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Scaling Agile – ‘To Do List’

Yep the irony of an “Agile” to do list… anyway.

I have been reflecting on my last few years involved in Agile at scale and some of the things we have had to address or have learnt we will need to address at some point in order to successfully navigate change across such a large enterprise. I thought I would jot them down although I don’t profess this to be a cookbook or that any form of cookie cutter approach exists to guarantee success (so yep do waste your money buying one).

Most of all, what I have learnt is that change is constant and scaling is a moving beast as learning occurs and teams begin to self organise and identify new was to optimise the flow of value to end customers.

  • Make Vision and Purpose pervasive
    • Asking yourself why are we doing this, what has happened to bring us to this point and what result do we expect to see?. Also do we understand the purpose of the company through the eyes of the customer and how the work we do contributes to that.
  • Understand demand
    • What is being asked of us, how capable are we of doing it and how do we know when we have delivered on that?
  • Define value
    • As a company how do we determine, measure and validate value?
  • Visualise everything
    • How can we make everything transparent and visual so decisions can be made quickly? What decisions need to be made and what measures need to be in place to help us improve on delivering our purpose? (Note: I didn’t use the word targets)
  • Create a common backlog and prioritise
    • Focusing the company on the same outcomes and have an agreed method of prioritisation that helps everyone understand how to best use their time and resources. Make prioritisation simple, fluid and transparent.
  • Shrink work loads
    • Build flexibility in by having smaller chunks of work so you can stop or change more easily and make it safer to fail, if we are wrong lets not be wrong for long and at minimal cost.
  • Team Agility
    • Provide the right environment for teams to thrive. Don’t be too prescriptive on a team’s composition or their way of working let things evolves. Focus on appropriate technical practices to improve quality and constant delivery of value to customers. Take into account appropriate forward planning on architecture building blocks without constraining a team’s ability to delivery often and innovate.
  • Reduce corporate constraints
    • Organisational structures, KPI’s, processes, contracts and policies can constrain the team’s ability to deliver value. Provide a minimalist approach to movement of people, work assignments, vendor engagement and polices to maximise the flow of value.
  • Change leadership style
    • Understanding the new role of a leader can be a difficult transition to make but also rewarding. Some conscious effort must go in to helping leaders understand the value they add but also how to avoid getting in the way or constraining the flow of value.
  • Rolling wave planning and removing budgets.
    • One leads to the other, its the ‘annual budgets done monthly’ concept. How do we get rid of annual budget cycles that consume 5 months of the year of senior managers and support-staff. Making work smaller and making everything visible makes it easier to make smaller, faster decisions and realign to priorities as they emerge. This constantly emergent planning makes it obvious what is required going into future fiscal periods. From this we can build up the trust of the financial and governance teams to remove the focus of annual ‘on budget’ metrics and instead work with teams to maximise the value we produce for the money we spend.
  • Try, fail fast, learn amplify
    • Developing a learning culture where we can try many things and innovate on how best to meet the demands of customers.

As Jim Highsmith would put it, I am riding the paradox. Trying to balance setting enough boundaries and consistency at an organisational level to enable scaling, drive visibility and encourage value based decision making, while at the same time making sure we don’t constrain the teams ability to innovate and deliver value.

No doubt a separate blog could almost be written with detail on each one of these points…. but that’s for later, feel free to suggest where I should deep dive.

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About Gary O'Brien

A Principal Consultant with 20 years experience in ICT and a diverse background as an IT Business Strategist and People Manager. I specialise in helping executives, teams and individuals to adopt and improve Agile methods, principles and practice. Using a strong emphasis on facilitating organizational change, and the role of management and leadership in an Agile world. As an Agile Coach I look to help teams adapt Agile and Lean thinking to their specific environment and impediments they face. Experience includes working with CIO’s and senior leaders to create and execute a vision and strategy for and adopting Agile as an enterprise approach to improving outcomes for delivering customer value and optimising IT.

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  1. Pingback: How to Measure Value | Agile By Culture - July 10, 2014

  2. Pingback: Scaling AGILITY – ‘To Do List’ | Agile By Culture - July 6, 2015

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