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  • Beth Ouellette

PMINJ - Considers a New Way of Working with DA

It was a full house at the New Jersey PMI Chapter’s October 14th for the hot topic of “Disciplined Agile A New Way of Working” presented by yours truly, Beth Ouellette. As a long-time friend of the PMI NJ Chapter, I am always willing to bring the new, hot standards, topics, and now Way of Working to the forefront. We asked the group of 468 a few questions to get the evening started. First was now long have they been part of PMI. We had folks with more than 20 years of engagement and people brand new with just a few months of engagement. AND of course, many in between, 5, years, 10, years, 15 years of PMI engagement. We asked if they knew of Disciplined Agile before. There were 57% who cited this was their first exposure to DA; five percent (5%) said they use some things DA, while only 2% said they are fully utilizing DA today.

The tone and stage were set with the background of the PMI Disciplined Agile Acquisition in 2019. It was clear that this acquisition was intended to augment the already robust portfolio of project management certifications, products, and offerings. In today’s world, being agile has become mainstream. For project managers to remain relevant and compete, they too must become more agile, not only in mindset, and beliefs, but also in their choice of tools, techniques, and processes.

How to approach DA?

As with any new concept, it takes an understanding of how best approach, digest, and implement for highest potential success. Considering the hundreds of agile practices, methods, and tools, this can be overwhelming. This overwhelming feeling reminded me of when I was headed to Rome for the PMI Leadership Institute. Having never been to Rome, I wanted to make the best of the trip, so I planned some days prior to the conference, as well as after the conference. I asked friends who had traveled there, as well as folks who lived in Italy – and wow I got answers all over the place. It was even more overwhelming as very helpful people gave me more options than I could manage. I decided to ask my friend Walter Ginevri for help. Walter lived in Italy, had been to Rome many times, and was a trusted friend. He became my subject-matter expert for this Rome trip. He sent me a guidebook, and he arranged a meeting with Michael Brouse, author of the guidebook. Michael became our coach as we explored Rome. He put things in context, met us where we were with our understanding and experience, and helped us craft the perfect experience.

The way to approach Disciplined Agile is similar. Identify your SME (Al, Mark, and Scott), get your guidebook (Choose Your WoW), find your Coach (of which I am now one), and begin your journey from the place you know, within the context of your team and experience. This is exactly what Disciplined Agile can do for you and your teams.

What is DA?

Disciplined Agile is a toolkit that harnesses a world of Agile practices to guide you to the best way of working for your team or organization. It provides Freedom to choose an approach that can work for your team. It provides tailored guidance to better understand your options and choose the best approach for your situation, because one size does not fit all. And it allows you and your teams with a guided approach to continuously improve your way of working to increase productivity. This means that organizations using any Agile framework, individuals using any Agile framework, and PMI-certified professionals have the potential to leverage Disciplined Agile.

The combination of freedom, tailored, and continuous improvement is an interesting mix. It reminds me of my Grandmother Bock’s Dreamy Cheesecake recipe. She has had this for years and shared this recipe with me. I loved it. It was so good that I could eat nearly half a cheesecake at once. It was so dense and heavy and delicious. I wondered if I could keep the flavor, but I make it with a lighter approach – fewer calories, not quite so dense. And I used the freedom to choose, to tailor, and continuously improve to get to the recipe I use today, Called Creamy Dreamy Cheesecake. We have this freedom to choose, tailoring capability, and continuous improvement potential with Disciplined Agile too.

What does it mean “Disciplined?” Oxford dictionary defines Disciplined as “showing a controlled form of behavior or way of working.” Webster dictionary further cites “orderly or prescribed conduct or pattern of behavior.” We want to do things that are good, good patterns of behavior, consistent behavior. There is the implication that this requires hard work, and persistence. If you have delighted your customers, you know that it took hard work and persistence to do so. It takes discipline to recognize that even with freedom to choose, we must tailor the approach for the context faced, and to evolve the approach as the situation evolves, including what is the for the overall enterprise. Discipline is required to evolve the Team’s Way of Working as we endeavor to optimize flow and ensure our choices are for the best possible outcomes of the team, individuals on the team, and the organization. It takes discipline for teams to become awesome.

Principles of Disciplined Agile

Cited within the meaning of disciplined are several of the principles of Disciplined Agile. These are the key building blocks for a trusted and productive team. Let’s look at the 8 principles of Disciplined Agile which provide a philosophical foundation for business agility. They are based on both lean and flow concepts. These principles, cited from, are:

  1. Delight customers. We need to go beyond satisfying our customers' needs, beyond meeting their expectations and strive to delight them. If we don't then someone else will delight them and steal our customers away from us. This applies to both external customers as well as internal customers.

