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3 Undisclosed Tips for Digital Creatives

TargetProcess - Edge of Chaos Blog - Wed, 04/02/2014 - 12:50

Today is a great day to share some killer tips on how to get the best out of one’s creative potential. These tips would be of special help to digital creative individuals, that is, to anyone, who thinks for a living as they look at a screen. So, whether you are a graphic artist struggling for that elusive touch that would make a corporate identity unique, or a UX designer who wants to put together an intuitive interface, or a product owner looking to figure out what goes next in a product, or a project manager looking to facilitate a team’s performance, or a software developer crafting a piece of code, look no further.  This article is your philosopher’s stone for achieving top results.

philosopher's stone

So, friends, lend me your ears. To turn on this magical power of brilliant insights, one just needs to do these three simple things day in day out.

1. Wherever possible, spend the bulk of your most productive time, preferably in the morning, when your brain is fresh, doing a research online as to how others have done this thing that you’re working on at the moment. If you’re a graphic artist, make sure you not only dig out all possible images or ideas that can be replicated, but remember to throw all those links with images at the other fellow designers in your team. Not only will this help strangle their creative edge ensure that all the industry-accepted standards are followed, but they won’t need to spend any more effort on inventing original concepts. Leave no stone unturned. You need to chase each and every clue. For strategic decisions, make the list of step-by-step routines copied from how others addressed the same challenge. You will never do anything valuable if you fail to follow the proven routines that other people have followed many times before.

2. The second magic success ingredient is to expose the drafts of your work, or to have your incentives for strategic decisions bullied discussed by as many people as one can possibly get. Facebook is an ideal space for that. Remember to be consistent in sharing the in-progress sketches or ideas with strangers, who don’t know you personally and who are completely unaware of the particular context you’re working in.  They’d shoot their comments, wasting your time making their invaluable contribution to shaping up this great idea, or a graphic, or a piece of code you’re currently working on. Consistency is the key here. The more exhausted you get filtering out the rare grains of sensibility from the avalanche of clueless comments, the closer you’re to what you’re looking for. The logic here would be the same as on the picture below. One is more likely to build a snowman with plenty of snow, picking out those special unretarded pieces with care.

unassembled snowman

3. Finally, there goes the trickiest part. Once you’ve let out your finished and polished brainchild to the outer world, work to secure the right attitude to external criticism within yourself. You absolutely need to master the skill of  proving your worth based on each and every comment received from your network of personal and professional contacts. The smartest way to accomplish this would be to build a model that would transform the bites of criticism to a numeric value. You’d need to set a certain plank for yourself with this model. Once this value gets below this plank, you need to work harder on the points 1) and 2).

Repeat this cycle forever, and you will sleep serenely, like a baby, enjoying the bliss of reaping harvest from all your hard work.

Image credits:

Related articles:

2 Approaches to Focus In Knowledge Work

How Communication Factors In To Production

Non-Judgmental Communication for Agile Teams

Are You a Copycat?

Categories: Companies

Agile Goes to Hollywood

Portia Tung - Selfish Programming - Tue, 04/01/2014 - 22:04
Breaking News

The first-ever interactive Agile business novel “The Dream Team Nightmare” is about to become to first ever film to be made about Agile.

We’ll be paying Hollywood a visit this summer when filming is scheduled to start.

Check out the InfoQ interview with the author here.

Who’s Who

The initial cast list looks something like this:

  • Jim Hopper, Agile Coach – Jake Gyllenhaal
  • Emily, Jim’s girlfriend played – Ginnifer Goodwin
  • Patrick, Head of IT – Liam Neeson
  • Cassandra, Product Owner – Julianna Margulies
  • Jason, Developer – Steve Buscemi
  • Ben, Scrum Master – Seth MacFarlane
Open Audition

If you’d like to audition for a role, get reading “The Dream Team Nightmare” then contact J.J. Abrams directly.

