A Natural Agilist Finds a Home with Main Line Health’s “Healthy” Agile Organization

By Brian Lucas

Main Line Health is a shining star of agility in Southeastern Pennsylvania’s health care industry.  In fact, it is one of the most progressive health care organizations in the country.  Main Line Health is not a small enterprise; it is suburban Philadelphia’s most comprehensive healthcare resource, offering a full range of medical, surgical, obstetric, pediatric, psychiatric and emergency services.  At the core of Main Line Health are four of the Southeastern Pennsylvania region’s most respected acute care hospitals—Lankenau, Bryn Mawr, Paoli and Riddle and one of the nation’s premier facilities for rehabilitative medicine, Bryn Mawr Rehab Hospital.

They are especially recognized for their cardiac, orthopedic, oncology, rehabilitation and women’s clinical services.  More than 10,000 people are part of the Main Line Health family, making them one of the largest employers in Southeastern Pennsylvania.  Main Line Health is an award winning organization.  The American Nurses Credential Center has awarded three of Main Line Health’s acute care hospitals—Bryn Mawr, Lankenau and Paoli—“Magnet” status in recognition of their nurses’ skills, professionalism and commitment to superior patient care.   A number of their physicians have earned superior national and international reputations as leaders in their specialized fields.  Many have been recognized by local and national publications as well as their peers for being among the finest medical professionals in the Greater Philadelphia region.

These achievements speak volumes about Main Line Health’s enlightened management.  David Francavilla, who is an incredibly natural agilist, is a Sr. Property Manager at Main Line Health – Property Management – 255 Lancaster Avenue, MOB 1, Suite 104A in Paoli, PA 19301. Continue reading

Posted in Agile Arguments, Agile in the Enterprise, Interview with a Natural Agilist, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 60 Comments

Interviews with a Natural Agilist

By Brian Lucas

“Natural ability without education has more often raised a man to glory and virtue than education without natural ability.” – Marcus Aurelius

“When we see a natural style, we are astonished and charmed; for we expected to see an author, and we find a person.” – Blaise Pascal

So many blogs feature articles from noted personalities or conversations with one of the founding members of the Agile Manifesto – and that’s great. However[1], I would like to celebrate something different here.  It is a misconception that agile is a new discovery that happened back in February of 2001, when 17 software developers met in Utah to discuss lightweight development methods.

Agile has in fact been a way-of-life for many people; since Edison was in Menlo Park or Hannibal crossed the Alps.  Indeed long before that, probably reaching back to the dim memories of pre-recorded history and even prehistoric times, agile was a way of thinking for some people.  This does not diminish the great work done by visionaries like Dr. Jeff Sutherland or Ken Schwaber.  It simply means they did not discover; they rediscovered or actually articulated[2] the concept to the populous. Continue reading

Posted in Agile and Strategic Planning, Agile Arguments, Agile in the Enterprise, Interview with a Natural Agilist | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 47 Comments

Is Agile a Return to Common Sense?

By Brian Lucas

“Common sense is seeing things as they are; and doing things as they ought to be.”Harriet Beecher Stowe

A  post of mine, “HCM, HIM and Agile are Perfect Together“, had the following reply from Dave Francavilla:

Brian,
Very comprehensive! What I love is that the basic common theme is derived from simple common sense. The entire world seems to have taken the focus off basic common sense and basic principles of business.
I see Agile as coming to our senses…
Many of today’s businesses suffer from the same lack of basic understanding.
Thanks for your clarity.
David Francavilla

This got me to again think about the history of agile which I explored in my webinar, “Is Agile a Fad or an Evolution”, available on the ITMPI web site.  The question that I asked myself was, “In the past, from ancient to recent, was there more common sense than there is today.”  My method of examining history is to relive it.  To travel back in time[1] and become a part of the history that made the world in which I live… Continue reading

Posted in Agile Arguments, Agile for Beginners, Agile for Software Development, Agile in the Enterprise, Interview with a Natural Agilist | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 78 Comments

Using Microsoft’s Team Foundation Server to Your Agile Best

By: Dave Smith and Brian Lucas

Since I posted the first set of tips about TFS usage for agile, I received so many requests for additional information that my friend and colleague Dave and I happily collaborated on a list of tips and practices to not only make your use of TFS more effective, but also to make your life a whole lot easier.  Let us know what you think and what your good tips are! -Brian Continue reading

