When is the right time to scale agile in your organisation?
“Scaling Agile will enable your organisation to realise the ever-compounding benefits of operating in a new way“Patrick Fitzgerald. senior consultant US ADAPTOVATE.
Research shows that waterfall-based programs that do not deliver measurable business value every three months, significantly increase the risk of program failure.
The lack of visibility on the final product, no available product increments and changing customer requirements over time are typical waterfall risks that can be avoided in an Agile environment.
By using Agile methodologies and encouraging your team to adopt an agile mindset, you can deliver value quickly on a regular cadence with reduced risk. This is done by embedding sustainable change and using an iterative test and learn approach.
For Agile at scale to be set up for success from the beginning, it’s important to have a Business Agility diagnostic done. This will identify more accurately what is going well and should be scaled, and what needs to improve to unlock improved delivery. From a business readiness perspective, it also makes sure that a good foundation is in place to execute an agile transformation or agile operating model design.
Not all functions need to be Agile.
In an HBR article on Agile at Scale, the authors ask you to consider that if you do scale up across an organisation, some functions don’t need to be agile. However, they say, “sparks will fly from the organisational friction, leading to meltdowns and poor results. Changes are necessary to ensure that the functions that don’t operate as agile teams support the ones that do.”
So before moving too fast, it may benefit to understand when a good time would be to consider scaling agile in your organisation. Do you need to convince your managers, or stakeholders? Are there enough proof points in place to make meaningful decisions?
Here are some elements to consider if the time is right for your organisation.
HAVE A BLUEPRINT
It is imperative that there are teams embedded within the organisation who understand the purpose and benefit of operating in an agile way. Those teams can articulate both the value and methodology to their peers.
Patrick Fitzgerald says, “When you have a few teams operating in an Agile way, but you need to bring their activities in concert and foster greater collaboration across business units in order to realise additional benefit, you have reached the point at which it would be prudent to scale Agile.”
Dave Stewart is our project lead in the Toronto office. He describes the best time to scale Agile in your organisation. It’s once you have some successful Agile teams that can provide a blueprint for how Agile looks, (in the context of your organisational culture). “These teams will have uncovered areas where coaches should focus on teaching and coaching, as well as providing lessons learned that will inform needed changes to organisational design,” he says.
This blueprint is created via pilot teams which have the training and understanding of what’s required. If you already have pilot teams, your organisation will be familiar in theory and concept of what Agile is. The ‘scaling’ part however, requires a new set of tools and understanding. The business agility diagnostic will further uncover what now needs to be scaled.
FIND THE PROOF POINTS
FOMO (fear of missing out) is an excellent strategy for establishing new ways of working that delivers value. Alan Trivedi, our Principal in Los Angeles, says, “Dr. Kotter’s change strategy establishes a sense of urgency as the first step in driving change. When you have created successful proof points, you must begin to establish persistent teams that can do this in the long run.”
When adopting Agile at any scale it’s important to be able to measure the impact it’s having on the business.
More proof points indicate that something is working. So we must do more of it by scaling it in a sustainable way. Proof points will differ from organisation to organisation. This should be always determined up front.
A guide would be successes measured by
- faster speed to market
- increased employee engagement
- substantial cost benefits
- increased customer satisfaction
By measuring these from the start with pilot teams you will begin to create those successful proof points for stakeholders.
So, you’ve had pilot team running and you feel you have the blue print and proof points to move to scaling Agile across your organisation. What’s next?
Three factors to consider
Now carefully consider the below three factors to assess if it’s the right time to scale Agile in your organisation.
- Leadership buy-in.
Leadership buy-in is critical to any transformation. It must be leader led with endorsement, communication, and visibility. A shared understanding of “why” and the reason for change is very important and brings the organisation on the journey. When we understand the “why” we can do the work with purpose.
- Diagnostic readiness.
At the beginning of the transformation journey a diagnostic is performed, to understand business context and agile maturity. The results form a recommendation and contribute to a coaching plan to improve the organisation. Performing another diagnostic in the future. (In 3, 6 months) is a good way to gauge how the organisation is feeling. Then understand what has changed from the initial diagnostic. Assess if there is maturity and appetite to move to scale.
- Sustainable structure.
Teams need to have the right capability to do to the work. The right support model around the teams is needed to roll out at scale. Agile Coach, Chapter, Chapter Lead Governance frameworks (Risk, PMO) provide structure to frame delivery and manage risks. They take the overhead away from the tribes, teams, squads to get on with doing the work.
Laura Scott, is a project lead in our Sydney office. She has seen from example that you can only start to scale Agile when it’s right. “It’s when you have the right people to support the transformation from the top to the bottom of the organisation. You need buy in from management to support the change and the teams’ learning curve, and you need the right people to then drive the process throughout the business.”