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Sooner Safer Happier: Antipatterns and Patterns for Business Agility

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It's no secret that we are living in the Digital Age. Technology companies make up seven of the world's ten largest firms by market capitalization. And the key to their success is the key to all modern organizations. Jonathan Smart, business agility practitioner, thought leader, and coach, reveals the patterns and antipatterns that will help organizations from every indust It's no secret that we are living in the Digital Age. Technology companies make up seven of the world's ten largest firms by market capitalization. And the key to their success is the key to all modern organizations. Jonathan Smart, business agility practitioner, thought leader, and coach, reveals the patterns and antipatterns that will help organizations from every industry deliver better value sooner, safer, and happier through high levels of engagement, inclusion, and empowerment. Through his decades of experience in the technology world, Smart provides business leaders with a blueprint for creating a world-class organization of the future. Through Agile and Lean ways of working, business leaders can empower teams to improve production, grow together, and create better services for their customers. These better ways of working have overflowed from the IT department to every corner of successful organizations, taking root in every industry from aerospace to accounting, insurance to shipping. This book is not about software development. It is not a book about the computer industry. This book is about applying agility across the entire organization. It's a book that will put you at the front of change and ahead of the competition.


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It's no secret that we are living in the Digital Age. Technology companies make up seven of the world's ten largest firms by market capitalization. And the key to their success is the key to all modern organizations. Jonathan Smart, business agility practitioner, thought leader, and coach, reveals the patterns and antipatterns that will help organizations from every indust It's no secret that we are living in the Digital Age. Technology companies make up seven of the world's ten largest firms by market capitalization. And the key to their success is the key to all modern organizations. Jonathan Smart, business agility practitioner, thought leader, and coach, reveals the patterns and antipatterns that will help organizations from every industry deliver better value sooner, safer, and happier through high levels of engagement, inclusion, and empowerment. Through his decades of experience in the technology world, Smart provides business leaders with a blueprint for creating a world-class organization of the future. Through Agile and Lean ways of working, business leaders can empower teams to improve production, grow together, and create better services for their customers. These better ways of working have overflowed from the IT department to every corner of successful organizations, taking root in every industry from aerospace to accounting, insurance to shipping. This book is not about software development. It is not a book about the computer industry. This book is about applying agility across the entire organization. It's a book that will put you at the front of change and ahead of the competition.

30 review for Sooner Safer Happier: Antipatterns and Patterns for Business Agility

  1. 4 out of 5

    Dmitry Spesiviy

    Why I liked this book? This book is full of real-life stories, for example • Aberfan disaster • Boeing 737 Max crashes • Ransomware attack at A.P. Moller Maersk And much more… This book gives reader understanding of some patterns which leads to better results in our era of constant growth, digitalization. And some antipatterns which can lead to opposite results. Here is some of my most favorite highlights from the book: Organizations which will survive and thrive: The organizations that are the best at k Why I liked this book? This book is full of real-life stories, for example • Aberfan disaster • Boeing 737 Max crashes • Ransomware attack at A.P. Moller Maersk And much more… This book gives reader understanding of some patterns which leads to better results in our era of constant growth, digitalization. And some antipatterns which can lead to opposite results. Here is some of my most favorite highlights from the book: Organizations which will survive and thrive: The organizations that are the best at kaizen (continuous improvement) and kaikaku (disruptive innovation), with psychological safety, servant leadership, experimentation, a fast feedback loop, and a focus on outcomes rather than output, are the ones that will survive and thrive. Leaders go on the same journey It is a case of do as I say, not do as I do. The lack of role modeling and incongruent behavior is clear to see. One thing is being said and another thing is being done. Actions do not match the words. That is not being a leader. Leaders go on the same journey Stop Starting, Start Finishing The organization needs to learn the important ability to say “No,” or “Not yet,” or “What do we stop in order to do this?” in order to optimize for Better Value Sooner Safer Happier. Doing more in parallel is like putting more cars on the road. It moves all of the BVSSH measures in the wrong direction.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Ed Schaefer

    Some great patterns and antipatterns, reinforced some ideas I've been working with, and provided some clear and concise language to describe concepts. Some great patterns and antipatterns, reinforced some ideas I've been working with, and provided some clear and concise language to describe concepts.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Cahill

    I was able to get my hands on a draft of this book earlier this year. Great book for leaders and practioners. The thoughtful content was very well explained. Some of the antipatterns were so realistic I felt my stomach churning from recognition of the practices to avoid. The patterns were presented in a way that was not only understandable but practical. I was able to use learnings in conversation the very next day after reading a chapter. I am excited to read it again!

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jo

    GREAT overview of modern product development in a larger organization. The book is not married to any methodology or framework but instead provides a no-nonsense and clear overview of modern principles and practices. I love how it starts out full-meta and uses Cynefin to explain why inflicting DAD/SAFe/LeSS/... on your teams will not and cannot work. With that established, the book presents a different approach that takes into account your unique context and provides patterns that provide headwin GREAT overview of modern product development in a larger organization. The book is not married to any methodology or framework but instead provides a no-nonsense and clear overview of modern principles and practices. I love how it starts out full-meta and uses Cynefin to explain why inflicting DAD/SAFe/LeSS/... on your teams will not and cannot work. With that established, the book presents a different approach that takes into account your unique context and provides patterns that provide headwind for change. The book lists antipatterns and matching patterns on the following themes: * Problems with applying Taylorist mindset to software product development * Think big, act small, improvement kata, ... * Focus on outcomes (better, value, sooner, safer, happier) over outputs * Pitfalls of IT local optimization and how to approach it instead * How to nourish "change" in an organization * Product (over project) mindset * Necessity of emergence, probe-sense-respond strategies in a complex environment (hello Cynefin!) * Long lived stream-aligned product teams (hello Team topologies!) * Importance of technical excellence (hello Accelerate!) * Compliance and risk management in a modern IT setting * Building a "learning organization" (hello Senge!) * ... Due to its "big picture" coverage it does not dive into details on any of these subjects. Recommended if you need a big picture overview and want to dive into the nitty gritty details yourself. The book has a bibliography of 20(!) pages for further study material so diving deeper won't be a problem. Disclaimer: this book references 90% of my professional bookshelf and matches my personal experience, this review just might be suffering a bit from confirmation bias :)

  5. 4 out of 5

    Michał Węgrzyn

    Solid, content packed book about almost everything related to humans working together to achieve a shared goal. I liked the structure of patterns and anti patterns, references to other well established titles. Solid and insightful once read pointing at your own team and organization

  6. 4 out of 5

    Edward Wee

    Bvssh The book helped me put together the framework of better value sooner safer happier. It (indirectly) helped me piece together years of learning about Lean, TOC, agile, gamification, flow into just BVSSH. Why else would i want to have all those knowlege? I just wanted to create BETTER VALUE, SOONER, SAFER, AND HAPPIER. It's a simple book. Nothing is new, but looking at existing knowlege and piecing together as a Why. I now communicate with bvssh as my primary "why" question. You can get more in Bvssh The book helped me put together the framework of better value sooner safer happier. It (indirectly) helped me piece together years of learning about Lean, TOC, agile, gamification, flow into just BVSSH. Why else would i want to have all those knowlege? I just wanted to create BETTER VALUE, SOONER, SAFER, AND HAPPIER. It's a simple book. Nothing is new, but looking at existing knowlege and piecing together as a Why. I now communicate with bvssh as my primary "why" question. You can get more insights on what you can get by going to youtube and search for @jonsmart

  7. 4 out of 5

    Andy Cooper

    Must read for those introducing or improving ways of working Great and very practical book on how to successfully introduce or improve ways of working. Jon and team successfully cover a range of deep topics from a place of pragmatic and hard won experience. Highly recommended.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Leif Almberg

    Some highlights, but I’m sorry, all has been written before. Almost nothing new, and a lot of obvious statements.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Joao Neto