Categories: Blogs

Blog - Peter Hundermark - Tue, 04/01/2014 - 20:28

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Categories: Blogs

Agile & Levels of Planning

Agile Game Development - Tue, 04/01/2014 - 20:24
Recall the last time you took a long driving trip.  You probably came up with a plan for the trip.  You used Google Maps to explore various routes and distances.  If the trip took a couple of days, you reserved a decent motel along the way.  Before the trip began you filled the gas tank and printed a map.  You even might have planned to leave your home earlier or later to avoid rush hour traffic along the way.

When the day to travel arrived, you reset the odometer, set up the GPS and off you went.  However, the job of planning wasn’t complete.  There might be detours along the way.  Frequent glances at the odometer or GPS might inform you that you are ahead or behind schedule.  Also, the map and GPS aren’t enough.  You monitor your speedometer from time-to-time and constantly look out the windshield and at the mirrors in case another driver does something unexpected.

We use all these different measures and methods to maintain a plan and respond to change for something as predictable as driving.  We need similar tools for the far more complex and uncertain endeavor of making a game!

Figure 1 - Planning Onions for Driving and Games
The figure above shows “the planning onion”, which represents the different layers of planning frequency.    The inner layers of the onion are the more frequent inspection tools/cycles, while the outer layers encompass tools applied less frequently.

Layers of Planning
Let’s examine the layers of planning from the inside out using the driving example for comparison with how a Scrum-developed game would plan:

  • Daily - The team will meet every day in a daily Scrum to discuss the progress and issues which are affecting their Sprint goal.  This includes conversations about bugs, impediments, dependencies, or merely points about the quality of the game.  This is like looking out the windshield of the car during your trip.
  • Sprint - The team, product owner and domain experts forecast what is possible to accomplish in the next one to three weeks.  The duration of the sprint largely depends on how much certainty the team has with the work and how long the stakeholders can go without seeing something.  A team will forecast and track the work in any way they want for the sprint.  Some teams use hours, others days, while some teams will come up with their own units[1].  This compares to using the speedometer in your car to measure you velocity.
  • Release - The team, stakeholders, marketing and leads identify stretch goals for the game that they hope will be demonstrated in a “shippable build” at the end of the release.  Product owners might alter these goals during the release as quality, cost and true velocity emerges.  Forecasting and tracking during a release is usually done using metrics that size the features on the backlog (e.g. story points).  This level of planning and tracking is comparable to using an odometer during your drive.  The odometer gives you a more long-term view of velocity when miles are measured against larger units of time, such as hours and days.
  • Project - For a cross-country drive, you’ll likely have a map and a rough idea of your progress and stops along the way.  You may have a gas budget and looked online to see where major construction delays  might occur on your path.  If asked where you expect to be tomorrow night, you’d have an answer like “Denver”.  If asked where you would be at 2:15 PM tomorrow, you might not be much more precise.  Long-term project planning should be like this.  It focuses on the major cost, schedule, and feature goals and identifies significant areas of risk.  Similarly, long term planning will break out epics and define some constraints based on experience.  An example for “online multiplayer gameplay” might be:
    • Cost: 10 people for six months to implement and 20 people for six months to produce content.
    • Schedule: Starting in June, finishing in 12 months.
    • Risk: Online technology risks and core gameplay risks.

Just as we don’t forecast our speed down every mile of road while planning a cross-country drive, a long project shouldn’t forecast what teams will be working on every day for a year or more[2].  Instead, as the planning horizon extends out, the metrics for planning become larger grained and less precise.  There are a few reasons for this:
Reason 1: The further out our plan goes, the more uncertainty there is with the details.
This is best illustrated with the cone of uncertainty shown in Figure 2:

Figure 2 - The Cone of Uncertainty
This figure illustrates that the further we are from shipping the game, the more uncertain its cost, scope and schedule.  Everyone who has shipped a game should recognize that the great concept art and ideas and plans expressed in the initial design documents usually don’t resemble the shipped game very closely.  This is not a bad thing.  This is the nature of creating complex games that have a subjective and emotional dimension.  We simply can’t “plan away” this complexity and uncertainty.  This doesn’t mean we can’t plan.  It means we need to plan at a level appropriate to the level of certainty that exists.

