Book Review – LEAN-Agile Test-Driven Development

Author Ken Pugh

Picked this book up to add to my LEAN and Agile knowledge.  A tough read as it is very reference

based, so plan on taking your time and re-reading several portions of it, especially if you do not have

experience with LEAN or Agile before.  It is effective in showing how the two methodologies can work

together and are aligned in their thinking on empowered teams and facilitating managers.

– Manifesto for Agile Software Development page xxxi

  • The principles are the focus on this page, like any list of things (aka 7 Habits – I like 4 of them), you should read through the book and come back to this page in integrate into your lean/agile process what will most benefit you.  Unless you have a scrum master, then they will beat you until you bleed to follow all of them.

–       Questions to ask you and your organization on page 23

  • Of this short list, the most important is ‘What are impediments to smaller, more frequent deliveries in your organization?”
  • Why do so many projects/initiatives focus on the big bang deliverable at the GO LIVE, instead of 10 smaller go lives that reduce risk, improve success of hitting each go live and remove stress from the humans in the effort.

–       Resource map of all projects on page 47  (too ugly to post a picture of so here is a nice picture of a frog)  

  • Yes, have either a PM or a project coordinator generate these maps, then spend 2-4 hours every two weeks updating them to keep them fresh and relevant, which works well for a consulting firm with a PMO.
  • If you are a company looking to embrace agile, well you likely do not have the bandwidth to do this effort.  I suggest in place to focus each team member on 3 priorities that are directly tied to the corporate strategy and focus weekly on activities that are impeding work on those 3 each day/week.

–       Model of Lean-Agile Software on page 237  

  • I know skipped a whole heck of a lot of pages, but if you know about LEAN, Agile, Scrum and so forth those pages are refresher and connecting the methodologies.
  • The chart at the bottom of the page is simple, but take note of the size of the boxes as I relate the amount of time you should take in training and adopting efforts for each of those boxes. Thus the most time on setting a good foundation of understanding and building acceptance.

I use this to tie my training and experience in project management, LEAN, and Agile together.  Is it something I use often, no I will not.  But, it will be something I look at when I begin a new project that is either LEAN or Agile or both.


Rule #5 – The 3 Shares

As a customer, I would categorize my vendors into those two segments right off.

A commodity vendor (ex. Paper, toner, etc…) were valued based on price and delivery. Therefore, I could minimize their impact to my bottom line only.

A strategic partner (ex. Developer, marketer, etc…) were valued based on their direct contribution to my top and bottom lines.

As such, the strategic partner is called into a meeting to discuss the 3 shares.

Shared values – partner understands your goals, their role in achieving your goals and their overall mission is to support their customers goals.

This goes beyond just going, ‘yep sure, we want the stuff we work on with you to help you grow or save you money’. The vendor’s own mission or value system must be to directly support their customers growth plans.  It not be prepared to walk away.     

  • Not a supporting value statement – Our vision is to be recognized as a global services innovator, helping customers realize the best results.
  • Supporting value statement – we focus on superb delivery of solutions that achieve business result

Shared benefits – As that partner, if I am impacting their growth the effort I am engaged with the customer must delivery 10 times or more the expenditure my customer is paying out. If it is impacting the profit line, then at minimum 2 times that expenditure. If both, well you all can do the math.

As a customer, I can breakeven on these projects, engagements, initiatives by using my internal employees. The direct benefits must be measurable impact on my growth and/or profit.

On the other side of that coin, I as the customer must understand that you are NOT a commodity vendor. You are a partner and as such price is not the top priority in our relationship. Impact is, right!. Therefore, I as a customer should acknowledge that I need to be a profitable customer to my strategic vendor partner.

This provides two direct benefits.

  1. No other way of saying it. As a vendor, I know which customers drive my profit and whether I state it or not, those are preferred when I have to decide between satisfying one of two customers.
  2. Also, you want your partner to be healthy with a strong bottom line. If they are pinching penny’s (okay dollars now) they will be distracted from you and if they suddenly close up shop that can be very painful if you are in the middle of projects.

* tip – not safe for work if you search for bottom line images on Google.

Shared riskcustomer and partner share the risk of an endeavor.

