Sabine’s Principle of Cumulative Quality Advantage

Many organizations won’t survive the next decade. Of those that survive, even they are likely to be extinct before century’s end — especially the largest of contemporary organizations.

I was thinking today of a few essential adaptations that enterprises must make immediately in order to stave off their own almost-inevitable death.

With Regard to Business Strategy

  • Measure value delivered and make decisions empirically based on those data.
  • Strive toward a single profit-and-loss statement. Understand which value streams contribute to profit, yes, but minimize fine-grained inspection of cost.
  • Direct-to-consumer, small-batch delivery is winning. It will continue to win.

With Regard to People

  • Heed Conway’s Law. Understand that patterns of communication between workers directly effect the design and structure of their results. Organize staff flexibly and in a way which resembles future states or ‘desired next-states’ so those people produce the future or desired next-architectures. This implies that functional business units and structures based on shared services must be disassembled; instead, organize people around products and then finance the work as long-term initiatives instead of finite projects.
  • Distribute all decision-making to people closest to the market and assess their effectiveness by their results; ensure they interact directly with end users and measure (primarily) trailing indicators of value delivered. Influence decision-making with guiding principles, not policies.
  • The words ‘manager’ and ‘management’ are derogatory terms and not to be used anymore.
  • Teams are the performance unit, not individuals. Get over it.

With Regard to Technology

  • Technical excellence must be known by all to be the enabler of agility.
  • Technical excellence cannot be purchased — it is an aspect of organizational culture.

For example, in the realm of software delivery, extremely high levels of quality are found in organizations with the shortest median times-to-market and the most code deployments per minute. The topic of Continuous Delivery is so important currently because reports show a direct correlation between (a) the frequency of deployment and (b) quality.

That is, as teams learn to deploy more frequently, their time-to-market (lead time), recovery rates, and success rates all change for the better — dramatically!

I have a theory which is exemplified in the following graph.

Sabine’s Principle of Cumulative Quality Advantage Explained

As the intervals between deployments decrease (blue/descending line)

…quality increases (gold/ascending line)

…and the amount & cost of technical debt decreases (red area)

…and competitive advantage accumulates (green area).

Note: The cusp between red and green area represents the turning point an organization makes from responding to defects to preventing them.

This is a repost from David’s original article at

This post is inspired in part by these awesome texts:

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Video: There’s no Crying In Retrospectives

Woman: “Is this a girl thing?”

Man: “No, there’s some pretty whiney people in QA that are both guys and girls.”

Okay, okay, all kidding aside…It’s easy to get a chuckle out of noticing that retrospectives can bring up emotions for people, both men and women, inside or outside of QA.

This is not to poke fun at any gender or any department but just to share some light humour around how emotional the process can be for everyone.

This emotional connection is, in fact, one of the humanizing aspects of Agile methods. Our emotions are what make us human and being agile is about being more human.

This video made me smile and I hope it makes you smile too!


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80 Agile Links Right Here on Agile Advice!

Did you know the “Agile Resources” page on this blog has 80 links to valuable Agile Resources compiled by Mishkin Berteig?

The page contains a number of links to recommended web sites, books or tools relating to Agile Work. It’s updated from time-to-time and as this is done, announcements are posted on the Agile Advice blog. As such, this page will always be “under construction”. If you have links to suggest, Mishkin will examine them for consideration.

Please feel free to post suggestions.

We’d love to read your comments and ideas!


Introductory Material:

Agile Axioms
Agile Manifesto
The OpenAgile Primer
OpenAgile Resources and Presentations – English & Chinese available
Agile Work Cheat Sheets and White Papers – Berteig Consulting Inc. [pdf]

Agile Software Focus:

Extreme Programming
Methods and Tools
The Scrum Primer [PDF]
A Scrum Primer – Report from Yahoo! [PDF]
Scrum and XP from the Trenches
Scrum and Kanban
Control Chaos – Ken Schwaber and The Scrum Methodology
Agile Software Development by Alistair Cockburn
Agile vs. Lean – Thad Scheer
No Silver Bullet by Frederick Brooks
Agile Planet – agile blog aggregator
Buildix – agile software dev tools on a CD
Agile Forums
Implementing Scrum

Project Management:

Agile Project Management with Scrum – Ken Schwaber
Project Management Institute
Agile Project Management Yahoo! Group
Burndown and Burnup Charts
Huge List of Software Project Management resources
Scrum Alliance – Agile Project Management and Training
Project Management Resources – by Michael Greer. I don’t agree with everything on this site, but if you are looking for traditional PM stuff this is a good place to go.

Lean and Theory of Constraints:

Lean Software Development – Mary and Tom Poppendieck
Evolving Excellence – by Kevin Meyer, Bill Waddell, Dan Markovitz NEW!
Theory of Constraints – Eliyahu Goldratt
Agile Work for Flow Projects – Mishkin Berteig
The Toyota Production System
Practice Without Principles – TPS Without the Toyota Way – Victor Szalvay
Agile Work Uses Lean Thinking – Whitepaper [pdf] by Mishkin Berteig


Agile Management Yahoo! Group
Slow Leadership – the opposite of Agile?
Adaptive Management – Jeffrey Phillips

Adult Education:

The Self-Educative, Narrative and Metaphorical Faculties of the Soul – Alexei Berteig (pdf)

Team Building:

The Wisdom of Teams: Creating the High-Performance Organization
Retrospective Patterns by William Wake
How to Win Friends & Influence People – Dale Carnegie

Community Development:

Corporate Culture:

Catastrophic Organizational Change – Tobias Mayer
The Corporate Culture Survival Guide – Edgar H. Schein
Good to Great (fastcompany article) – Jim Collins

Agile Services:

Berteig Consulting – Agile Work Coaching, Training and Consulting
CC Pace
Digital Focus
Israfil Consulting Services Corporation
Scrum Alliance
Tobias Mayer
David Chilcott
Joe Little
Michael Vizdos

Agile in Other Domains:

Extreme Project Management for Architects

Experiences and Stories of Applying Agile in Other Domains:

Agile Documentary Video Project
Agile Publishing

The following sections of material are based on the Agile Work Cheat Sheet.

