Mark Lines Interview

Mark Lines along with Scott Ambler, co-created the Disciplined Agile Delivery (DAD) which is a process decision framework designed to help organizations apply agile and lean for their unique contexts.  It provides guidance for “disciplined” application of agile across the enterprise.

Mark Lines

He show teams how to extend Scrum with other supplementary practices from a variety of methods such as Extreme programming, Kanban, Agile Modelling and the Unified Agile Process. He help teams apply DAD with its hybrid approach that is suitable to the unique needs of the organization. Mark has over twenty five years of experience in delivering software solutions.

Mark co-authored “Disciplined Agile Delivery: A Practitioner’s Guide to Agile Software Delivery in the Enterprise”. Also co-founded the Disciplined Agile Consortium, the certification body for Disciplined Agile.

Disciplined Agile Delivery

Here is an excerpt from the conversations we had with him.

1. What are the challenges in implementing Scrum for large complex projects?

Software development is hard.  Scrum is described by a 16 page guide.  Clearly that is not enough guidance to deliver enterprise, mission critical applications.  So in the past it has been left up to the practitioner to try and supplement Scrum with ideas from other methods such as Extreme Programming, Lean, Kanban, and others.  But even if one has the experience to piece together practices from these methods into something that makes sense, that is still only effective for individual, small project teams.  Once you are successful at the team level, scaling it across many teams, on projects of many different types can be very challenging.  Indeed, without a solid foundation that DAD provides it is very difficult to be successful applying agile across an organization.

2. How does DAD address the challenges highlighted above?

To address the challenges of being effective at the team level DAD is comprised of a hybrid of proven practices from the leading agile methods.  It provides a cohesive approach that addresses the complete lifecycle, not just the construction aspect that mainstream methods such as Scrum focus on.  Having applied the DAD framework properly, then we are ready to address scaling concerns such as distributed teams, compliance and regulatory situations, domain complexity, and large teams.

One of the flaws we see with other scaling approaches such as Large-Scale Scrum (LeSS) is that they rely on Scrum itself.  Although scaling based on Scrum makes sense in many cases DAD doesn’t prescribe Scrum.  In fact DAD has four different lifecycles which address other needs such as Lean, Exploratory (Lean startup) and Continuous Delivery.

One thing I would like to point out is that people often misinterpret DAD as being a scaling framework.  While it certainly is applicable for scaling, it is more often used for small and medium sized teams.  It is a “process decision framework”, providing guidance to customize your approach for the vast variety of contexts that organizations find themselves in.  One scaling framework will not be best in all situations.  Fortunately DAD is flexible.  We like to call it “pragmatic agile”.

To learn more, come to my workshop at Agile India 2015 conference.

3. Tell us a bit about what got you started with DAD?

That is an excellent question.  Both Scott and I have been using agile techniques long before the agile manifesto was written.  We had different names for things but we have been build software iteratively and incrementally for many years prior to 2001.  While Scott was at IBM he consolidated his own past work as well as harvested proven techniques from other methods into DAD.  It was during that time that we agreed to write a book on the framework.  Contrary to what many believe however, DAD is not IBM’s.  The Disciplined Agile Consortium is responsible for maintaining and evolving DAD.

4. Based on your experience coaching teams, how do they react to the hybrid approach suggested by DAD?

Without reservation I can tell you that teams that take time to understand what DAD really is and are very happy with DAD.  It bridges the gap between what project teams need to be effective with agile and lean and what the enterprises need for effective cross-team and program collaboration.

5. What is your take on certifications? How do they help the practitioners?

Scott and I have openly criticized agile certification schemes in the past so some people were surprised that we developed a certification program for DAD.  We decided that certification can be a valuable thing but the program needs to be credible.  As such, we have a multi-level Belt program that shows the progress of knowledge, experience, through to community involvement.  Lower level belts demonstrate experience on DAD projects while higher belts reflect coaching and organizational DAD transformations experience.

Regarding how certifications help practitioners, we have found that some organizations want to hire people that have demonstrated a commitment to learning what DAD is all about, and sometimes they want evidence that they have actually applied the DAD principles on projects.  In this regard it becomes a valuable thing for an agile practitioner to have on their CV.

Although not required, attending a DAD workshop is an excellent way to prepare for the Yellow Belt certification test.  Additionally, most DAD workshops include a free certification test.  More information on the certification program can be found at

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