This is where the vendor partner has to put money in the game. Often in an engagement, project or other activity once you move past 25 to 33% of the project, the customer now has all the risk.

However, if you balance the risk, by contractually agreeing that payments will be based on deliveries and tie the project plans to ensure that at each project gate there is a deliverable that is valued by the customer to be worth 75% of the current payments to that gate.

And of course, the big part of this is the hold back at the end of the contract, to ensure that the deliverable delivers a measurable impact which is normally 30 to 90 days after completion. The hold back should be substantial enough to have the partner in the game through the end gate and not just up to it.

Changing roles of managers

Regardless of your title –





C- alphabet soup

We all must manage people once we left the ranks of engineers, developers, accountants, salespeople and so on.  We manage people.

A recent blog entry in the Harvard Business Review by VINEET NAYAR discussed the changing role of managers from the center of knowledge to knowledge facilitators.  He states, “These frontlines are dominated by digital natives adept at finding information and hungry for empowerment”.

He attributes the availability of large sources of knowledge on the web for this change.  I would add also the new generations reliance on crowdsourcing information versus elder-sourcing.  Regardless, I agree with his points and find that this is the similar experience companies have when they adopt Lean and self-directed teams.

I had a conversation with a very bright guy, (name held back to protect me from being pummeled), during a Lean work shop when a company I was working for was strongly considering (eventually did do) Lean.  He loved the concept and fully supported it, but liked his role as a manager who developed solutions and his being the most experienced knowledgeable person on his team.  He felt that it would be difficult for him (by the way this person was in his early thirties) for him to be a facilitator and not offer solutions, just facilitate the discovery of solutions.

I agree, this is very difficult for managers of people.  Mr. Nayar compares this to being a parent as he states, “”My children don’t seem to need me anymore, a friend complained”

The best management training I ever received was from coaching my kid’s softball and soccer teams.  I was required each year to go to a coaching course at Rutgers. I use more of what I learned at those courses and my experience managing the kids, the other coaches and my stakeholders (the teams parents – oh boy) then any other training.

These courses prepared me for this change that Mr. Nayar’s blog discusses.  As it focused on the different groups and how the head coach cannot play the game, he must facilitate through practice and coaching the players playing the game and the parents supporting those players playing the game in a positive manner.

Take that and apply it to your role as a manager in your business whether you are the CEO or Manager of a department.  You must create the environment for discovery of solutions, prod and poke your team for all possible solutions (see Rule #4), RESIST the urge to point out the solution to them and manage the stakeholder to make sure they stay positive and supportive and not derisive.

So, you want to be a manager in this age of knowledge workers being the experts or having access to experts to develop solutions to the business problems of today.  Forget that MBA and go to a youth coaching clinic.  Potentially also bring some orange slices, juice boxes and variety bag of chips to work every once in a while.  

Rule #4 Ask why 5 times

Let’s get right to it, this can be very annoying to that stressed out, business internal/external customer. I have seen by the 3rd why a quick outburst of ‘just do it!’.


However, this not the root cause analysis tools defined on 5 Whys Wikipedia. This is for managers to use with their teams. Normally you do not get yelled at by your team (unless you have Dcat or Rees working for you). So, don’t worry about that too much.


The concept of asking why 5 times is to broaden an individuals view of the problem and solution they are presenting. As a manager to ensure they fully understand the problem and are not solving a symptom. That is the tactical reason for asking why 5 times.


The cultural reason is to help –

Why #

Eliminate Behavior

Foster Behavior


Only seeing to the end of the nose of the problem Questioning their own conclusions and assumptions


Reacting to the “oh that’s it” emotion of thinking they have solved the problem on to have you shoot them down Leverage the relationships they have with fellow team members to bounce their solutions off of


Once they have a problem solved, stop thinking Develop multiple solutions, pros/cons of each and evaluate, then recommend


Being technology people working for a business Come at the problem from other sides, putting yourself in the business and realizing one solution that is always there is ‘do nothing’


Thinking that this problem is not connected to any other problem Learning how to explain the problem and solution to the business in their language


For teams that have been firefighters (reacting instead of responding) in the pressure driven world of IT support, you as a manager need to utilize rule #4 to make the firefighting effective, not just efficient as demonstrated by tickets being closed. Effective by analyzing the problem in more detail and offer options, not just ‘a’ solution, but options with doing nothing the easiest one to offer up first or last.