Reason 2: Simply breaking down a long term plan into finer details won’t give us more certainty, it’ll give us less uncertainty and waste our time doing it.
 This is the hardest to convince people of.  The assumption is that a 300 page design document creates twice as much certainly as a 150 page design document.  When I worked in the defense industry, this assumption led me to create a 40-pound specification document for an Air Force contract.  The Air Force wanted so much demonstrated certainty from their contractors, that they received documents so big they couldn’t read them[3].

However, numerous studies have shown[4] that not only is uncertainty not reduced equally with more planning effort but, beyond a certain point, the attempt to plan away uncertainty with more effort (documents and spreadsheets) produces forecasts with less accuracy (see Figure 3).  The reason that a bigger plan creates less accuracy is due to human nature.  It’s in our nature to see a big document and turn off our critical thinking, just as the Air Force did when they saw our 40-pound document.  Had they read that document with a critical eye, they would have quickly found out that it was a rushed cut-and-paste job by a junior engineer.  Instead, they simply weighed it and awarded us the contract.

Figure 3 - The Accuracy of Planning Based on Effort
The tools that we choose, based on where we are in the planning onion, help us stay in the ideal range of precision, which gives us the best amount of accuracy without wasting effort.
[1] I’ve seen some teams estimate in “NUTS”, which stand for “nebulous units of time”.
[2] Although I’ve seen some producers try to do this!
[3] Ever wonder why new fighter aircraft are years late and billions over budget?
[4] One of many quote is

Categories: Blogs

Are Your User Stories Ready to Be Done?

Scrum Expert - Tue, 04/01/2014 - 19:38
The definition of “Done” (DoD), which means that a feature is ready for delivery, is a concept often discussed in Scrum. In this blog post, George Dinwiddie discusses the concept of “Ready” that apply to user stories that are ready to be developed. To provide a better understanding of user stories before you start their development, you need to organize meetings with business people, developers and testers to make sure that user stories are examined from all point of views. This should create a list of essential examples or acceptance scenarios ...
Categories: Communities

Event Report – Product Roadmapping 101

Scrum User Group of South Africa - Tue, 04/01/2014 - 19:37
Somewhere between vision and features, between product manager and owner, and customers, teams & the Board of Directors lies the mysterious Product Roadmap – the topic for our March event in Cape Town. It’s a blurry landscape and on reflection, I don’t often see roadmaps that work as meaningful guides for developing products. Tackling such [...]
Categories: Communities

Start Your Journey of Innovation and Build a Culture of Great Innovation

J.D. Meier's Blog - Tue, 04/01/2014 - 18:51

In todays world, the mantra is innovate or die.

You’re either climbing ahead or falling backward … there’s no hanging out in the middle.

And some folks are actually leap frogging ahead.

Disruptive innovation is keeping everybody on their toes.

Whether you are re-imagining you or your company, or you are driving innovation in your process, product, or capabilities, there are skills you can learn to be a lot more effective in your innovation efforts.

It’s a crazy world where a One-Man Band can write an app, serve it up on the Cloud, and change the world.  It’s also a strange world where a little idea can be a big shot heard round the world.   It’s a scary thing for businesses when a handful of developers can spin up a new service in the Cloud and instantly make a business obsolete.

What can you hold on to in this crazy world?   What can you latch on to, if you want to rise above the noise, and instead of getting washed out by a wave, be the one that makes the waves?

There are several things, but I’ll boil them down to this:

  1. Use your customer as the North Star (and remember that some customers are better for you than others)
  2. Share and scale your unique value to the world
  3. Adapt or die

What happens to a super successful business or a super effective person when the landscape changes under their feet?

It depends on how they adapt Smile

Nature favors the flexible.  Darwin taught us that.

