Musings about Systems Thinking

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Letting go to lead

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Gino Marckx
May 31, 2021

Whenever the weather allows for it, we like to eat outside. At dinner time in our little courtyard in the city of Toronto, mother nature treated us to a beautiful scene. A few days later it turned into an invaluable lesson...

Two doves and a chick

A mourning dove landed on the fence, looking us straight in the eye. "What a wonderful sight," I thought, "I bet it's eyeing something on our plate." Without breaking the line of sight, the dove flew over to the side of the deck, even closer, testing the boundaries of its comfort zone.

"Roocoo! Roocoo!" A few minutes later mommy dove arrives, a little chick trailing inches behind her. The family reunited, they waggled to an open space a bit further away, while we watched the scene unfold at a safe distance. By now we realized that daddy had scouted the environment, checking our reactions to his proximity. He must have considered us safe, the little one would not be harmed.

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To our surprise, the adults took off, leaving the little one alone. Stunne...

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Whenever there is a product for a customer, there is a value stream.

-John Shook and Mark Rother, Learning to See

Creating more value for customers is a core business strategy. With more technologies being developed, companies have been optimizing their software delivery to get the best value out of their products or services. Instead of focusing on individual functions, companies are now developing an interest in the end-to-end value chain. Software development is no longer just the business of IT departments. Company leaders and management are taking an active role in making sure that the software delivery process is driving value to the business. In a way, every organization has become a software company. 

Unfortunately, even after investing considerable time and resources on IT transformations, companies still experience misalignment in business vision, strategies, and goals. While they may have implemented new ways of working, such as Agile and DevOps, there is often a disconnect bet...

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In previous posts, we discussed what you can learn about your team from tracking a minimum of data. We introduced throughput as the most meaningful metric you can get from only the completion time of a work item. In a subsequent post, we explained how you can calculate cycle time and work in progress by tracking the start time of a work item. In this post, we focus solely on how to calculate failure demand and what it tells you about the true delivery capacity of your team.

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Continuous improvement is at the heart of any agile approach. But where do we start? And how can we know that our improvement initiatives are moving the needle? This blog post expands on the ideas from what throughput can tell you about your team and provides some additional thoughts to help you truly embrace the following principle from the agile manifesto:

At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behaviour accordingly.


Well-designed metrics provide your team with insight into where to focus and look for improvement opportunities. They also provide you with a baseline, a measuring stick to assess any improvements.

In a previous post, I focused on what we can learn from a metric as simple as throughput. Here we take it a step further.

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Let’s talk about the elephant in the room. Most transformations do not deliver upon their intended results. Many of these transformations use sound agile methodologies, yet they fail to deliver on the expected results. DevOps came along and refocused the effort, but still, we run into difficulty with transformations stalling or even failing.

Current thinking puts the development (aka. delivery) team front and center in the transformation to rapidly enable the delivery of value to customers. For a team, they need to be able to have all the right skills and capabilities at the disposal so they can own their delivery processes. In complex environments with multiple architectural principles at play, this can be difficult to achieve. To cope with this, we create another team, the platform team, to enable the delivery team.

The question is, do I need a platform team?

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