’t make promises many months out, because you won’t be able to keep them.
  • Consider incremental funding strategies. The expectation that business planning for software projects actually works over a whole year is a thoroughly debunked artifact of waterfall project management, as evidenced by all the time organizations spend re-planning following annual budgeting efforts. The wiser approach is to keep a sense of how much you need to spend total, then allocate as time proceeds based on current needs, which gives the business more flexibility in managing both their budgets and the development efforts they’re funding.

You can see some current lines of thinking on this and budgeting in general here:

Agile Executive Forum – Join us there!

LitheSpeed is excited to announce that Sanjiv Augustine will chair the Agile Alliance’s Agile2015’s Agile Executive Forum. Join a select group of executives and top Agile leaders for an intensive one-day opportunity to explore the latest in strategic thinking in Lean and Agile practices and principles applied towards building the Lean Enterprise. Lean Enterprises have the signicant competitive ability to respond rapidly to change.

The Forum is structured as a combination of:

  • Keynotes from top performers
  • Short presentations spotlighting innovative success stories and transformation challenges
  • Breakout discussions with exploration and problem resolution
  • Networking and community-building events
  • A no-sales policy is in place to keep your thinking clear

See the AEF site for more details, and to register: