Apply Cadence and Synchronization


What is cadence for?

Succeeding with complex effort requires fast learning. And we get that fast-paced learning when instead of following a big-upfront detailed plan, we create value incrementally, slice by slice. Every time we’ve created one slice, we learn from it, adjust the plan and deliver another increment. This is the heartbeat of highly effective value creation. A team that is working in this manner, will benefit from establishing regular time intervals where they plan, synchronize, execute, review the results and then repeat. These regular intervals is what we call a cadence.

An example of a team cadence

So, a team that is working on new ERP system functionality, for example, or a team that is creating marketing campaign for a new product line, may operate on a two-week cadence. That means that they start the two-week iteration by planning their effort for the two weeks, then executing it, and closing that timebox. And that closure may involve demonstrating the results achieved, getting some feedback and finally reflecting on the completed iteration and making some adjustments and improvements for the next one. After a while of operating on a cadence like this, a couple of great things happen. First of all, the team learns the rhythm. They always know when the planning is going take place, when it is the time to wrap things up, demonstrate the results and get feedback. So, it creates a fundamental team habit that is at the foundation of their productivity. And besides this, over time, they also empirically learn, how much scope they can actually take on in one iteration. This promotes sustainable pace and predictability for the organization.

Synchronizing cadence across teams

But in reality, in today’s organizations you may have multiple teams, various individual subject matter experts, and numerous stakeholders involved in a complex initiative. Cadence could be used not only to streamline an individual team progress, but also the progression of the group as a whole. But for that it may be very beneficial to align all cadences. Imagine that instead of having `disparate cadences for ten teams involved in the same project, you aligned them all to the same rhythm. And now your entire group can learn faster and deliver more value. Because of these synchronized checkpoints, dependencies are managed more effectively, less rework occurs, and less delay is involved. So, common cadence creates a rhythm of value creation for the whole group.

Multiple levels of cadence

 It is often very useful to have more than one level of cadence. So, for example, teams may operate on a two-week cadence but there’s also a higher-level cadence, quarterly cadence, for example, that allows for an opportunity to synchronize on executing a higher-level plan. And even above that there can be a higher-level, naturally occurring cadence, which is the financial year. These multiple levels of cadence help establish a clear connection between strategy and execution – something many organizations often struggle with.

Taking action

Do you have an effective cadence? Or maybe it’s time to establish one. Pick a specific area containing teams and other participants required to deliver some meaningful customer value. Consider establishing a short, common cadence (that is usually one or two weeks). Within this cadence each team will be able to plan their own effort, execute it, and review the results. But also, include simple synchronization across those teams, to see how dependencies are working out and what is the actual progress of the group as whole. Are they creating an integrated increment of value every two weeks? This would be a good first step, after which you can make the next one, establishing a higher-level, monthly or quarterly rhythm on top of that.

Learn More

Donald Reinertsen, The Principles of Product Development Flow: Second Generation Lean Product Development, Celeritas Publishing; 1st edition (January 1, 2009).

SAFe, Apply cadence, synchronize with cross-domain planning,

Alex Yakyma

Alex Yakyma is the author of “Pursuing Enterprise Outcomes” and “The Rollout”. As a consultant, Alex is helping enterprises succeed with complex challenges. Throughout his career, he operated in multi-cultural, highly distributed environments. Alex has trained a large number of change agents and leaders whose key role is to help their organizations achieve higher effectiveness at pursuing business outcomes.

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