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Sooner Safer Happier Book Guide

Reading Sooner Safer Happier Antipatterns and Patterns for Business Agility? Are you looking for inspiration for where to begin in your organization?


There are a few approaches you can take. One option is to explore the book through the lens of the outcomes you wish to achieve. Identify the specific goals or improvements you want to make within your organization and then refer back to the book to find relevant insights and strategies. Another approach is to go chapter by chapter, revisiting each section and reflecting on how you can apply the concepts and principles discussed.

Tap into additional resources on the topics covered in the book. This could include articles, videos, podcasts, or other books that delve deeper into specific areas of interest. 
You are also welcome to connect with a member of the team for a quick chat and some pointers. 

Explore by Outcomes

Explore by Book Chapters

Efficient dilivery of value

I want more efficient delivery of value


“We’re too expensive and inefficient.

It’s too hard to get anything done, and organizational inertia is holding us back.


Doing nothing is like going backward. The cost of change is high and it takes ages.

We have to be more efficient!”

Quick Learn
Outcome Canvas

Optimize for highest value

I want to optimize for highest value


“We need to get better at benefits management. We don’t really know what value our change investments are adding,

it’s just opinion. We have to get smarter at articulating, measuring, and prioritizing highest value!”

Decrease time to value
Have both speed and control

I want to have both speed and control.


“When our delivery teams hit the risk and control gates it doesn’t matter whether

they are agile or not, they all slow to the same speed. It can feel like we have governance gridlock, yet we are highly regulated and must manage risk and maintain regulatory trust.”




More engaged workforce

I want a more engaged workforce.


“Our best people keep leaving. The talent market is so competitive. Our staff turnover is really wasteful. We lose knowledge 
and reputation. We have to get better at attracting and retaining the best talent.”



Pattern 1.2: Start with why; Empower the how

Know why ways o working matter

I want to know why ways of working matter.


“We waste a lot of time talking about it. We have some pockets of improvement, but there is no shared understanding.

Everyone has such entrenched beliefs. The arguments can get heated. Our energy needs be focused on making real improvement.”



What is BVSSH

I want to nurture cultural change


“We have talked about transformation for a long time and made a start. We’re making some progress in IT, but the wider organization is not yet feeling the benefit.

As a leadership team we want to improve outcomes and we want lasting change”



A story of scaling agility at Roche

Nurture cultural change
Know where to (re)start

I want to know where to (re)start


“For our organization to survive and thrive we know we have to adapt quickly. The

scale of change is daunting, and we are not sure where to begin making these changes.”



Nationwide Building Society - Ways of working journey of flow, value and cultur

Know how to fund agility

I want to know how to fund agility


“Our investment funding is tied to detailed upfront business cases and annual project cycles.

It's hard to understand what a different funding model might look like in new ways of working”



NatEnabling ways of working through a WoW CoE

Anchor 1


Discussion Questions

  1. Within your organization, what are you optimizing for?

  2. Are you optimizing for the fast flow of safe value with high levels of customer advocacy and colleague engagement, or for role-based silos, where work is passed over the wall to the next role-based silo with little notion of end-to-end ownership?

  3. Are you optimizing for fast learning and pivoting in order to maximize outcomes in the shortest possible time and with the least effort and least risk, or for following a pre-determined project plan with learning and risks back loaded to the end, with a large impact radius, big-bang implementation?

  4. Are you optimizing for everyone using their brains to run safe-to-learn experiments in order to continuously improve or for following orders?

  5. What is Agile, DevOps, and Waterfall?


  • Previous Ways of Working Were Optimized for Repetitive Labor; What Are You Optimizing for?

  • Agile, DevOps, and Waterfall • Approaching Work Based on the Domain of Work

  • Surviving and Thriving in the Age of Digital

Further Reading

“Why Software Is Eating the World,” Marc Andreessen.

“The New New Product Development Game,” Hirotaka Takeuchi and Ikujiro Nonaka.

"SCRUM Development Process," Ken Schwaber.

