Being Agile with Disciplined Agile

What are different Agile approaches? 

Today we will talk about the toolkit approach of Disciplined Agile. Now you might have heard about this statement many times, especially the people who have some familiarity with Disciplined Agile. But, some of you may wonder some Agile approaches called themself a framework while some called methodology, and this Disciplined Agile is calling themselves Toolkit. So, what is this whole confusion is all about.

Here is my interpretation of Toolkit, Framework, and Methodology. In my opinion, these are helping and focuses on the same problem and the same objective to support the development team and the individual to find the best possible approach to help them solve their problems. So the sooner we can do it, the better it is because the companies the team which is going to go through some trouble/ struggle get fast relief. They ultimately need to own their possibility that’s the whole objective of being it a framework, methodology, or Toolkit.

Framework Approach

This approach gives you a ready-to-start minimum process. For example, you want to do software development, this is how you plan, and this is how you start, how you should go forward, and for later on period whatever need you can add. So, it’s like we give you a quick start, and then it’s all own you where you have to find what works best for you. It will help you evolve your working ways and result in you owning the course of work you not some academic work.

Methodology Approach

It looks like a bad name in today’s world, and people think it is very detailed and tells us what to do and what not to do. But methodology can also be described as a ready-to-start exact thorough process. Rather than giving you a minimum, it gives you a detailed process, and it also tells you how you can reduce the work in the future. “Tailor it as you need.” More refined work steps and methods are defined by the methodology or framework you need to follow in methodology.

Toolkit Approach

The toolkit approach gives us many ideas and various processes, which are there as a Guide. So here is no direct jump start. Instead, it is coming as a part of the collection of ideas where your collection of ideas will be looked into and will create a process, and at last, we will adapt and inspect it. 

So ultimately, I believe the three approaches are Framework, Methodology, and Toolkit. As an owner of the process, I need to own my ways of working and all these approaches. Some organizations have one way of working while others have another way of working. Still, after few months, they need to have maturity where the development team in consuming organization, start owning their process, that’s their whole idea of helping you develop your ways of working. 

Now we can say that some may agree with this process and some may not.

The formal definition of disciplined agile is, “Disciplined Agile is a tool kit, not a framework. DA is focused on the decisions you need to consider, the options available to you, and the trade-offs associated with these options.” What are the advantages and disadvantages associated with that option? Sometimes, In the initial phase, you come up with the first-level customize solution itself. The DA approach is usually either your start with a minimum framework or a detailed framework. Still, it takes time to mature the minimum framework to tailor or cut out the clear framework. So, we are telling you that we have all industrial knowledge and have created a particular knowledge base. Few people initially can sit together and create something suitable for you at the beginning itself. But, you can improve as you go along and in their understanding, this toolkit approach can fasten/ speed up your journey of reaching the desired pace of working, and that’s what the disciplined agile Toolkit approach is all about. 

Customization and tailoring should always be a part of your work. So no one, even who runs a business or organization, can give you a step-by-step guide to run a business. However, when the books and information; you gain from these; should be seen as a context to learn from them, you start finding your ways of working, and that’s the practical thing we try to do.

What is the Disciplined Agile (DA)?

Discipline Agile four-layer Approach: Various processes target various areas of the enterprise. In the first layer, the first thing it communicates is the disciplined approach, an enterprise, and an organization-wide approach. It is just not the development team approach.

Difference between: Scrum and Disciplined Agile

Scrum-> It purposely only talks about the development process, delivery process of a product. And may not want to get into expectably as per the defined definition. It is something you need to find out yourself as you go along. 

Instead of providing a development team solution, frameworks such as Scaled Agile Framework and Disciplined Agile Framework primarily target an enterprise of agility. Of course, there could be success or areas of improvement, but still disciplined Agile is also chasing the same path. With the help of this, you will be clear about what Disciplined Agile is and how it is different. 

Scrum is a framework the disciplined agile is telling first. Then, you look at your problem, that you decide which frame you need; do you need a Scrum or a Kanban or some other may be a program management frame. It is foundational stuff where they talk about various possible lifecycles, rolls, and various fundamental stuff needed to do Disciplined Agile work.

Four-Layers of Disciplined Agile

Four-Layers of Disciplined Agile

At the bottom, we have a foundation layer, this layer is called Disciplined agile delivery, or I say in the new world, they call it DISCIPLINED AGILE FRAMEWORK. So, this is the layer where many of us interact with it. If I said some 7-8 years ago, the Disciplined Agile (DA) was DAD standard for Disciplined Agile Delivery, which primarily focuses on the delivery part of the layer. So, the DA DevOps layer mainly focuses on how to do this development, plan it, release it, take care of the data management and release management, and support an IT operation. So, ultimately taking care of your IT organization, Disciplined, and guidelines are a part of Disciplined Agile DevOps. 