We are Creators

Reality is Perceived

An Introduction to General Systems Thinking by Gerald M. Weinberg

Change is Natural

About “Resistance” by Dale H. Emery

Trust is the Foundation

Agile or Not Agile?
Trust and Small Groups

Empower the Team

Launching an Agile Team – A Manager’s Howto Guide

Amplify Learning

Abe Lincoln’s Productivity Secret – a nice little bit about being properly prepared (although caution should be taken not to over-prepare!)

Eliminate Waste

Self-Organizing Team

Variations on the Daily Standup – Rachel Davies
Scrum from Hell – William Wake
Team Formation Stages – Forming Storming Norming Performing

Iterative Delivery

Are Iterations Hazardous to Your Project? – Alistair Cockburn

Adaptive Planning

Maximize Communication

Edward Tufte’s web site with lots of great info about the visual display of information
Human Tools for effective communication
Eight Barriers to Effective Listening
Facilitation Skills [pdf]

Test-Driven Work

The Qualities of an Ideal Test

Appropriate Metrics

Appropriate Agile Measurement White Paper (pdf)

Removing Obstacles

The Art of Obstacle Removal

Intros and Summaries

The Seven Core Practices of Agile Work

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Announcement: 4 New SAFe Course Opportunities

BERTEIG is now offering 4 new SAFE courses between now and December 2016.
“Leading SAFe 4.0” – Scaled Agile course for the SAFe Agilist (SA) certification.
“SAFe for Teams” – Scaled Agile course for the SAFe Practitioner (SP) certification.
“SAFe 4.0 Product Manager/Product Owner” – Scaled Agile course for the Product Manager/Product Owner (PMPO) certification.
“SAFe 4.0 Advanced Scrum Master” – Scaled Agile course for the SAFe Advanced Scrum Master (SASM) certification.

There will be numerous instances of each of these courses in locations such as: Toronto, Vancouver, Ottawa, Montreal, Mississauga, Waterloo and Markham.  Other locations are possible based on demand.
Look for these courses to also become listed on the main Scaled Agile event listing page (, as we are now a Silver Partner.

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Dejirafication: Free Your Process

Alexey Krivitsky recently posted a presentation on his blog,, addressing the issue of so-called-agile tools, specifically Jira.

Here is a link to his presentation.

The movie images he chose gave me a chuckle and his points really hit home.

He offers 4 points to what he calls a “Jira Rehab Program” and I found the points interesting.

Take a look. See what you think.

Share your comments on your experience with agile tools here.

Have you had success with Jira or would you rather see it disposed of?

And check out Mishkin’s recent article on the ideal electronic Agile tool.



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Link: Strong Teams Start With Trust

One of the positive outcomes of an agile team succeeding in its transformation is the establishment of a high-functioning team.

A high-functioning team works more effectively, efficiently and can innovate more appropriately for the corporate advantage of the business.

Ryan Yeoman has a lot to say on the topic. Although he doesn’t mention agile specifically, he’s right on in his approach.

In his article, “Strong Teams Start With Trust: 5 Ways To Build Trust in Your Teams,” he writes that:

All of them point to trust as a critical and fundamental piece to success – in business and in life.

Piggy-backing all these thoughts and making it personal to myself, trust enables me to be more.  It enables me to:

  • Accomplish more and do better work by getting feedback and synergizing
  • Grow and learn more by allowing myself to be “open” and receive information
  • Teach more and serve by letting me focus my attention on others
  • Care more and empathize because I’m not constantly worried about protecting myself
  • Be more human

Trust helps you accept deepening relationships and removes politics and silos from the work place, creating an organization within which people feel safe. At its simplest, trust is a catalyst for your organization to be more: more nimble, more efficient, more effective.  It’s like oxygen for a successful team – one simply can’t exist without it.

I found his comments insightful and his links appropriate.

This is an excellent article for those team members who are striving for excellence and learning to trust one another, and themselves, in the process.

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Link: The Mythical Product Owner

“When product managers weren’t looking, developers went agile.”

This quote from Barbara Nelson gave me a chuckle. I found it when reading The Mythical Product Owner, by Andre Kaminsky and discovered that this article gives excellent insight into the role of the product owner.

Andre speaks to the change happening in an organization when they adopt agile and breaks it down into bite-sized bits which really helps conceptualize the shifting happening across the industry.

He describes two key levels of change, mainly that:

Change must happen on two levels across the organization:

  • Technical – Roles and responsibilities must be understood, accepted, and adopted.
  • Cultural – Attitudes, expectations, political ambitions, and how we collaborate must change.

He writes that agile should not come in with a “big bang” approach but by introducing it in a gradual manner, allowing confidence and capacity to build, then the results can be more profound and long-lasting.


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