"Unlearn: Let Go of Past Success to Achieve Extraordinary Results," Barry O’Reilly. SOONER SAFER HAPPIER READER’S GUIDE | 7 


How we got here

A sense of urgency


Focus on outcomes

Better Value Sooner Safer Happier

Discussion Questions

  • Do you want to do, or are you currently doing an Agile, Lean, or DevOps Transformation?

  • What job are you using the bodies of knowledge for?

  • What results do you want to produce?

  • What is Better Value Sooner Safer Happier?

  • What do the terms represent, and how are they measured?


  • Focus on Outcomes

  • Better Value Sooner Safer Happier

  • Agile in IT Only Is a Local Optimization• Everything Is in Scope

Further Reading

“AgileImposition,” Martin Fowler.

“Ten Reasons People Resist Change,” Rosabeth Moss Kanter.

"One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way," Robert Maurer.

Focus on outcomes
Achieve big through small


Discussion Questions

  • What happens when an employee hears that their company is undergoing a large transformation?

  • How do people experience Kübler-Ross’s model in a context of workplace change?

  • What does “descale before you scale” mean in the context of your work?


  • Achieve Big through Small

  • Think Big, Start Small, Learn Fast

  • S-Curve Approach to Change

  • Descale Before You Scale

Further Reading

"On Death and Dying," Elisabeth Kübler-Ross.

“Parkinson’s Law,” C. Northcote Parkinson.

"Toyota Kata," Mike Rother.


Achieve big through small


Discussion Questions
• What are the three stages of Shu Ha Ri?
• Does your framework encourage the adaptation of core ways of working in context?
• How can implementing Scrum be revolutionary?


  • One Size Does Not Fit All

  • Organizations Are Complex Adaptive Systems

  • You Have a Unique VOICEInvite over Inflict

Optimisation over one way

Invite over inflict

Further Reading

“Principles behind the Agile Manifesto,”

“A Typology of Organisational Cultures,” Ron Westrum.

“Scaling Without a Religious Methodology,” Daniel Terhorst-North and Katherine Kirk.

Optimization over one way
Leadership will make it or break it


Leadership will make it or break it

Discussion Questions

  • What is servant leadership?

  • What are some of the differences between a commander and a leader?

  • What is the culture of your organization like? Do team members feel safe and heard?

  • What behavioral norms do you want your organization to exhibit, and how do you mode them?


  • Leaders Go First

  • Role Model Desired Behaviors

  • Foster Psychological Safety

  • Blame-Free Culture

  • Leverage Emergence

Further Reading

“Former Boeing Engineers Say Relentless Cost-Cutting Sacrificed Safety,” Peter Robinson.

"The Boeing 737 MAX Aircraft," Democratic Staff of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.

“I Honestly Don’t Trust Many People at Boeing’: A Broken Culture Exposed,” David Gelles.

“The Bureaucratization of Safety,” Sidney W.A. Dekker.

Build the right thing; Intelligent flow


Build the right thing

Intelligent flow

Discussion Questions

  • How do large, traditional organizations make sure that their teams are working on the most valuable things as agility increases?

  • How do they maintain their flow of value?

  • How soon can you sustainably and repeatedly get an innovative idea from concept to customer?

  • Who benefits from your business outcomes and how?


  • Optimize for Sustainable Fast Flow of Safe Value

  • Tribal Identity by Value Stream

  • Outcome Hypotheses over Solution Milestones • Stop Starting, Start Finishing

  • Pull Work, Don’t Push It

Further Reading

"Developing Products in Half the Time: New Rules, New Tools", Donald Reinertsen and Preston Smith.

“The Architecture Owner Role,”

“The IT Measurement Inversion,” Douglas Hubbard.

“The PMO is Dead, Long Live the PMO,” Jonathan Smart and Morag McCall.

Building the thing right; telligent control


Build the thing right

Intelligent control

Discussion Questions

  • Is your organization running a one-size-fits-all compliance to the lowest common denominator? Control without speed? is it local optimization within role-based Safety silos leading to duplication? Or is it optimizing for the fast flow of safe value in a context-sensitive manner, enabling both speed AND control?

  • Is there a willingness in your organization to accommodate dissent when people say. "I disagree"?