    You can read my full review here: https://joaopneto.medium.com/book-rev... Every decade or so, a book comes along that steps up the game in its own domain and becomes an instant classic and the de facto reference for leaders in the industry. The recently published book by Johnathan Smart (et al.) “Sooner, Safer Happier — Antipatterns and Patterns for Business Agility” aims much higher than that. It is not a book for a decade, it is a book for the Age of Digital and beyond. Written in a fluent and You can read my full review here: https://joaopneto.medium.com/book-rev... Every decade or so, a book comes along that steps up the game in its own domain and becomes an instant classic and the de facto reference for leaders in the industry. The recently published book by Johnathan Smart (et al.) “Sooner, Safer Happier — Antipatterns and Patterns for Business Agility” aims much higher than that. It is not a book for a decade, it is a book for the Age of Digital and beyond. Written in a fluent and easy to read narrative, the book brings to leaders of all industries the principles and patterns that lead to Business Agility. Not so long ago Business Agility used to be a competitive advantage, but it has now become a survival requirement. Organizations that lack it are quickly becoming irrelevant and fading away. Up until recently, Agile and DevOps principles and patterns were almost exclusively adopted by the software industry (or by people in other industries building software). This book is targeted at a much broader audience, it has real potential in helping creating better leaders across all industries and enable all organizations to deliver better value, sooner, safer and happier. After reading the book, I felt like my brain had been upgraded and that I had a couple new tools in my toolbox to help me make sense of the world around me and in assisting me in transforming organizations for the better. That is saying quite a lot. After many years in the industry, I wish I could say that about every new book I read. :) There is more. You can continue reading my full review here: https://joaopneto.medium.com/book-rev...

  10. 5 out of 5

    João Dias

    Another book about Ways of Working, agility and overall efficiency and happiness inside an organisation. Usually, each chapter starts with a related real-world story and that was the part I liked most in the book. The whole concept of Better Value Sooner Safer Happier is also pretty cool. However, reading the book from left to right in a linear way, I found it extremely repetitive, each chapter seems to present the same core ideas in a slightly different manner. I also couldn't find any new insig Another book about Ways of Working, agility and overall efficiency and happiness inside an organisation. Usually, each chapter starts with a related real-world story and that was the part I liked most in the book. The whole concept of Better Value Sooner Safer Happier is also pretty cool. However, reading the book from left to right in a linear way, I found it extremely repetitive, each chapter seems to present the same core ideas in a slightly different manner. I also couldn't find any new insights presented here, it felt more like a summary or survey of existing ideas and practices, but if you are new to the subject, this is probably a great place to start. As the authors state at the beginning, this book is written in a way that is "dippable", where one can simply go to the relevant chapter or antipattern/pattern and get some resources to explore the issue currently at hand. I think that in that sense, this is a great resource to refer to since the book is very well organised in chapters, with a nice summary of the principles of each chapter, extensive references and resources. It was a nice read to refresh my ideas on the subject but I feel that I didn't learn anything new and the book is too repetitive to make an interesting linear read.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Evita

    The most valuable learnings for me were that it is important to ensure end-to-end flow efficiency (it is not enough if only one part of the value stream works in agile manner), and also to go slow in order to go fast - any shortcuts will backfire later from accrued technical debt. Continuous learning should also be applied in long-term developments - they cannot be planned end to end but rather have to follow iterative approach where the course is adjusted based on learnings from the recent iter The most valuable learnings for me were that it is important to ensure end-to-end flow efficiency (it is not enough if only one part of the value stream works in agile manner), and also to go slow in order to go fast - any shortcuts will backfire later from accrued technical debt. Continuous learning should also be applied in long-term developments - they cannot be planned end to end but rather have to follow iterative approach where the course is adjusted based on learnings from the recent iteration. Often repetitive - could have been said in 100 pages instead of 300+ therefore 4stars