Posted in Agile Arguments, Agile for Beginners, Agile for Software Development, Agile in the Enterprise, Agile Tool | Tagged , , , , , , | 58 Comments

HCM, HIM and Agile are Perfect Together

By Brian Lucas

In the recent past, I was asked to address the subject of human capital management, the emergence of human interaction management and their effect on agile.  The fact is that the people element in the system is most important and the process is often less than relevant.  That makes human focused philosophies and agile a perfect match.  Unfortunately, the more negative statistics about human involvement and commitment in the enterprise are difficult for some people to grasp or even believe.  The lack of engagement in many enterprises is an amazing area of opportunity for improvement.  I have not seen many good statistics that broadly measure the benefits agile brings when employee engagement is dramatically increased, but I know that impact is startling and a large contributor to agile’s success.  So let’s take a look at agile and the human capital management concept. Continue reading

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Tips for Using Microsoft TFS with Agile

By Brian Lucas

While I don’t, as a policy, generally make product recommendations; I do feel comfortable offering tips and tricks about a particular tools use.  Particularly a very popular one.  Microsoft’s Team Foundation Server (TFS) is very popular and used on many agile projects.  Here are a few tips and tricks to make your agile experience with TFS considerably more productive.  To begin with I recommend you consider the scrum (x) template as a starter.  It is a pared down version of their standard template which has everything including the kitchen sink thrown in.  Novices in particular will get less confused with the scrum (x) template since it is simpler.  The following are seven tips to make your use of TFS more effective. Continue reading

Posted in Agile for Beginners, Agile for Software Development, Agile Tool | Tagged , , , , , | 36 Comments

What do you do with an entrenched skeptic?

By Brian Lucas

“Facts are stubborn things; whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.” – JOHN ADAMS

What can you do when someone honestly doesn’t see the real underlying differences between agile and waterfall concepts?  What do you do when you have tried all of your standard explanations and you both still can’t see things from a common perspective?  The answer, of course, is – adapt!  If what you are saying isn’t convincing; then try something else.  Inject something small that’s different into the dialog and see what impact it has.  Facts are notoriously unrelenting and will be acknowledged by any reasonable person.  Never let your emotional frustration provide an answer that should have come from your dispassionate logic.  You need to understand your subject and respect the person with whom you are dialoging.  You will find that articulating proofs of this nature will actually strengthen your knowledge; much like defending a doctoral thesis.  So to prove that I practice what I preach; I am including the following email stream.  It’s a dialog I am having with a very good person and friend of mine named Jim.  He is both very intelligent and a phenomenal worker and just happens to be an agile “semi-skeptic”. Continue reading

Posted in Agile Arguments, Agile for Beginners, Agile for Software Development, Agile in the Enterprise | Tagged , , , , , , | 27 Comments

A Simple Definition of Kanban Leads to Agile Productivity

By Brian Lucas

“If you seek the kernel, then you must break the shell…” – Meister Eckhart

I was discussing Kanban the other day with several people who were very confused by the concepts.  One viewed it as Kanban vs. Agile, another felt it was just a way of flowing work better and the third had not even heard the term.  Hence it has become a topic in Keeping Agile.  Lean[1] gets a lot of play along with agile,  I discount lean as a term for software development and generally do not believe it applies.  As far as Kanban is concerned; I could go into a long dissertation here about the history of Kanban and discuss the Japanese terms of “muda” “mura” and muri”, but that would put you to sleep and since it is something you are not interested in from an agile perspective a waste[2] of time. Continue reading

Posted in Agile for Software Development, Agile in the Enterprise | Tagged , , , , | 23 Comments

Scott Ambler on The Glacial Methodology™ Workshop: A Data-Centric Software Development Process

I love a tongue in cheek satire especially about dogmatically held beliefs.  Here is a great one by Scott Ambler.  It could readily be applied to those who believe in creating copious amounts of documentation and following a waterfall process instead of Keeping Agile.  Enjoy! –Brian

The Glacial Methodology™ is a data-centric approach to software development based on sound software engineering concepts. With a Glacial approach you begin by developing a conceptual data model, followed by a detailed logical data model (LDM), and then finally a detailed physical data model (PDM). After several months of this comprehensive modeling effort development activities are then permitted to begin. Continue reading

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Middle of the Road CIOs are Getting Hit by the Innovation Truck

By Brian Lucas

“It is better to err on the side of daring than the side of caution.”Alvin Toffler

The other day I heard a manager state that he was “a middle of the road kind of guy.” At times in the history of IT/IS that might have been a reasonable and sensible position. Now is NOT one of those times!  CIOs and IT/IS departments are being deconstructed right and left. Business executives are expressing their frustration with CIO inertia by incorporating, in their own departments, personnel with technical expertise and going to the cloud for immediate solutions that fit their needs.

