Agile at scale is a tedious undertaking according to global CIO Survey 2018 (Harvey Nash/KPMG)
Results from our latest 2018 CIO Survey (Harvey Nash/KPMG 2018) (PDF 3.25 MB) show that organizations are increasingly using methodologies like agile to speed up product delivery. However, almost one in five respondents (22%) report that their organizations are 'not at all effective' at scaling agile methods enterprise-wide, with additional 30% indicating that they are only 'slightly effective'. Implementing agile on Scale is an improvement area where many organizations struggle with.
The results of our recent CIO survey are in line with the struggle we frequently observe at our clients. In this blog, we shortly address the challenge by stressing three key attention areas we continuously experience when applying agility at scale.
1) Have a clear 'why' for your organization's goal to implement scaled agile
Too often we see our clients starting the agile journey to save costs or simply as a response to the simple fact that successful startups show agile works for them.
When you embark on your agile journey, make sure you determine the 'why' for your specific organization.
Align the change to your organization's DNA and digital strategy and most importantly: make sure you do not focus on products only but on the customer! Based on that insight, organizations can find the best-use case(s) that can support their digital lighthouse and scale the transformation from that foundation.
Remember, typically the best way to start the foundation of Agile/DevOps transformation is by using pilot teams and start from there. Read our previous blog to read more about the Transformation Journey towards an Agile and DevOps driven organization.
2) Have a clear view on your organization's culture and how to change behavior within the organization
The real change of the transformation will come from the employees within the organization. As mentioned by change expert John Kotter: "The central issue is never strategy, structure, culture or systems. The core of the matter is always about changing the behavior of people." (John Kotter (2002), The Heart of Change). Therefore, you need to have a clear view on the culture of your organizations and have a plan how to change the behavior that fits the transformation journey.
Note that successful application of agile principles is not only about structure, processes and technology (which are rather pre-requisites) but mainly about a changing mindset: mastery and purpose should drive the transformation, not costs.
This does not mean just adjusting job titles from project manager to Scrum master or Business Analyst to Product Owner. Besides, it is important to train ALL your employees and make them experts on their field. Although we recommend training your teams and management in Scrum/ Kanban and potential scaling frameworks, this goes way beyond training of methods, tools and frameworks.
In our daily work we often get the question from our clients which framework should we use for implementing agile within the whole organization? LeSS? SAFe? Spotify? Nexus? One of the misconceptions is that scaling agile is a one-size-fits-all approach, it is not. There are more important questions you should consider before talking about which framework should be used. A good framework provides you with the structure and means to drive the transformation and helps to internally align and standardize understanding and application. However, is not a goal in itself, nor will any framework be a direct fit to your organization. Read more about how to determine your own organization agility in our previous blog.
3) Balance roles to focus on execution and have a broad organization perspective
Agile at scale is all about execution. Reduction of coordination mechanisms and overhead to streamline decision making all to empower the actual delivery of value in the teams.
During an agile transformation too often we see the colleagues that used to coordinate something simply become product owners. This leads to the explosion of items on the backlogs but too few teams to do the realization. Remember that agile transformation is about reduction of the amount of mandated roles, not about retaining old functions, habits and ways of working in a new sexy concept.
Other stakeholders are often forgotten or included too late, such as procurement and supplier management, HR, and finance. To make the change happen across the entire value stream, a holistic approach is needed. HR is needed to drive the new function house and support culture, Finance to drive the new way of budgeting, supplier management to bring along the suppliers, etc.
Finally, we frequently see agility being successful only in parts of the value stream leading to internal friction. IT can be fast in delivery via DevOps and CI/CD, while the business works demand-supply or vice versa, or business and IT are integrated but the customer was forgotten. Honestly, we have seen agile transformations driving fast product delivery, without the customer being part of the equation! Recall our starting premise: know WHY you are applying agility at scale and reiterate it along your journey!
If you have any questions or thoughts about this blog, you can contact Tim de Koning or Robert Kannekens.