  12. 5 out of 5

    Robert Christie

    This is a fantastic book. Jon and the other authors have created a great model to help frame how modern organisations work and highlighted anti patterns that often occur and patterns that can be used to be effective. There are no prescriptive things you must do - very clear guidance that context is key and what works for one team, may not work for another. If you’re starting or in the middle of an ‘Agile’ transformation, this book will help. If you think you are done transforming, this book will This is a fantastic book. Jon and the other authors have created a great model to help frame how modern organisations work and highlighted anti patterns that often occur and patterns that can be used to be effective. There are no prescriptive things you must do - very clear guidance that context is key and what works for one team, may not work for another. If you’re starting or in the middle of an ‘Agile’ transformation, this book will help. If you think you are done transforming, this book will help.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    I cannot recommend this book highly enough. I've read a bunch of work-related books in the past year. Some of these focused on team-building, some on DevOps. This one brought them all together, with a focus on where to steer an organization, how change happens, and how to adopt such change in a way that is more likely to succeed and lead to better results for everyone. The author claims the chapters can be read in any order, and there's a guide at the beginning suggesting which chapters to read d I cannot recommend this book highly enough. I've read a bunch of work-related books in the past year. Some of these focused on team-building, some on DevOps. This one brought them all together, with a focus on where to steer an organization, how change happens, and how to adopt such change in a way that is more likely to succeed and lead to better results for everyone. The author claims the chapters can be read in any order, and there's a guide at the beginning suggesting which chapters to read depending on one's situation. I believe the claim to be true. There is a lot of repetition in the book, and it was somewhat dry, but the repetition never bothered me too much. The content resonated so much with me that the repetition reinforced key phrases and ideas. I led a tech talk over a few of the principles in this book, and I was thrilled to see that others were also interested. So interested that 11 more people ordered the book!

  14. 4 out of 5

    Nilesh Makan

    I thought there were some good nuggets when it came to Agility. I like how the thinking has changed. I also think the point could have been made with a lot less content. I eventually got tired of BVSSH over and over. I get it.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Pedro

    4* for vets. 5* for other non-beginners. Won't recommend to beginners. But I cannot think on a good complementing intro to start with. 4* for vets. 5* for other non-beginners. Won't recommend to beginners. But I cannot think on a good complementing intro to start with.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jack Vinson

    Good stuff about the familiar good and bad patterns that show up in organizations trying to develop agility. On my blog: https://www.jackvinson.com/blog/2020/... Good stuff about the familiar good and bad patterns that show up in organizations trying to develop agility. On my blog: https://www.jackvinson.com/blog/2020/...

  17. 4 out of 5

    Craig Martin

    I really want to like this book. The content is great as are the real world examples. But I couldn't recommend this book to anyone - it is just so repetitive. "Tell them three time more than you think you need to, and you are a third of the way there" is definitely the mantra they wrote this book by. If it were condensed into 1/4 the size it would be borderline 5 stars. I really want to like this book. The content is great as are the real world examples. But I couldn't recommend this book to anyone - it is just so repetitive. "Tell them three time more than you think you need to, and you are a third of the way there" is definitely the mantra they wrote this book by. If it were condensed into 1/4 the size it would be borderline 5 stars.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Kristjan

    Well rounded and well written language.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jekaterina.savinova

    Amazing book full of insightful stories, practical tips and inspiration for making effective changes in your working environments. This book consolidates a lot of information, studies and knowledge from various sources and brings powerful messages, that are well structured and are easy to understand. I've been listening audiobook which has been accompanying my daily lunch runs over past months, and insights from the book have been always inspiring me to learn and bring the practises and principl Amazing book full of insightful stories, practical tips and inspiration for making effective changes in your working environments. This book consolidates a lot of information, studies and knowledge from various sources and brings powerful messages, that are well structured and are easy to understand. I've been listening audiobook which has been accompanying my daily lunch runs over past months, and insights from the book have been always inspiring me to learn and bring the practises and principles from the book into my work. However, I am delighted I have the hardcover copy, as a lot of the concepts that are introduced are beneficial to recap and review over time, until you'll be fluent in all the patterns and how to apply them. All in all, I cannot recommend this enough for anyone who is working in a complex tech world and wants to deliver better value sooner, safer and happier into this world.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jeff Mousty

    Overall I thought the book was a good read. I will also say I thought the book did the best job at explaining when you want agile which is during the development process but lean during the deployment process. Other books just seem to say you want to be agile but don’t give the clear curbs of this book. There are times when I felt the book got long and the chapters at 30+ pages a pop are not conducive to pick up and put down reading so be conscious of that. There are tons of other book reference Overall I thought the book was a good read. I will also say I thought the book did the best job at explaining when you want agile which is during the development process but lean during the deployment process. Other books just seem to say you want to be agile but don’t give the clear curbs of this book. There are times when I felt the book got long and the chapters at 30+ pages a pop are not conducive to pick up and put down reading so be conscious of that. There are tons of other book references in here, but again overall I thought it was a decent book. If your wanting deep dives on specific topics look elsewhere but high level guidance and learnings this is your book. Enjoy!

