Book Summary: Sooner Safer Happier by Jonathan Smart | BVSSH
Updated: Feb 7
Toby's Rating: 6/10 - Recommended For: Managers New To Agile
3 Big Ideas
Optimisation - In order to succeed in the Digital-Age, organisations must optimize for Better Value Sooner Safer Happier (BVSSH)
Patterns - To optimize for BVSSH, there are Anti-Patterns which will give you a head-wind towards this outcome, and Patterns that will give you a tail-wind.
Practices = Context + Principles - There are no one-size-fits-all solutions, but several principles are shared within the book to guide the improvement journey.
2 Most Tweetable Quotes
Are you currently doing an Agile, Lean, or DevOps Transformation? If so, my best advice is: Don’t. Instead, focus on the outcomes you want to achieve. Then you will achieve agility.
Impediments are not in the path; impediments are the path.
Toby’s Top Takeaways:
The authors have found an effortless way to articulate the outcomes organisations can focus on: Better Value Sooner Safer Happier. This tag line is very easy to understand which is important when communicating across the enterprise.
The authors claim: "I’ve yet to find an organization where Better Value Sooner Safer Happier does not encapsulate the desired outcomes from better ways of working in the Age of Digital."
This isn't quite my experience. For example, some digital organisations that are largely delivering commodities might have a different set of outcomes to optimize for. Perhaps in this case, "sooner" is not a worthy optimisation instead "scalable" or "standard" might be better?
Also, I wonder if there is a broader encapsulation of organisational outcomes. For example, I'm increasingly referring to Adaptive Capacity as a possible focus area for organisational effectiveness:
Adaptive Capacity relates to a systems ability to respond to a stress trigger. This response could be for protection, safety or to take advantage of a new sudden opportunity.
By increasing, Adaptive Capacity organisations will be better able to adapt and respond to changing conditions within their context. Delivering Better Value, Sooner, Safer, Happier might be one way to do this.
A final question I've been pondering for some time: Is it even possible to "optimize" a complex-adaptive system?
My current thoughts are you can encourage a "sense of direction" but this will be influenced by the systems current disposition and the energy required to change. For many enterprises, the system will not be disposed towards BVSSH outcomes and the energy gradient to change is huge.
This book is aimed at business leaders and I'd certainly recommend it due to the simplicity of the messaging. Be careful though, this might become the new Spotify Model so ensure the importance of context is not lost!
Big Idea 1 - Optimize for Better Value Sooner Safer Happier (BVSSH)
“BVSSH contains two sets of outcomes. Better Sooner Safer Happier are the how outcomes. They measure the improvement in the system of work. Value is the what, the business outcome hypotheses that the system of work produces. The two sets of outcomes form a virtuous circle.”
Big Idea 2 - Practices = Context + Principles
The book shares several principles which can help organisations optimise for Better Value, Sooner, Safer, Happier.
“The successful pattern is to identify the top ten or so principles that you feel are most important to encourage across your organization, communicate them relentlessly, and recognize behaviors in line with them.”
Big Idea 3 - Anti-Paterrns & Patterns
Based upon the context of optimising for BVSSH there are patterns which can help organisations build momentum.
Anti-pattern: Common solutions to common problems where the solution is ineffective and may result in undesired consequences.
Pattern: A pattern is a repeatedly applicable solution to a problem that arises in a specific context.
It is again highlighted that context is key. A pattern could be an anti-pattern within a certain context.
Doing an Agile Transformation
Using Old Ways of Thinking to Apply New Ways of Working
The Bigger the Capital “T” Transformation, the Bigger the Change Curve
Scaling Agile Before Descaling the Work
Grass Roots Hits a Grass Ceiling
One Size Fits AllInflict over Invite
Do as I Say, Not as I Do
Milestone-Driven Predicted Solutions
Lack of Safety within Safety
Role-Based Safety Silos
Fixed Mindset to Risk
Going Faster Leads to Going Slower
Agile Hollow Shell
Misalignment of Teams and Architecture
Tools over People
Information and Learning Silos
Outputs over Outcomes
Applying a Deterministic Approach to an Emergent Domain
Focus on Outcomes
Start with Why; Empower the How
Achieve Big through Small
Descale Before You Scale
Scale Agility, Not Agile, Vertically Then Sideways
Not One Size Fits All
Invite over Inflict
Leaders Go First
Emergent Mindset with Servant Leadership
Optimize for Fast End-to-End Flow
Stop Starting, Start Finishing
Safety within Safety
Organize Safety by Value Stream
Go Slower to Go Faster
Continuous Technical Excellence
Architect and Organize for Flow
Smart People and Smart Teams with Robot Friends
Optimize for Learning
Nested Learning with Built-In Feedback Loops
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
Be Comfortable with Uncertainty
Measure for Learning