Second Layer Known as the value stream layer, it’s a layer that focuses on integrating the organization strategy with a development team. What are they doing? So it’s primarily focusing on how to do governance, how to do project management, portfolio management, and how do we run a continuous improvement at the label of a larger organization? Rather than just focusing on the team doing it, that kind of process more focuses on the alignment of a value stream, the way we run a business, or you can say a business line or a value-generating line you have in the organization. It is working together, so the value stream level process is more targeted towards that business line. Those values streamline and then finally have an enterprise collection of a process that guides an enterprise-level strategy. The enterprise layer, I feel, is still evolving. There are some enterprise architectures in other areas which are well. Some of the process blades are well defined, whereas others are still emerging. But that’s their whole idea or a four-step idea that’s the approach that disciplined agile has taken. 

Now, let’s talk about it a little bit deeper and talk about these layers further. You may see some of the ideas. Foundation Layer, as we started looking at it, its primary focuses on principles and various ways of doing agile, different way of doing Kanban, it has multiple life cycles.

Now let’s talk about Disciplined Agile DevOps. You might have seen the simple version. Now, I am showing you here where each process is profound. There is a subprocess in a single process with various goals and various options that tell us how to do a particular thing. So in the Disciplined Agile Delivery part, what does the data management part tell us? How do we manage the data well, and how do we ensure security, what options do we need to consider, when we are working on our data, how do we manage our support well, how do we do our IT operation? These things can interact to deliver the business value faster, so the whole disciplined agile DevOps layer is pretty mature. It is something like they have a course and here and even if you are not following Disciplined Agile. Learning about this particular layer with the help of Disciplined Agile, which they call is advantageous, especially if you are in the Agile Project Management or Agile Coaching space. Because it gives you various options of doing all this IT-related stuff, and that’s the knowledge-based, they have related to disciplined agile DevOps. 

Value Stream: In simple words, we can say it primarily shows the relationship or helps us create an association of the work with the previous layer. You can call or when we are doing our DevOps work when we are doing our delivery work how those deliver work relates to the overall picture; that’s the whole idea for the value stream. So, its immediate starts from strategies. Then you have funding of the initiative. You identify that work will be minimum business implement, then you reach the Disciplined Agile Delivery Team starts producing the releases. So, you can say that this is how I am integrating the organization’s strategy. I am laying an upstream to the delivery team. I keep feeding back, and then I keep delivering my business operation value, and then I keep getting the feedback again. So, it’s like overall management of Business ideas till benefits realization. So, we had entered the product backlog, the hypothesis behind the particular item behind that collection of things, and how those hypotheses were converted into the real value if something that value stream layer is expected to help you see and improve. 

Final Layer: In this, I am focusing more on the enterprise. In a way, you can say how we provide an enterprise environment with the help of the right policies, even at an HR level. This architectural level supports the overall agility at an enterprise level. So, that’s something they are targeting, providing some guidance even at an enterprise level. So, now looking at these four things, you might get an idea that this is how it is different, and this is how I possibly can dig deeper into it. Because it’s like there are overall Disciplined agile is taking is solving your enterprise Agility problem rather than just translating your development or delivery issues. 

Choose your WoW the disciplined Agile (DA) way. 

 I am introducing 5 step processes with which help you will get a sufficient understanding of the disciplined agile content outline. So, what they tell us is that the whole objective is to choose your way of working. That’s the entire thing. Ultimately, I believe whichever framework you use, you are the only owner of your ways of working. You need to own it, and the sooner you hold it, the better it is. So, don’t blame the XYZ framework or a methodology or a toolkit if something is not working because those were very ordinary things. They were made for the given context. The soon you own it, things will start working towards it. 

So, what is the approach that DA is talking about first before you even pick up a process? Would you please not say we will make sprint, Scrum, Kanban, a waterfall? It would help if you decided based on the context you get. Do I have a dynamic requirement or a stable requirement or whatever? There should be some parameters that you can use for what problem I am solving in each area that I am operating in. there has to be an evaluation of your context. Now, how to do it can help you do it, introduce one of the rest of the context, and select the best-fit life cycle. So, the idea here is, there could be a life cycle that could look like a Scrum. There could be another lifecycle that may look like a Kanban. There could be another life cycle that might be needing a project way of working where you have a project charter, initial level of funding, milestone, and governance process in place. It is difficult to say that this organization will always do continuous delivery for an organization or always do a Project. Once you analyze your content, and it might be tough to assume that the organization operating wants your context, an organization supports teams taking the existing product. Some groups create a new innovative product where they don’t even know if their product will be succussed. Some sections are creating the next version of a successful outcome. 