You have to get your bold on, and embrace innovation as your shiny sword to do battle against challenge and change, but most importantly, to create the change that serves you, and those you serve.

I’m taking a fresh look at innovation, as well as going back through hard, expensive lessons I’ve learned in the past.  Whatever doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, so my battle scars are a healthy reminder of the lessons I’ve learned on how we can use innovation to leap frog ahead, as well as change the playing field (heck with changing the game, change the field and be the disruptor.)

Believe it or not, Peter Drucker was a wealth of wisdom when it comes to innovation.  Many of you know him as the wise and wonderful professor of business and guru of management.   But when you read through a lot of his work, he was incredibly insightful and pragmatic when it comes to creating a culture of innovation.

Innovation Nuggets to Get You Started on Your Innovation Journey

I’ve got a ton of innovation books, but one that I’m really liking lately is Out Think: How Innovative Leaders Drive Exceptional Outcomes, by G. Shawn Hunter.   I’ve been sharing some nuggets from the book, and it’s been reminding me what it takes to build a culture of innovation.

If you want to start your innovation journey, and create a culture of innovation, here are a few posts to help you on your way:

3 Key Questions to Challenge Yourself to Innovate

3 Keys for a Successful Innovation

A Superior Product is Not Built from It’s Features

Beware of Benchmarking Your Way to Mediocrity

Energized Differentiation Separates Brands from the Pack

High-Leverage Strategies for Innovation

How Great Leaders Build a Culture of Innovation and Change

Incremental Changes or Disruptive Innovation?

Innovate in Your Approach

Innovation Life Cycle

Innovation, Quantification, and Orchestration

The Innovative Team: Unleashing Creative Potential for Breakthrough Results

The Role of Process in Driving Reliable Innovation

Great Innovation Quotes to Inspire the Art of the Possible

If you need to remind yourself what innovation feels like or what’s possible, be sure to soak up some powerful words of wisdom:

Innovation Quotes

In my Innovation Quotes, I’ve also included a special section to light up what Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Walt Disney teach us about building a culture of innovation.

Let’s boldly go where we have not gone before.

Categories: Blogs

Estimates as Sensors

AvailAgility - Karl Scotland - Tue, 04/01/2014 - 16:07

Note: this is not an April Fool – honest!

I’ve been watching the #NoEstimates conversations with interest and decided its about time to pitch in with my own perspective. I don’t want to take any ‘side’ because like most things, the answer is not black or white. Estimates can be used for both good and evil. For me they are useful as a sensing mechanism. Put another way, by estimating, I can get a sense of how well I know my actual capability.

Lets take an example. I’m taking part in a 10K run this Sunday (*) and I am estimating that I will complete the distance in 55 minutes. This is based on an understanding of my capability from participating in regular 5K runs, and more general training runs over a 10K distance. I’ve never run an official 10K race, let alone this course, and I don’t know what the conditions will be like, but I’m aiming for 55 minutes. If I run quicker and do better than my estimate, then my actual 10K capability is better than I thought. If I run slower and do worse than my estimate, then my actual 10K capability is worse than I thought. Either way,  I will learn something about how well I know my 10K capability.

What helps even more with that learning is regular feedback! I use MayMyRun on my phone to track  progress and give me feedback every kilometre for total time, average pace and last split. This could be considered a distance-based cadence. I could probably also use a time-based cadence to give me equivalent feedback every few minutes. This feedback on a regular cadence helps me decided whether my estimate was way off, or if I should slow down because my pace is probably unsustainable, or speed up because I feel I can push harder.

How does this relate to product development? Well, we can use estimates in the same way to get a sense of a teams delivery capability, and use regular feedback to learn whether we’re making the progress we thought, and need to re-plan, slow down or speed up. Time-boxing, with Story Point estimates and Velocity can provide this time-based cadence and feedback. Alternatively, how long it takes to complete 10 User Stories can be used as a distance-based cadence and feedback.