Continue reading

Posted in Agile and Strategic Planning, Agile Arguments, Agile in the Enterprise, Agile Thinking | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 26 Comments

From the Leader’s Guide to Radical Management by Stephen Denning

By Brian Lucas

“The radical of one century is the conservative of the next. The radical invents the views. When he has worn them out, the conservative adopts them.” -Mark Twain

The Leader’s Guide to Radical Management by Stephen Denning is a very interesting and useful book.  I recommend you add it to your agile reading list.  The concepts of radical management are taken right from the heart of agile’s manifesto.  Unfortunately for traditional managers, the very basis of management has failed.  The outmoded idea of the perceived order and harmony of the business hive mentality actually leads to economic death.  In an enterprise environment where executive management deem themselves wise and make all the important decisions; timely adaptation cannot occur.  As I wrote in my blog article, “Why CEO’s Fail in Today’s Agile Business Environment”, the rate of return is down 75% from the mid-sixties and the life expectancy of a non-financial Fortune 500 company has fallen to less than 20 years.  Employee morale is at an all-time low.  Company boards of directors are swapping out CEOs like relief pitchers.  Management as a traditional concept is obsolete! Continue reading

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Agile Concepts Graphics

By Brian Lucas

I created this simple graphic to demonstrate what the generic concept behind agile is.  What are your favorite agile diagrams?

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 8 Comments

Agile Savings versus Traditional Methods

By Brian Lucas

Time-to-market savings realized by agile methods comes from many different aspects of agile’s natural mechanisms and flows.  Most of these have a combined effect that contributes even greater economies.  To begin with let us look at two aspects of agile.  The first is the work unit basis of small self-contained product backlog items that are developed, tested and released in discrete time boxes.  The second is the serious application of paring down the Pareto Principle to prioritize this development.

With the much improved flow over traditional processes, agile teams increase their productivity working as a dedicated team on a single project for short term iteration cycles.  There are vast reductions in waiting for someone upstream in the process to feed you work, switching between tasks because of a lack of dedication, time lost creating, explaining and interpreting written specifications.  Development teams utilizing Agile practices were on average 37% faster delivering their software to market and increased their teams’ productivity by at least 16% According to a QSM Associates study. Continue reading

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Why CEOs Fail in Today’s Agile Business Environment

By Brian Lucas

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.”Charles Darwin

CEOs have always come in all flavors of personality and success.  They can be everything from active positive to active negative and all shades in between.  While there have always been successes and failures; CEOs are failing today at an alarming rate.  Psychology has less to do with this, than most people think.  Granted there are differing measures of success, some by stock price others by more complex measurements of overall organizational health and employee opinion.  However you measure it, over the past 20 years there has been a steady decline in the success and approval of CEOs.

Why is this happening?  Is it just capitalism at work?  The answer is far more complicated and lies in both the narrowing of vision and the lack of strategic talent development.  These detrimental changes are the result of pressures brought on executive boards and CEOs by the ever changing nature of the environment that enterprises find themselves in today. Continue reading

Posted in Agile and Strategic Planning, Agile in the Enterprise | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 26 Comments

Best Reply of the Month Winner

By Brian Lucas

There have been so many great replies to the posts that I thought some form of recognition would be in order. So we have created this special post to record and honor the best reply of the month. I will post the winner of the previous month, on the first day of the current month.  In this post, I will reproduce the winning comment and any of the replies that I feel are appropriate.  Your comments will help people you will probably never meet.  They leave a legacy of your thoughts that can have effects you never dreamed. Congratulations to all the winners. Continue reading

Posted in Best Reply of the Month Winner | Tagged , , , , , | 27 Comments

Employee Suggestions

By Brian Lucas

“Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen.” -John Steinbeck

A glimpse of life in an agile business versus a non-agile enterprise.