We cannot replicate one team process to another team because they are working in a different context. So, analyze the context and select the best fit lifecycle where Disciplined Agile gives you six choices, so it’s like you are choosing a big frame. Hence, it would help if you stitched your ways of working, but the active phase’s stitching requires the outer layer to get ready first. So, by selecting the lifecycle and creating a lifecycle, you make the outer frame for your work, and then you get deeper and connect the dots in the third process they are talking about. So, there could be various process codes in some places. For example, you may need to hire a developer and create a new team in some contexts. But, you don’t need that so in some processes. So, you don’t need a process goal of bringing or forming the already formed team.

So, depending upon where you wait, even if your context is well understood, we try to understand that okay that this delivery space we have x no. Suppose goals and are more relevant to us. Then, based on our context and selection of lifecycle, we identify the processor core.

Process core can be understood by: Forming a team and creating a shade vision of the product, coordinating a product activity with each other is a processor core. Out of these, we have a list of the process so that the team comes together, and they need to find out which processing core is relevant for us. 

Now we go deeper; we understood daily scrum meeting is needed to update all about the progress. Now how to do it? We need to make some choices. You can do a daily 15 minutes meeting or do it with the help of a digital dashboard. If you have a situation where your team members are spread across multiple geographies and multiple time zone, you may prefer not to have 15 minutes meeting. You don’t want everybody to come together. You want them to get a digital space, and that is how they probably operate now. Another team working is more or less in the same timezone may use a 15 minutes time zone may use a 15 minute to coordinate their work, which is how we are making these choices. Hence, it is not one choice that will apply to a team even if their lifecycle is the same but depending upon their content, they can have a different way of achieving how do we coordinate activities with each other, and that’s the fourth step. When we have the fourth step, you had your ways of working ready, so you have a lifecycle you understand which of the processor core are essential, and you know how you are going to achieve those process goals and then continue the improvement. So, the whole idea is to be it a Disciplined or XYZ Framework. Even in the waterfall world, there was always a need for continuous improvement. We may pick up the waterfall methodology as defined in our organization templates, not in the book. We just followed the never look for inspecting and adapting and continuously improving it, and then we blame the waterfall model and then it might not be the right idea to do.

So, any right idea to do so in any framework is a good starting point. Here the difference is that you are going guided through continuous improvement, so when you are looking for improvement again, you may review all the available processes because the knowledge base is giving you a collection of methods. So, you don’t have to reinvent your strategy all the time. Sometimes, you may want to reinvent that. But of the cases but the majority of the cases, you may find something which you can use from the Disciplined Agile Toolkit space itself. So, these are the five-step processes, and probably they will help you get some insight into Disciplined Agile. I know there is a limitation of time, and I am trying to give practical things rather than talking about theories and principles and values of disciplined agile, which you can feel. You can learn further if you like the idea.

1) Analyze the context: So, they have a kind of a factor or a context identifying framework they call it sliding factor identification thing and in a way you can say that I sit with my team. I need to understand where do I stand. So maybe I am in a group one. I may say I have ten people working together. We are co-located and from a single organization. All of us belong together, and we all are have the skills which are needed. To get the job done we are not working in a highly complex compliance environment that’s a one thing and our application is integration and our solution complexity is integrate with something else our domain is somewhere between complex and straight forward so this is how they are identifying their context this is a particular team so you can see based in their context definition their process challenges or the selection might also vary their could be another team assuming this specific team are 50 people they are working globally in different time zone and they have multiple organization so its like they have a outsource part of work they are paying some of their partner some of the work is done by vendors or service providers the skills are accessible to acquire they are not working on very complicated skills compliances there are some regularity space they are working in assuming they are working in a banking and some other place they have a regulatory oversight slate to be seen and application integration with multiple new as well as legacy application and domain is decently complex. If I say the blue color, it is team B, and they could be red color could be A. Can I put one framework for both of these teams? A1 to start with forgetting about, later on, they will learn this is not working for us. Do gave them one framework to start. Disciplined agile is saying that might be too much, so you are definitely seating them for a failure before you fix them, so why do you two analyze the context and see you know A is very different from B. A may do 15 minutes of workout daily meetings. Still, B may not do a formal daily meeting. They are 50 people; they are spread across multiple geographies. There are paid partners; we need to take care of the details of what they are doing? There are compliances. We need to have strict documentation to ensure that as we are in. So, somebody will say we should not follow agile why? B also requires some agility, but the definition of agility of a B and A will be very different, but both are Agile in their context. Hence, they need to explore at the beginning of their initiative, and another thing is this context may change over time. Therefore, you start with like A, and maybe after few months, you may end up into B, so you are initially experimenting with a new product or service. When this new product or service started making sense, it started expanding more prominent and more significant. Now you have moved towards B space; you might begin with a process A. Still, over some time, you need to keep analyzing your context continuously, and that’s the continuous improvement you are making, and that’s the whole idea of step 5. So first, you do analyze your context, and that’s your starting point, and there are two tools and frameworks there is further guidance on how to find out where do you stand the beauty of the framework or a toolkit I must y=use the word toolkit and once you do that step 1 is over. 