To sum up, I recommend using estimates to sense capability and create feedback for yourself. I don’t recommend using them to make promises and give guarantees to others. Or maybe we could just call them sensors instead of estimates?

(*) Of course this post is primarily an excuse to invite readers to sponsor me. If you’re so inclined, or would like to show support for this post in a charitable and financial way, then please head over to my JustGiving page and do so there :-)

Update: My final time was 49:23 based on the timing chip, or 49:30 from the starting gun. I’ve learned that I’m better than I thought I was, and next time I’ll be estimating 50 minutes!

Categories: Blogs

Sprint Review Timing – Article by Mike Caspar

Learn more about our Scrum and Agile training sessions on

Another great article by Mike Caspar: Consider the ability of your Stakeholders to come to your Sprint Review or Demo before declaring it.  From the article:

If you are in an environment that is struggling to get stakeholders to your review, ask yourself if you have chosen an impossible day of the week for this ceremony.

Please, for the sake of your team(s)….

When considering when your Sprint will end,
think of the ability of your stakeholders
to actually show up once in a while!

Stakeholders are people too. They don’t want to let the team down either.

(Emphasis added.)

Mike has great experience working with Scrum teams and I hope you read through his other articles as well.

Try out our Virtual Scrum Coach with the Scrum Team Assessment tool - just $500 for a team to get targeted advice and great how-to informationPlease share!
Categories: Blogs

Certified Scrum Product Owner Course - Peter Hundermark - Tue, 04/01/2014 - 15:38

The Scrum Product Owner must lead the project strategically, collaborate with customers and team on a daily basis, and manage the business value.The Scrum Product Owner takes back the accountability from the traditional project manager for delivering the right solution to the customer and end-user. This two-day CSPO course will provide you with the core […]

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Categories: Blogs

Certified Scrum Master Course - Peter Hundermark - Tue, 04/01/2014 - 15:37

The Scrum Master is a leader and a change agent on a mission. Her duty is to help the Scrum Team unlock its potential to deliver more value to its stakeholders. During this intensive two-day course we will teach you how to make a development team, a project or an organisation agile and successful. This […]

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Categories: Blogs

Kanban Foundation Level Training - Peter Hundermark - Tue, 04/01/2014 - 15:33

This 2-day training course provides a deeper understanding of Kanban for knowledge workers. The training is therefore particularly suitable for those who: want to start with Kanban and are looking for initial support have already introduced Kanban and want to check if the implementation complies with state-of-the-art Kanban knowledge This is a certified Kanban training […]

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Categories: Blogs

Courses - Peter Hundermark - Tue, 04/01/2014 - 15:31

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Categories: Blogs

Course Events - Peter Hundermark - Tue, 04/01/2014 - 15:02

Certified Scrum Master The Scrum Master is a leader and a change agent on a mission. Her duty is to help the Scrum Team unlock its potential to deliver more value to its stakeholders. During this intensive two-day course we will teach you how to make a development team, a project or an organisation agile […]

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Categories: Blogs

Certified Scrum Master Course Events - Peter Hundermark - Tue, 04/01/2014 - 15:01

The Scrum Master is a leader and a change agent on a mission. Her duty is to help the Scrum Team unlock its potential to deliver more value to its stakeholders. During this intensive two-day course we will teach you how to make a development team, a project or an organisation agile and successful. This […]

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Categories: Blogs

Managing the Impossible with an Agile Budget

Leading Agile - Mike Cottmeyer - Tue, 04/01/2014 - 14:13
agile budget The Agile Budget

Release planning is without a doubt one of the most challenging responsibilities for agile teams… at least that’s what I’ve experienced both personally and while coaching enterprises through transformations.

Most teams are working to deliver solutions where the question of “what will I get” at the end of a release can not be left open ended. Furthermore, these teams don’t have an unlimited capacity. They are working within what appears to be a constrained iron triangle, cost, time and scope are all fixed. Mike Cottmeyer’s recent blog about the agile home builder, discusses this challenge from the perspective of establishing a categorized budget.