Problems are costing money where solutions are saving or making money.    

Book review – Jump The Curve

Author Jack Uldrich


When I have been tasked to either consult on or build a team that can innovate, I touch on Jump The Curve to remind me of how best to create that environment.


I was asked the other day would you rather build or run things.




–       Insight to allow focus on innovative problem solving on page 56

  • To develop innovative solutions team members need to spend time.  Whether it is staring at walls, walking a creativity path in a garden or my favorite a yo-yo and indo board.  The point made here is each members needs periods in their day that they are not interrupted (even for that I just need a sec interruption).  
  • Lean thinking also regards this critical.

–       Use the wisdom of crowds on page 105

  • This is a scary thought for most businesses that I know and will take the leap that it scares almost all business people.  Would you take your most critical business problems and publish them to the public to have crowd-sourcing produce solutions?

  • Let’s put it this way – your business needs to meet a threat from a new, fast moving from a competitor.  You need to drastically improve a service, product or develop new.  Would you in 2 sentences publish on a the largest billboard outside your building this improvement need and requesting help to solve it?




–       Build a diverse team, focus on skills versus personality on page 112

  • One, I do like that use of Lewis and Clark as the example.
  • Two, it is a strong example of ensuring your team of innovators has the necessary skills and don’t be afraid to look in unusual settings (old, young, local, remote and experienced or just strongly educated)

–       Changing the game on page 134

  • The Wii example vs Xbox and PS3, are less about technology and more about understanding markets.  Wii took a simpler approach to bring gaming to a new market – non-tech consumers.  You know, grandma.

–       Learning to unlearn on page 183   

  • To truly innovate you need to unlearn how you solved the problem last time.  When you want to bake a cake, you follow the directions.  If you want to innovate on cake baking you have to unlearn how you first baked a cake.


If you’d rather build things, this book will help you with that team that you need to surround yourself.


Rule #3 ask three times to get to a yes


That is not to say that you could not get a yes on the first try, but let’s go over a little about the psychology responding to change that your request, proposal or demand is creating.

1st is a defensive no    

The natural reaction to a change is deny it. Therefore, the human nature response of those who are not as self-aware of their emotional intelligence is to shake there head and just explain why no is the right answer.





2nd is a no not right now

– The second no is not related to emotional intelligence, but rather real emotion of fear. Most businesses have many initiatives, projects, activities and thus changes going on at once. You are requesting not just a NEW change, but an additional change. How could we possibly do this additional ‘thing’ with all the other ‘things’ we are doing.




3rd no is the one that really means it, that is the one you really need to have your ducks in a row    

  • So, now whomever is the approving stakeholder (your boss, a CFO, a CEO, a C- or VP of something or other) is realizing that you are annoying and not going to give up on this request. So, now they give it some serious thought. Look at your data, compare it to other priorities, see how it aligns to the strategy and looks for conflicts with budget, resources and other activities.





Do you get a yes, well it of course depends on your presentation, their analysis, the politics, the weather, and whether that damn butterfly is flapping is darn wings somewhere. However, it is the first real chance to get that hard yes.

Beware the first time you ask getting a yes, because they will expect you to be ready to go.

Some other thoughts on yes –

Dean Rieck

How Negotiators get to yes: 
Psychology Today: Here to Help





6 Simple Questions

I love these questions for a few reasons.

  • They are great to mix into interviews to see how people respond, react and lastly answer
  • I re-ask myself these several times a year and especially before I am interviewing or starting a new project
  • Use them when I am working with a new team to help me identify their focus

1. What has been the most effective motivator for you to do your best work ever?

2. What work has been the most difficult for you to delegate to others?

3. How would you define the purpose or goal of your work?

4. How have you tried to achieve excellence in the work you do?

5. Of which one of your failures are you most proud?

6. And which of your successes was completely undeserved?

Perhaps I will add my answers sometime in the future.