  21. 5 out of 5

    Simon Semelin

    Full of good tips on how to change an organization to an agile mindset, of course some mumbo jumbo which you’d expect. But the way it’s communicated with clear steps on how to change more than in words it’s actually a book that brings a lot to the table. I liked especially the facts on how change should be done and the call out that big changes seldom gets to the result anticipated. Instead go slow to learn fast. Can recommend it to anyone on the track to change the way of working in their org b Full of good tips on how to change an organization to an agile mindset, of course some mumbo jumbo which you’d expect. But the way it’s communicated with clear steps on how to change more than in words it’s actually a book that brings a lot to the table. I liked especially the facts on how change should be done and the call out that big changes seldom gets to the result anticipated. Instead go slow to learn fast. Can recommend it to anyone on the track to change the way of working in their org but also for those that have just gone through a change and then humane it to reflect if they are where they wished for.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Hugo Brisson

    Where to start, 67 pages of notes for a 350 pages book. Smart was able to fit a lot of content in this book, almost too much! Highly recommended read for anyone interested in improving their organization agility. The concept of focusing on outcomes instead of outputs was an awakening for me, no longer will I simply try to improve our User Story throughput and let my teams become feature factories.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Miguel Ocaña

    I really liked the author approach to agility! It also provides some interesting insights and learnings about agility in the context of security, safety and compliance, I was not looking for it when a bought it, but it is valuable! It was a little disappointing to see that the book ends when you reach the 63% completion (kindle), because it provides a lot of bibliography, index, references...

  24. 5 out of 5

    zoagli

    I wanted to, but I really did not like it. Every time a headline caught my attention, the actual content felt like a collection of self-evident truths mixed with buzzwords. Look, the ideas are good, but there’s nothing new. For me, at least. If you’re totally new to a customer-focused, value-driven mindset, you will certainly find something here.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Chris Downey

    Really wanted it to be a 5 star review as pretty much all the concepts are relevant to me. However found this more of a collection of ideas and principles, but not much depth from a practical point of view. I would have preferred less of a shallow dive into so many topics and more depth to some of the key principles. Would be a useful book if you are new to agile.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Marc Min

    What is missing in the title is the word “introduction”? Sooner Safer Happier did a fair job to cover various enablers of business agility (patterns and anti-patterns). There are wide range of patterns which could serve a reference for people who are new to the topic. It lacks depth and actual experiences sharing on how to implement those patterns.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Andrei ILchenko

    Amazing book weaving together many a modern concept with regard to software development and carrying out changes at large organizations. I found reading the book to be an excellent way of consolidating different popular concepts. The quality of cases he selected to exemplify different patterns and antipatterns is superb too: Boeing, BP, Nokia, Maersk, Merck, GE.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Grzegorz

    List of anti-patterns and patterns useful when implementing Agile ways of working in an organization. Good high level overview of what works and what doesn't. Recommended for CIOs and managers at all levels. List of anti-patterns and patterns useful when implementing Agile ways of working in an organization. Good high level overview of what works and what doesn't. Recommended for CIOs and managers at all levels.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Fran Cormack

    Interested in business agility? Read this book. Involved in ensuring your organisation is fit for the future? Read this book. This is the book everyone should read before embarking on a "digital transformation". Seriously. Read this book. Interested in business agility? Read this book. Involved in ensuring your organisation is fit for the future? Read this book. This is the book everyone should read before embarking on a "digital transformation". Seriously. Read this book.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Kristie M O'Shea

    Awesome book! If you want to unpack what it means to have true business agility in the digital age, then this book is for you. I enjoyed the format of this book with the anti patterns, patterns, and principles clearly laid out. Great format, great book!

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