It is an approach that I’ve seen work on several occasions.  The process is pretty straight forward, not easy… but also not complex :)

Here’s a script that I like to use to help move teams from “this is impossible” to, “hey I think we can deliver!”

Getting Started

Before determining how much of the budget should be spent on features, its important for the team to understand the goal of the eventual release.  To help with this, I usually encourage the team to form of a mock press release, announcing their successful release to the world.  Typically this includes key areas or attributes of the release that have made the release impactful to the reader. These are now key success areas for the release

Establishing your Budget Categories

Each of these key success areas start to emerge as high-level categories within the context of a releases budget that can be used to help focus initial scope conversations. From here the key stakeholders can allocate their budget across each of the category areas.

Quick sidebar, the asset that is available for budgeting is usually the delivery system’s planning velocity.

Keep your Eye On the Ball (successful release, budget available)

Now that budget categories are set, the teams need to start working through their release plans and refining their needs for the “right” implementation based on the budget available.  There are many methods for going about this process; but, by far my goto method starts with high-level acceptance criteria for each category, or feature area, that can be clarified through a mix of example user journeys or system interactions. The funds available to each of the categories should be brought down and further applied to each of these so that the planning team remembers to keep its eye on the ball.  A successful release will need to both (1) deliver the functionality needed, and (2) live within the budget that is available.

This is key, without a focus on the budget available (cost) most teams will struggle to limit the scope of a release until its too late. Early budget constraints help to drive out scope that is not critical to the success of a release.

What do you think, what are your favorite ways to vary scope to successfully deliver on previous market commitments?  For more on this topic, take a look at an earlier blog about calculating the budget, in cost, for agile teams.


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Categories: Blogs

Dealing with team conflict and problem solving – Drama Triangle Model - Peter Hundermark - Tue, 04/01/2014 - 13:49

As a Team Coach or Scrum Master, conflict within a team is something we often have to deal with. Over the years I have come across a number of techniques that help resolve team conflict. Regardless of the technique you decide to use, its important to understand or try to see each individuals map of […]

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Categories: Blogs

Centers of Excellence Revisited

Agile Elements - Tue, 04/01/2014 - 13:30

I first wrote about Centers of Excellence about 5 years ago and it remains one of the most popular topics here. This post summarizes and updates thoughts on Centers of Excellence (CoE) as a way to build a capability to deliver value when specialty skills are needed. It covers:

  • The rationale for creation
  • The qualities of a good CoE
  • How to grow a CoE
  • Getting started


A Forrester study demonstrates that building a Center of Excellence (CoE) significantly enhances the ability of an organization to meet or exceed the goals that center supports (in this case getting results from BPM.)


Source: Forrester US and UK Enterprise Architecture and Business Process Management Online Survey

When governance, a support structure, guidance, measurements and shared learning exists across an organization, success is far more likely. Success supports organizational and specific projects goals. A need to gain results should be the primary motivation for creating a center of excellence and serves as the foundation for its creation.

Our own experience bears this out. We recommend and assist in developing CoEs to support various objectives. These CoEs increase the long-term effectiveness of an ongoing program. Because few organizations are able to support a fully functioning CoE at the start of a lean, six sigma, agile, BPM or other improvement program, we recommend starting by deploying a steering committee and getting help with training and mentoring to grow it through a maturity cycle into a full-fledged, effective CoE.

Qualities of a Center of Excellence Definition:

A Center of Excellence (CoE) consists of a team of people that promote collaboration and using best practices around a specific focus area to drive business or customer-valued results.

Some key words:

Team: No one person can possess all the skills necessary nor fill all the roles required for a CoE. It will take multiple dedicated people to deliver results. This does not mean that they need to work full-time in the CoE, but all team members must be fully dedicated to success.Collaboration: Value comes from sharing knowledge, skills, experiences and ownership both inside and outside the CoE. Working well in and across team and organization structure is essential.Best Practices: These take the form of methods, tools, templates, approaches and ideas that have shown to have beneficial application across multiple customers, needs, issues and projects.