  2. Be awesome. We should always strive to be the best that we can and to always get better. Who wouldn't want to work with awesome people, on an awesome team for an awesome organization?

  3. Context counts. Every person, every team, every organization is unique. We face unique situations that evolve over time. The implication is that we must choose our way of working (WoW) to reflect the context that we face, and then evolve our WoW as the situation evolves.

  4. Be pragmatic. Our aim isn't to be agile, it's to be as effective as we can be and to improve from there. To do this we need to be pragmatic and adopt agile, lean, or even traditional strategies when they make the most sense for our context. In the past, we called this principle “Pragmatism.”

  5. Choice is good. To choose our WoW in a context-driven, pragmatic manner we need to select the best-fit technique given our situation. Having choices, and knowing the trade-offs associated with those choices, is critical to choosing our WoW that is the best fit for our context.

  6. Optimize flow. We want to optimize flow across the value stream that we are part of, and better yet across our organization, and not just locally optimize our WoW within our team. Sometimes this will be a bit inconvenient for us, but overall we will be able to more effectively respond to our customers.

  7. Organize around products/services (new). To delight our customers we need to organize ourselves around producing the offerings, the products and services, that they need. We are in effect organizing around value streams because value streams produce value for customers, both external and internal, in the form of products and services. We chose to say organize around products/services, rather than offerings or value streams, as we felt this was more explicit.

  8. Enterprise awareness. Disciplined agilists look beyond the needs of their team to take the long-term needs of their organization into account. They adopt, and sometimes tailor, organizational guidance. They follow and provide feedback too, organizational roadmaps. They leverage, and sometimes enhance, existing organizational assets. In short, they do what's best for the organization and not just what's convenient for them.

When I asked the group which principle resonated with them the most. Just as the group was diverse, we had answers across the board. Some of the principles cited most frequently include: Context Counts, Choice is Good, Be Pragmatic, and Optimize Flow. Of course “Being Awesome!” seemed to be a favorite.

Possible Disciplined Agile Life cycle choices

Amongst the choices a team makes, the decision for which lifecycle is important. Though DA started off with Agile, Lean, Continuous Improvement Agile, and Continuous Improvement Lean, it has been abridged to include an Exploratory life cycle, a Program (Team of Teams) life cycle, FLEX (an organizational change approach) and a Serial (predictive/traditional/waterfall) life cycle. The Disciplined Agile Way of Working provides processes and tools to make the appropriate choices for the life cycle or even life cycles best for your team and project outcomes. There are some who believe that all you need to know about agile is Scrum. Scrum can be a very effective agile approach; however, in situations where priorities are changing daily, Lean may be a better approach. This reminds us of the principle “Choice is good.” Freedom to choose, based on where the team is today, the skillset, the product/service of the project, etc. will enable better, longer-lasting results and outcomes of the team.

As a team becomes more agile, it is amazing to see that those with whom they work, become more agile too. Whether it be with the sales organization, marketing, procurement, finance, portfolio management, operations, or others, the interaction with an agile team, will imbue the application and acceptance of these practices and principles as well.

Phases of Disciplined Agile

There are 4 phases of Disciplined Agile: Inception, Construction, Transition, and Ongoing. Inception is doing the things to get the team going in the right direction. This would include goals related to team formation, alignment with enterprise direction, scope, architecture strategy, planning the release, test strategy, common vision, and funding. Construction is incrementally building a consumable solution. This includes proving architecture early, addressing changing stakeholder needs, producing a potentially consumable solution, improving quality, and accelerating value delivery. Transition is where we release the solution into production. This includes ensuring production readiness and deploying the solutions. Ongoing is where we improve and work in an enterprise aware manner. It is in the Ongoing phase that we focus on the guided continuous improvement through growing team members, evolving our WoW, coordinating activities, leveraging and enhancing existing infrastructure, addressing risk, and governing the delivery team.


As each team begins their journey, they will assess the context within which they are working. This includes the geographic distribution, organizational distribution compliance, team size, technical complexity, and domain complexity. Based on the results of the assessment, the team will determine o which goas to focus for the near term. Once goals are determined, the team will assess the decision points for each goal chosen. It is these decisions point choices that will guide the team to the list of possible tools and techniques that will expressly contribute to the decision result within the goals of focus. This is the core of the tool kit that Disciplined Agile provides.

