The Disciplined Agile Value Stream Consultant

This section of the portal is for supporting the Disciplined Agile Value Stream Consultant Workshop (DAVSC), currently under development. Discussions on the pages here will take place on the Disciplined Agile LinkedIn group.

Disciplined Agile Value Stream Consultant Table of Contents

The role of the DAVSC

The Disciplined Agile Value Stream Consultant has the responsibility of guiding an organization to being effective at business agility. Being a value stream consultant requires more than just a solid understanding of how programs work. It also requires an understanding of all the major parts of the value stream:

  • Strategic planning and budgeting
  • Lean management
  • Portfolio management
  • Product management
  • The development intake process
  • How to create effective value streams
  • Dependency management, collaboration and planning
  • Shared services
  • DevOps
  • Support

Why Value Stream Consultant?

Value streams are the flow of work from concept to consumption.  Having effective value streams require:

  1. the proper capabilities of people and equipment be allocated to them
  2. small batches of work are used
  3. an effective workflow is used and continuously improved

Understanding value streams is key to quick delivery of value to customers – both internal and external. But just as importantly, complex systems require us to attend to the relationships between the components of a system. While in some sense everything is related to everything else in complex systems, having a value stream readily identifies what the most important relationships are. This also enables each part of the value stream readily see how they relate to the entire creation and delivery process.

Comparing the DAVSC with the SPC

Note: This section assumes familiarity with SAFe. Further note: The term “value stream” here is used is Lean’s, not SAFe’s modification. 

To understand the difference between the DAVSC and the SPC, one must first understand the difference between Disciplined Agile’s approach and SAFe’s. First, let me be clear. This is no question that SAFe can provide a foundation for effective software development at scale. However, when we’ve examined the sustained success stories we’ve seen, many of them had people driving the SAFe implementations by adding many of the concepts we’re mentioning here.  We are not saying you have to abandon SAFe to achieve success. But are saying that adding a few practices and shifting your perspective from levels to the value stream would be useful.

SAFe is organized around levels with the program being at the bottom and the portfolio being at the top. SAFe suggests starting with Essential SAFe, which focuses on the program level.  SAFe’s general approach is to look at the teams in an organization and provide a mechanism on how they can work together better. This often provides immediate improvement. After Essential SAFe, an SPC can lead their organization into adopting the higher levels. This is a bottom up, combining approach based on the belief you must start with Agile teams to have an Agile organization.

At large scale, this approach is often the best available. But for organizations that are less than 500 people, it is ofter better to start with full value streams (portfolio through deployment).  Portfolio and product management are not that difficult here. Howe to have different trains work together is also easier. DA’s method of organizing around the value stream provides both a simpler approach while being more complete than merely starting with Essential SAFe.

One way to see the value of starting with full value streams is to realize it is similar to building an application vertically – value and feedback are achieved quicker.  Scaling by levels is like building an application horizontally. Scaling by value stream at a time is like vertical slices. Once one value stream is improved, others can follow suit, learning from the first.

Lean and Theory of Constraints also emphasize that small batches of work are better than larger ones. While SAFe lowers the amount of work in process to be 3 months of work for an ART, that’s still a large batch. DA provides other methods besides epics and MVPs which are applicable to Agile at scale and enable shorter planning cycles and therefore smaller batches of work.

What’s required to go beyond SAFe is taking a true system-thinking approach, view the adoption from a value stream perspective and learn how to create smaller product teams than ARTs to enable smaller batch sizes.  Instead of learning how to deal with big projects, we want to learn how to create a network of semi-autonomous, self-organizing teams that can deliver innovative offerings quickly.

Instead of trying to take Agile teams and put them together, we want to create an environment which will facilitate the creation of Agile teams.  Teams cannot be Agile when embedded in an ineffective system.  DA provides additional insights on Lean management which can improve the management methods of an organization.

The DAVSC takes a holistic view based around the value stream.  While starting at the team/program level is often the most convenient, it is not always the best place to start. Instead of starting by levels, Disciplined Agile suggests starting by selecting blocked value streams and improving them.  This requires a simpler, more effective model of the business side of the value stream. This enables DA to start with the entire value stream. This is useful for all but huge organizations. Since most large organizations are really collections of medium-sized development groups, this approach is almost universally applicable.

To accomplish this, the DAVSC will learn some concepts not in SAFe. These include:

  • the minimum business increment (MBI)
  • how to create dedicated product teams

While both the DAVSC and SPC cover much of the same ground, DAVSC is based on a fundamental principle of customizing your adopted method for your organization. This results in an adoption approach that is “fit for purpose” for your organization and therefore simpler to adopt.  The following are capabilities the DAVSC learns that is not in SPC training:

  • Be able to assess the organization she is assisting
  • Use this to determine an improvement backlog that fits the organization
  • Understand how to align programs to budgets to facilitate agile budgeting and product thinking
  • Coach management in how to adopt Middle-Up-Down Management.
  • A simpler and more effective way of doing product management
  • Use Lean and Flow thinking to integrate shared services into the development teams when possible

Helping Organizations of Different Sizes

We think of organizations as being one of 4 general sizes:

  • Small (20-60). While more than one business stakeholder may be present, they work together to give a unified story to the development group.
  • Medium (60-350). One group of stakeholders but multiple teams implementing what’s required.
  • Large (300-1000). Multiple groups of stakeholders each having multiple teams implementing what’s needed.
  • Very large (1000+). Multiple large groups.

It is important to note that many large companies are comprised of several small to medium sized organizations. That is, it is common that a very large company will have dozens of groups responsible for separate products, each group being in the 30-100 size. In cases like this it is important that the entire value stream (from strategy to support) be covered.

Upon Completion You Will Be Able To:

  • work effectively as a lean transformation agent with organizations of all sizes.
  • perform an assessment as a first step in creating a suggested improvement backlog for the transformation
  • work with the organization to jointly create an adoption backlog for them
  • start each step of the improvement backlog
  • discuss the pros of DA over SAFe
  • provide training of the tailored DA approach to leadership and management roles in the organization
  • how create consistent objectives across the organization and align with corporate governance without restricting how teams can choose their own Way of Working.

Workshop Layout

Links to these pages are updated on a regular basis.

  1. Overview of FLEX
  2. The Business Case for Agility
  3. Minimum Business Increments
  4. Understanding Our Inherent Problem
  5. The Value of Value Streams
  6. Turning a Value Stream Map into a Kanban Board
  7. The value stream of the effective organization.
  8. Seeing the challenges in your value stream
  9. Using Inherent Simplicity to See our System More Clearly
  10. Portfolio management
  11. Product Management
  12. Acceptance Test-Driven Development (ATDD)
  13. Creating Visibility Across the Organization
  14. The development intake process
  15. Planning, Collaboration and Dependency Management
  16. Organizing Programs and Teams
  17. Implementation
  18. Release and Realization Metrics
  19. Role of Management and Culture
  20. Creating an Improvement Backlog
  21. Creating Effective Value Streams
  22. Using FLEX to both Enhance and Simplify SAFe
  23. Finding Your challenges in SAFe
  24. Creating an Improvement Backlog for SAFe

Other pages of interest