  • Is there an ability to listen to diversity of opinion in your organization?


  • Safety within Safety

  • Safety Teams Aligned to Value Streams

  • Minimal Viable Compliance

  • People, Process, Tooling, in That Order

Further Reading

"Securing a Common Future in Cyberspace,"

World Economic Forum.

"The Pursuit of Success and Averting Drift into Failure," Sydney W. A Dekker.

"The Fearless Organization : Creating Psychosocial Safety in the Workplace for Learning, Innovation and Growth," Amy Edmondson.

Continuous attention to technical excellence


Continuous attention to technical excellence

Discussion Questions

  • Look at the automobile industry in Detroit between 1910 and 1920. How did so many workers without fluency in a common language work together to assemble such a complex masterpiece of engineering?

  • What is technical debt’s vicious cycle? How does it work and who does it affect?

  • How is flow distribution visualized in your organization? Is this working, or could it be optimized?


  • Continuous Attention to Technical Excellence

  • Architect for Flow

  • Punctuated Gradualism (Multiple Speeds in Parallel)

  • Autonomation: People and Machines in Harmony

Further Reading

"Team Topologies: Organizing Business and Technology Teams for Fast Flow," Matthew Skelton and Manuel Pais.

"Making Work Visible: Exposing Time Theft to Optimize Work and Flow," Dominica DeGrandis.

"Project to Product: How to Survive and Thrive in the Age of Digital Disruption with the Flow Framework," Mik Kersten.

"The Unicorn Project: A Novel about Developers, Digital Disruption, and Thriving in the Age of Data," Gene Kim. "Accelerate: The Science of Lean Software and DevOps: Building and Scaling High Performing Technology Organizations," Nicole Forsgren, Jez Humble, and Gene Kim.

Create a learning ecosystem


Create a learning ecosystem

Discussion Questions

  • If you could run a project again with the same team, the same organizational constraints, and the same context so that the only difference was the knowledge, experience, and learnings that the team had accumulated the first time, how long do you believe the work would take the second time?

  • Is your organization living in a universe or a multiverse?

  • Have you ever attended a classroom training session at which the trainer stood in front of the room and flipped through a long PowerPoint deck? How did you feel? Was it effective? How much learning did you take away?

  •  If a company delivered more than 1,500 features last year, is that meaningful? An interesting insight would be to know how many features the customers have subscribed to. How many are unused?


  • Optimize for Fast Learning

  • Create Nested Learning Loops

  • Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

  • Learn to Be Comfortable with Uncertainty

  • Measure for Learning

Further Reading

"Trust: The Social Virtues and the Creation of Prosperity," Francis Fukuyama.

"The Tacit Dimension," Michael Polanyi.

"Implementing Lean Software Development: From Concept to Cash," Mary Poppendieck and Tom Poppendieck.

"Dialogue: Art of Thinking Together," William Isaacs. "Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us," Daniel Pink.

The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago; the second best time is now


The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago

The second best time is now

Discussion Questions

  • Where do you begin? “How do you continue from your current starting point and organizational memory in order to get better at learning in order to optimize for outcomes across the organization?

  • Why change? What if the status quo is maintained? What’s the “so what?” Why do people need to go through the discomfort of change and a lack of mastery? What appeals to the selfish gene? • Why be more Agile? Why more for less?


  • Start with Why

  • Focus on Outcomes: BVSSH

  • Leaders Go First

  • Create a Ways of Working Center of Enablement 

  • Start Small and Create an S-Curve Change

  • Invite over Inflict

  • Involve Everyone from Top to Bottom

  • Bias to Action

  • Become a Re-Learning Organization: You’re Never Done

Further Reading

"How I Remade GE,” Jeffrey R. Immelt​

"Technological Revolutions and Financial Capital," Carlota Perez.

“Managing the Development of Large Software Systems,” Dr. Winston W. Royce.

“Kurt Lewin’s Change Theory in the Field and in the Classroom,” Edgar H. Schein.


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Want interactive, actionable workshops for strategy days? Clear on your direction, but unsure where to begin? Schedule a brief 15-minute call or get in touch to explore the offerings and get started

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