In a nutshell, Disciplined Agile is a rich, comprehensive, and well-organized toolkit to help you be more successful with Agile. It provides a disciplined, agnostic, professional, enterprise approach to agile. This allows individuals and tams to understand what their options are, which ones work within various contexts, and which choices will lead the teams to better decisions and position for more success.

DA Value Proposition

We moved into the Disciplined Agile Value Proposition. There were 9 things cited as areas of value that could be achieved with Disciplined Agile.

Applicable across Industries and Countries: The DA Certification is not based on any one specific methodology; thus, it is flexible and adaptable. DA meets the individual and teams where they are and provides the capability to use the things needed for success.

Globally Recognized: One of the most notable advantages of PMI certification is the global recognition. PMI has provided certification for over 30 years and within that timeframe the attention that has been garnered has increased dramatically around the world. From The Americas to China to South Africa to Australia to India and throughout Europe and just about everywhere in between – the PMI name is recognized and valued. Disciplined Agile is recognized in over 200 PMI Chapters representing over 60 countries.

Street Cred, Valuable Skillset: PMI certifications recognize your project/program/portfolio management (PPPM) knowledge, skills and abilities, Disciplined Agile adds to this your ability to understand and navigate agile approaches and tools for more timely customer value delivered. By adopting DA, this it increases your credibility by providing an unbiased and reliable means to validate your domain knowledge and professional experience.

Cutting Edge to Leverage Employment Advantage: Throughout the years, many found that PMI certifications can lead to career opportunities and career advancement. The Addition of the DA Certifications to the family of certifications identifies its holder as a practitioner who has demonstrated competency DA knowledge and expertise, based industry standards.

Developed by Practitioners for Practitioners: PMI works with nearly 1000 volunteers yearly at various certification-related gatherings. From certification development to translation validation to content creation and updating to item writing, and more. DA has the added benefit of this current PMI working process to ensure the highest value results.

Connected Community for Guided Continuous Improvement: The sixth benefit of PMI certification is the rigorous development process behind every certification. PMI continually conducts in-depth studies to ensure that our certifications accurately reflect the current skills, knowledge and best practices you need to succeed. Because There is such rigorous practices to keep PMI certifications relevant and validated, can count on PMI certifications to be relevant and always improving.

Quality Methods to Assess and Validate Competence: Depending on the certification, there are educational requirements, exam/assessment requirements, relevant/related experience requirements, interviews/review panel and ongoing required Continuing Certification Requirements (CCR). Specific requirements are based on certification level pursued.

Professional Growth: Professional growth and development is an outcome of DA Certifications. This allows for greater recognition from employers, often leading to more opportunities for career advancement. Because all PMI certification holders participate in the CCR program in order to maintain their active certification status, this CCR participation provides a way to continue ongoing learning and development.

Agile is the New Workplace Currency: Everywhere we turn we hear about organizations increasing agility, teams converting to agile, functional areas embracing agile. I propose that if “Agility is the new workplace currency,” then Disciplined Agile is our currency conversion tool. Applying DA, we have a tremendous opportunity to get an exponential return on our investment.

The audience was asked about which of the 9 DA Values was the most beneficial to them. The top 5 responses include Employment Advantage, Professional Growth, Street Cred, Globally Recognized, and Agile is the New Workplace Currency.

Your Disciplined Agile Journey

I asked the NJ Chapter members which principles they had already applied with all the changes that we have had to adapt to already in 2020. We realize that we have all applied some of the Disciplined Agile principles managing through these challenging times. Though all principles were cited, Delight Customers, Choice is Good, Context Counts, Be Pragmatic, and of Course Be Awesome! Were some of the top principles cited.

Just like any goal, strategy, project, we need a checklist or roadmap or plan to get going. As you start your DA journey, I encourage you to consider the following as a checklist to apply to your personal, team, or organizational transformation.

  • Start today

  • Clarify your goals

  • Create your roadmap

  • Activate your DA Engagement

  • Educate yourself

  • Get Formal Training

  • Go for a DA Certification

  • Be a Go Getter (remember Betty’s Belief)

  • Stand out from the crowd

  • Be Awesome!

Give Disciplined Agile thoughtful consideration to see how it can transform, change, and improve your current position within your organization and team. Perhaps it is just the right thing to propel your career to the next step. If you are interested in Disciplined Agile education, training, or coaching,

please do reach out to for more information. If you are part of the NJ Chapter, and wish DA training, reach out through the contact section and mention who my SME in Rome was, you will receive a coupon for a 50$ off an upcoming course.

Let’s start your Disciplined Agile Journey.



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