BONUS: Mary and Tom Poppendieck on Lean Software Development, Business Agility and how autonomous teams enable adaptability

Tom and Mary Poppendieck have authored several books over the years about what needs to change in how we develop software to be able to meet the demands of the market, competition, and the growth in complexity of technology businesses. A recurring pattern they have witnessed is that people keep trying to discover a “silver bullet”. We explore why that is a bad idea and some of the changes in product development that make it an impossible quest.

Read on for the details, and all the links shared during the show.

Continuous Delivery and Rapid Feedback require fundamentally different organizations

As we explore the impact of agility on how we run businesses we start to understand why it is important that we make the develop-deploy-get feedback cycle faster. The more time it takes from idea-to-deployment-to-feedback-collection, the harder it is for the organization to learn about what customers really need. Mary and Tom call on us to think about how we can develop teams that can easily run through the develop-deploy-get feedback cycle faster. We conclude that some different team (and maybe even business) organization is necessary.

We should give special attention to how we architect our software, and how that may prevent us from collecting feedback from the market quickly because of the hand-offs and delays that are caused by the separation of teams, and the architecture that comes out of that separation. We discuss Conway’s Law, an empirical observation published in a paper in 1968, where Conway discovered that the architecture of software often mimicked the organization of the company.

Projects, products and why you need a business dashboard

We are familiar with technical dashboards. Maybe we are monitoring the time it takes for a web-page to load, or for a query to execute successfully in a database. But how often are we monitoring the health of a business instead of the technology?

In our conversation, we discuss what Business Dashboards are, and why product development teams should develop, and review their Business Dashboards regularly.

We then continue on to discuss why Projects remove adaptability and agility from our businesses, and how the focus on products (instead of projects) can help us find the lost agility.

In order to keep our teams motivated and going beyond the call of duty, we need to keep teams focused on the longer term goal (product) and in touch with the real business (business dashboard).

What are proxies? And why does it matter for teams to be motivated and successful

“Proxies” is a concept that Mary Poppendieck presented at ScanAgile Conference in Helsinki. Mary first encountered the concept in Jeff Bezos’ letter to shareholders in March 2017. In that letter Bezos writes that he wants his company to be skeptic “around “proxies,” such as market research as a proxy for customers”.

By that he means that teams should be kept closer to the real customers (not proxy customers), and that the decisions should be made by people who need them (not proxy decision makers).

In this episode we explore the concept of Proxies, how to detect them, and how to avoid them in your team, and in your business.

To further explore the power of autonomous teams, check out The Cathedral and the Bazaar, an article published in 2000 by Eric S. Raymond where he explains why the Open Source model works, and why it is so powerful.

Business develop like cities, and software is just another ingredient

At end of this episode we have a conversation about how businesses develop just like cities. Unpredictably to a large extent, but adaptably, organically and constantly. We refer to the article by Henrik Mårtensson about how cities develop and grow without a “product owner”. In the end cities live (we have many cities with 1000’s of years of existence), while businesses die (not so many businesses with more than 100 years, let alone 1000 years).


About Mary and Tom Poppendieck

Mary Poppendieck started her career as a process control programmer.  Mary considered retirement in 1998, but decided to focus instead on helping bring to the world a new paradigm. She wrote the award-winning book Lean Software Development: An Agile Toolkit in 2003 to explain how the lean principles from manufacturing offer a better approach to software development.

You can link with Mary Poppendieck on LinkedIn and connect with Mary Poppendieck  on Twitter.

Tom Poppendieck has 25 years of experience in computing including eight years of work with object technology. Tom led the development of a world-class product data management practice for a major commercial avionics manufacturer that reduced design to production transition efforts from 6 months to 6 weeks.

You can read Mary’s essays about Software and Product development at

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