Focus Area: The area cannot be too narrow nor too broad. It must be just sufficient to meet a specific, long-term, priority business objective. Example focus areas may be process, product development, six sigma, cardiology, program management, strategy, risk, or other technologies, skills, methods, or areas of study.

Results: A CoE is not a library to create and store knowledge. It can only justify its existence if can deliver value significantly greater than the costs of staffing and running it.

Ego: Leave it at the door. Success is shared and celebrated among all participants. A humble willingness to learn, adapt and improve while helping others grow is necessary at all times.

CoEs should serve five basic needs:

1. Governance: Allocating limited resources (money, people, etc.) across all their possible use is an important function of CoEs. They should ensure organizations invest in the most valuable projects and create economies of scale for their service offering.

2. Support: For their area of focus, CoE’s should offer support to their customers. This may be through services needed, project work or providing subject matter experts. Other resources like share facilities for working together and specialty equipment may also be part of the offering.

3. Guidance: Standards, methodologies, templates and knowledge repositories are typical approaches to filling this need.

4. Shared Learning: Training and certifications, skill assessments, team building and formalized roles are all ways to encourage shared learning.

5. Measurements: CoEs should be able to demonstrate they are delivering the valued results that justified their creation through the use of output metrics.


A well functioning CoE is built from full and part-time resources:

· Specialty Skill Practitioners: CoE’s staff, build and borrow resources with deep specialty skills as needed from across and outside the organization. The mix depends on the specific vertical and the current priorities and objectives being deployed.

· Analysts: At the core of a CoE are strong analytic problem solvers that understand how to apply skills across a variety of situations to get the best results. This can include traditional business analysts as well as process improvement specialists with skills in six sigma, lean, and agile concepts.

· Managers: Project, program and change managers stitch together the complex dependencies that ensure readiness for working differently.

· Leadership: Supporting a CoE are visionaries moderated by an enterprise prioritization and resource allocation process. These visionaries focus on expanding use of the competencies and challenging others to improve existing and explore new opportunities and relationships to keep the business relevant for an ever changing world.

Growing Centers of Excellence

Different enterprises are at different levels of sophistication in their use of centers of excellence (CoEs) and view them at different levels of strategic importance. Organizational Maturity Models are a good approximation to the stages enterprises will experience in creating CoE’s. This model helps focus an organization, identify the right times for adding capabilities and leaderships and help and move it to deliver increasing levels of value. Our CoE maturity model identifies five increasing levels of maturity for an organization deploying a CoE:

  1. Initial (chaotic, informal, ad hoc, heroic) the starting point for use of a new process.
  2. Repeatable (managed, documented, process discipline) the process is used repeatedly.
  3. Defined (institutionalized, integrated) the process is defined/confirmed as a standard business process.
  4. Managed (strategic, quantified) best practices are shared and process management and measurement takes place.
  5. Optimized (continuous improvement) includes deliberate and continuous process optimization/improvement.

The Initial stage usually exists before organizations begin to recognize the need for CoE’s. Capabilities may initially live in functional organizations or with individuals. In the earliest stages, establish a steering committee or create initial pilot projects to begin to identify and focus skills in an organization.

Organizations begin to move to a Repeatable stage when they start viewing CoEs as an asset to project teams. With this project centric view, they know that teams need support and are looking for a home for the deeper skills they require. Identify leaders for the CoE and other resources with the skills needed for the roles given above. CoE leadership begins to coordinate across projects, train and mentor others, help plan and set scope, and monitor the capabilities they were responsible for building.

To move to the Defined stage, they begin to define and document the standards and practices for their competency. By this stage, a team charter should define the center. Team members should capture best practices in a wiki or similar format and began to more actively manage associated risk and quality. Training and reference best practices should be standardized and help to actively communicate the competencies across the organization.

