DEV Community

Cover image for DEV3L on Sooner Safer Happier
Justin L Beall
Justin L Beall

Posted on

DEV3L on Sooner Safer Happier

Better Value Sooner Safer Happier (#BVSSH) is something every organization can rally around. Sooner Safer Happier - Anti-Patterns and Patterns for Business Agility, by Jonathan Smart, provides a toolkit that helps people achieve BVSSH outcomes in the turbulent age of digital within the emergent domain of product development.

Applied to your current context, applying the patterns has proven to deliver on the promise of Better Value Sooner Safer Happier. We must consider the Type of Work when we determine our Ways of Working. The anti-patterns hit close to home for all who have been in software development for more than a of couple years - yet they continue to be actively practiced within many organizations.

Churn rate for stock market more volatile than ever (DJI/SMP) - None of the original members of the Dow Jones Industrial Average are listed within the index anymore.

Match Ways of Working with type of work - The Age of Digital is emergent

Practices = Context + Principles
Practices are applied principles in context

No best practices, but there are identified bad practices (anti-patterns)

Emergent Domains contain unknown unknowns - deterministic ways of working lead to failure

Means of production has changed from brawn to brains
What are we optimizing for?
Enter fullscreen mode Exit fullscreen mode


  • 4 values
  • 12 principles
  • iterative & responsive


  • value (customer)
  • value stream
  • flow
  • pull
  • perfection


  • locality & simplicity
  • focus, flow, and joy
  • improvement of daily work
  • psychological safety
  • customer focus

Utilize the Cynefin Framework to help determine way of working

Software is an agile created box
Delivered on a lean conveyor belt
Enter fullscreen mode Exit fullscreen mode

Agile is not the goal, outcomes

Focus where work isn't,
Focus on the work, not the worker


Pattern 1.1 - Focus on Outcomes

  • Agile/Lean mindset - continuous improvement, irrespective of starting point and context

Pattern 1.2 - Start with Why; Empower the How

  • Nail it before you scale it
  • Willpower as finite resource, when out fall back on habits
  • Human systems entropy, need for continual gardening
  • Grassroots hits a grass ceiling with organizational blockers

Diffusion of Innovations

Pattern 2.1 - Achieve Big through Small

Pattern 2.2 - Descale Before You Scale

Pattern 2.3 - Scale Agility, Not Agile, Vertically Then Sideways

  • Start with a thin vertical slice of the organization

Pattern 3.1 - Not One Size Fits All

  • Frameworks are starting point, not the destination
  • Focusing on reducing cost only increases hidden costs
V - values
O - outcomes
I - intent based leadership
C - coaching
E - experimentation
Enter fullscreen mode Exit fullscreen mode

Pattern 3.2 - Invite over Inflict

  • Start with those who respond to invitation

Pattern 4.1 - Leaders Go First

  • First understand, then be understood

Pattern 4.2 - Psychological Safety

Brake dependencies; don't manage them

Object Oriented Principles applied to teams - loosely coupled that are highly cohesive

Fund value streams, not projects

Pattern 5.1 - Optimize for Safe Flow of Value

  • Find out where holes aren't
  • Safest airlines, most safety reports

Pattern 5.2 - Outcome Hypotheses

  • Assume wrong, prove right

WSJF ~ Cost of Delay/Duration

Pattern 5.3 - Intelligent Flow

  • Alignment

Pattern 5.4 - Stop Starting, Start Finishing

  • Kanban and Flow

Pattern 6.1 - Safety Within Safety

  • Data breaches are new oil spills
If traditional quality applied to toast...
You burn - I scrape
Enter fullscreen mode Exit fullscreen mode

"Safety Differently" - Build Safety In << Shift Left

Psych Safety Dimensions:

  • attitude to risk and failure
  • open conversation
  • willingness to help
  • inclusivity and diversity

Pattern 6.2 - Organize Safety by Value Stream

Pattern 6.3 - Intelligent Control

Control Requirement = Control Objective + Context

Pattern 7.1 - Go Slower to Go Faster

  • Technical debt is compounding interest that can cripple a value stream
  • It takes longer to write simpler code
  • DevOps is a human problem - not just automation tools

Continuous attention to technical excellence
and good design enhances agility
Enter fullscreen mode Exit fullscreen mode

Agile Technical Coaching - expertise that leads to #BVSSH

Pattern 7.2 - Continuous Technical Excellence

Pattern 7.3 - Architect and Organize for Flow

  • Support technical career paths to keep talent
  • Technology products evolve with Punctuated Gradualism

Pattern 7.4 - Smart People and Smart Teams with Robot Friends

  • Differentiate checking and testing
  • Robots great for checking, humans great for testing

Pattern 8.1 - Optimize for Learning

  • There is no done improving
  • Metrics become targets, be mindful of manipulation
  • Cannot transfer tacit knowledge

Information Lost In Handoffs

Pattern 8.2 - Nested Learning with Built-In Feedback Loops

Pattern 8.3 - Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

  • Celebrate wins
  • Over communicate the vision x 3

Pattern 8.4 - Be Comfortable with Uncertainty

  • Pace of change is never going to be slower than today

Pattern 8.5 - Measure for Learning

You cannot understand a system until
you try and change it
Enter fullscreen mode Exit fullscreen mode

Learning Loop


  • 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 All
  • Inflict over Invite
  • Do as I Say, Not as I Do
  • Psychologically Unsafe
  • Deterministic Mindset
  • Local Optimization
  • Milestone-Driven Predicted Solutions
  • Headless Chickens
  • Start Starting
  • 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
  • Bubble Effect
  • Applying a Deterministic Approach to an Emergent Domain
  • Weaponized Metrics

Reference Journal Events: Start, Finish

Top comments (0)