At the end of the PCS status meeting held every other month the PCS CIO always asks if there are any comments or questions.  He really doesn’t like to take questions, but the H/R Director convinced him to add this to the meetings since employee morale is low. Continue reading

Posted in Employee Suggestions | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 19 Comments

A Tale of Two Companies – A glimpse of life in an agile business versus a non-agile enterprise.

By Brian Lucas

“Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning.”Benjamin Franklin

If you look at the history of people and progress, you’ll see three types of people: those who are thought leaders and early adopters[1], those who will either give it a try or cautiously wait and see, but once they are really convinced will follow[2] and finally those who are philosophically and diametrically opposed and are obstructionists on a deeply emotional and philosophic level.  The people in the first category don’t need any convincing, while the people in the last category are a lost cause, but fortunately are in a minority[3]. Continue reading

Posted in A Tale of Two Companies, Agile and Strategic Planning, Agile Arguments, Agile for Beginners, Agile in the Enterprise, Employee Suggestions | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Debunking the Case Against Agile

By Brian Lucas

“A new idea is first condemned as ridiculous and then dismissed as trivial, until finally, it becomes what everybody knows.” 
William James (1842-1910) American philosopher and psychologist.

The Case Against Agile: Ten Perennial Management Objections, which was well-written by Steve Denning in Forbes, clearly and quite logically trounces the rebuttal from a link submitted by PM Hut and written by Bruno Collet, The Limitations of Agile Software Development.  The rebuttal shows the unfortunate limited and isolation based thinking of traditional management and typifies the significant lack of enlightenment and acceptance of a pervasive reality that keeps them from moving forward in today’s business environment. Continue reading

Posted in Agile for Beginners, Agile for Software Development | Tagged , , , , , | 22 Comments

My first agile project

By Brian Lucas

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” -Lao-tzu

I have received so many emails and phone calls (how did all these people get my cell phone number) since I started this blog.  The majority of them are from people who are in their first agile project.  They are struggling with various issues, many of which most experienced agile practioners have faced at one time in their careers.  These problems are generally easily corrected with advice and mentoring.  Some of their problems were absolutely fascinating and truly unique requiring a lot more thought.  Fortunately, these were only a handful. Continue reading

Posted in Agile for Beginners, Agile for Software Development | Tagged , , , , , | 26 Comments

When to use epic user stories

By Brian Lucas

One day a traveler, walking along a lane, came across 3 stonecutters working in a quarry. Interested to find out what they were working on, he asked the first stonecutter what he was doing. “I am cutting a stone!” Still no wiser the traveler turned to the second stonecutter. “I am cutting this block of stone to make sure that it’s square, and its dimensions are uniform, so that it will fit exactly in its place in a wall.” The traveler turned to the third stonecutter. He seemed to be the happiest of the three and when asked what he was doing replied: I am building a cathedral.” – The Stone Cutters Parable by Unknown

 [1]Often in agile, epics are treated as undesirable.  We are driven to identify atomic level functions in user stories[2] as quickly as possible.  There is however, a proper view, place and time for epics.  Their targeted use can lead to harmony in application development.  To be useful, epics should be construed as simply another view of information system components.  I liken them to nebula waiting to reach their fulfillment as galaxies (it’s the astrophysicist in me).  The epic view is one of large undeveloped areas of application potential with just enough detail to tell you how they basically fit into an enterprise architecture.  This is reminiscent of a nebula which will form stars and solar systems with planets and become a full-fledged galaxy. Continue reading

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So what is Agile?

By Brian Lucas

I am dedicating my first post to Michael Milutis, who encouraged me to begin blogging and sharing the small store of wisdom I have gathered over the years.  Here’s to you Mike!
“By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.” Confusius

At a recent social gathering a friend of mine, who works in the COBOL world, asked me, “So what is agile?  Is it a methodology or a framework?”  It gave me pause.  I am always stunned in these days of agile’s popularity – coupled with the internet’s ubiquitous free information, when someone asks me a square one question.  Instead of rattling off a standard answer, I looked for a deeper underlying meaning to his question.  He is in fact a very good and intelligent person and deserved a thoughtful answer. Continue reading

Posted in Agile Arguments, Agile for Beginners, Agile for Software Development, Agile in the Enterprise, Agile Thinking | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 76 Comments