Making the leap to the next higher level requires strong coordination and, therefore, strong commitment across executive levels. CoE sponsors and leaders should coach executive leadership so that Organizations can gain this commitment to begin to build Managed, strategic CoEs. The focus becomes across an organization with clear support for corporate plans, integrated with corporate score cards, and an actively managed portfolio of initiatives that use their service. The true power of CoE’s begins to be unleashed as more formal career paths are created and development and mentoring become available for the competencies the CoE supports.

Optomized CoE’s continue to build increased corporate value. At this level, the CoE is an asset that is recognized across the organization. They feel ownership for corporate goals and ensure success of projects supporting those goals. Assessments ensure consistent application and improvement of the competencies needed to meet the goals. They take responsibility for the corporate score cards and their associated value. Audits, skill assessments and certifications further improve capabilities. A well functioning, optimized CoE will improve existing business practices and help grow new capabilities within an organization to maximize value to a changing enterprise.

Getting Started

Consider creating a Center of Excellence to build capabilities to deliver business value when strategic objectives or critical capabilities in an organization require ongoing focus and specialty skills. The above discussion defines what is important. Creating a CoE from scratch cannot happen overnight. But, if you are serious about getting started, follow these broad steps:

  • Gain support at the right level with a focus on delivering value
  • Identify people for leadership and other key roles that are passionate about deepening their skills and delivering results using them
  • Document and share skills and methods; get training and mentoring where skills fall short
  • Apply the skills in pilot projects that are important to the enterprise while mentoring others to expand the capabilities
  • Put in place output measures that track results delivered
  • Formalize the team, integrate it with strategic planning and expand it across the organization
  • Continue to improve, adapt and advance capabilities

Categories: Blogs

Coming Soon: WatchMeCode Screencast Subscriptions!

Derick Bailey - new ThoughtStream - Tue, 04/01/2014 - 13:09

Leadbox ad

I’ve finally decided to do it, after so many times I’ve put it off and so many people asking for it… I’m putting together a WatchMeCode streaming service with monthly subscriptions!

The Early Access Program

I’m not switching everything over to the subscription model, just yet. Instead, I’m getting this released and out the door as quickly as possible, with an early access program.  

If you join the early access program, you’ll get:

  • Streaming access to all current WatchMeCode episodes, before anyone else
  • A chance to influence the direction of WatchMeCode by providing early feedback
  • Discounts on additional services as they are added

All for a discounted monthly subscription price of $5/mo! After the early-access period ends, you’ll get to keep the $5/mo price tag. Everyone that signs up after that will have to pay $9/mo.

How To Get In On This

Sign up for my mailing list to get the early access discount!

I’m expecting to have the early access available in the first weeks of April, with the regular pricing hitting sometime in May. So don’t wait too long to join the mailing list! You won’t be able to get the early adopter price if you’re not there.

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Categories: Blogs

Don't Limit Your Challenges; Challenge Your Limits

Rally Agile Blog - Tue, 04/01/2014 - 13:00

With all the recent talk about agile being dead, we’ve been feeling a dark cloud hanging over us.

Could it really be that it’s time to throw in the towel on agile, to hang up the gloves? Is agile so broken, its principles so polluted? Should we just relinquish ourselves to the couch to watch "Office Space" on permanent loop?

Despite vigorous amounts of coffee and Thriller dance moves, we couldn’t seem to chase this dark cloud away. And then ...

Then it occurred to us that maybe what we really need -- what all of us really need -- is a little inspiration. We need to recharge the very values that make agile so awesome.

We considered agile energy drinks, agile bracelets, and agile ringtones; but then realized, what’s everyone’s favorite form of inspiration? Why, motivational posters, of course.

So, to celebrate this special day, the occasion of our inspiration, we thought we’d share these motivational posters with you, too. Feel free to print out your own copies and frame them for your workspace. We hope you’ll soon feel as inspired as we do!



Rally Software
Categories: Companies

Knowledge Sharing

SpiraTeam is a agile application lifecycle management (ALM) system designed specifically for methodologies such as scrum, XP and Kanban.