2) Then you talk about Select best-fit life cycle. What does it mean? They are saying we don’t have any love for one way of working. We love evaluation; we love choices, so we are okay with the one team doing Kanban, one team doing Scrum, one team doing project management, and one group doing a lean. One team is doing a significant program level of work that looks like a Safe. So, there could be a different team doing differently. So, team A may initially start something called an Agile life cycle or maybe a project built on Scrum. So, the agile life cycle is primarily saying add project management team initiation and closing thing in a way they call it inception and transition phase to Scrum. So it gives a structure to the initialization and the closing activity because that might be the context needed when using an agile life cycle. You produce something at the end later on. When you wanted to grow, and you want to have 20 teams of 50 people working for you may change you may go for a program life cycle. So, you may modify the lifecycle as you go along. So that you know how possibly we can make a choice so Agile life cycle as I said scrum + project management and lean life cycle Kanban + project management. These are primally saying Scrum-based Kanban and having some initiate which brings some structure, some initial estimation, some initial information, some initial architecture. Because that might be needed in the project term or required when you govern well because you have a regulatory reason to follow, that’s the chosen one and two. Suppose you don’t have a project way of working. You want to work on a continuous delivery model; you work on a sprint; you finish the sprint, release the sprint. Therefore, the next sprint is the next release when they call it a continuous delivery life cycle. So continuous delivery life cycle is more or less is exactly the way scrum is defined. Continuous delivery with Kanban we don’t do a sprint planning and time boxing and all those stuff that’s overhead for us because we have changed our context we want to do a continuous delivery linear side

So these four options, technically speaking they are Scrum and Kanban options. One is the Scrum approach; another is Scrum and Kanban with a non-project-related system. I believe straitening the business case for future work could be a very exploratory work that you may want to do in a lean lifecycle approach. The program life cycle is primally using any of these four, and then you want to integrate these teams to work on a more extensive program, so it provides a leadership layer on top of it, and then we take it forward. First, you analyze your context. The second one is you do and regularly select your life cycle. That’s how you can say that it is very different than any of the existing approaches or working. 

3) Process Goal of DAD: The disciplined agile delivery part is used when you are doing development. Some of the process goals are relevant. These primary project process goals are relevant to a delivery part of it or development part of it. There are other processes behind these processes. You need to identify which goals are relevant for your project and avoid areas where you may not want to work, for example, forming a team you might not need this, so to leave that and only identify relevant process gaol according to the project

4) Make some choices: In continuation to point 3, you have to make choices now. For example, assuming the process goal is developing a shared vision, you have multiple choices. First, you reached a particular process goal; each process goal has multiple ways of achieving it. So each process goal, you need to develop a shared vision. It would help if you considered various things so you can say that these are various decision points and then there are various ways of achieving it. We have to go through to achieve these process goals. These are the consideration or areas we need to work on, and each area is associated with various options. And in the actual list where you have these details, each option has the pros and cons elaborated. It would help if you chose the sub-option very carefully based on the situation. It would be best if you used what and why. In some cases, you also see preferences. You can see there is an arrow mark where it indicates. In general, these things get sorted in the order of their preferences. They are showing the approach to go forward to give you option the preference information. The toolkit is also sharing some of the preferable things after reaching step four; you find out what will work for you. So I spoke about the example about the coordinating activity as a go all one teammate decide to do every day 15 minutes call another teammate to decide not to have a call but have a chat room or digital dashboard to manage and coordinate their work, so that’s something that you find out and work 

5) Guided continuous improvement: So this is something you should focus on. Whatever you have done in steps 1 to 4, everything is challengeable. There is nothing frozen. Disciplined is not about following the line all the time. Disciplined is all about challenging the line and finding the best possible line, so we have four steps we are not going haywire. So, all the time, we are asking, Is this the right thing we are doing? So we analyze our contracts periodically with the help of retrospectives. We may choose our goals again; we may change our project life cycle. We may move from a project life cycle to a continuous life cycle or vise versa. We chose our process goal again. We make some choices, change of the choices because of the various learning which we have made and that’s how we continuously improve. Our toolkit is coming as an asset. 

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