Authored by Tan Tiong Yeow, Senior Consultant,
Journey with Agile thus far
Organizations have been jumping on the Agile bandwagon and standing up Agile teams to pilot and experiment with Agile ways of working. These teams are usually disparate across the organization and some Agile teams are even solely contained within the technology space.
Nevertheless, they have first-hand experienced the benefits of working in Agile and appreciate how Agile helps in value delivery as well as creating a great culture in the organizations.
These organizations have reached the tipping point and decided to scale up Agile throughout the entire company and make Agile a part of their organizational DNA. However, most don’t know where to begin to create an Agile operating model for scaling up.
Clear design principles as a design beacon
The task of creating an Agile operating model can seem very daunting. Having clear design principles guides decisions in the design of the operating model. We will be sharing some key insights to help create your tailored key design principles in each of the six elements of an Agile operating model.
As an organization shifts to Agile ways of working, leadership will need to do the same. Ideally, we want to design a leadership structure that minimizes silos and handoffs, with each leader fully empowered to make end-to-end decisions on a product or service.
To do that we will need to have meaningful leadership roles with clear, distinct accountabilities whereby leaders understand their roles in the organization and able to drive to key outcomes with conviction.
A tribe is a collective of Agile teams focused on an overarching mission to deliver. It is tempting to group too many teams to minimize complexity, which ironically increases it instead. As consistent with the “Dunbar” number of 150, we recommend limiting the tribe size to ensure people can maintain stable relationships with one another in the tribe.
When it comes to grouping Agile teams to form a tribe, there are several ways to do it. Customer segments, products, and customer journeys are some examples in which Agile teams can be grouped. What is important is to minimize handoffs across tribes (or Agile teams even) so that the tribe is self-sufficient to deliver upon its mission.
Illustrative example of tribes grouped by Customer Journeys
Illustrative example of tribes grouped by Customer Segments and Products
The Agile teams form the backbone of the Agile organization. For team members to align and collaborate to achieve key outcomes, a clear mission needs to be agreed upon.
With the aligned mission, organizations should also take external support into consideration (e.g. agencies, technology partners etc.) in the Agile team setup so that the team is self-sufficient to be fully responsible for delivering key outcomes.
In today’s unfortunate global COVID-19 pandemic situation, leaders should ensure supporting enablers for communication are in place to compensate for the lack of co-location. This will drive both alignment as well as collaboration across and within the Agile teams.
Chapters are the experts in their respective fields and serve to develop the capabilities within the Agile organization.
When defining chapter types, it is critical to note that chapter types should be based on the expertise instead (e.g. front-end development chapter, visual design chapter).
Leaders should also try to ensure that chapters wholly exist within a tribe instead of cutting across several tribes. This is to maximize the self-sufficiency of the tribe to deliver upon its mission end-to-end.
Centre of Expertise (CoE)
In the current war for talent in the market, organizations struggle to get sufficient capabilities to be embedded within every Agile team. This is when a Centre of Expertise (CoE) is set up, helping to serve the various Agile teams to fill in the capability gap. The Agile teams will interact with the CoE based on the type of work to be done rather than a single interaction model per CoE.
To create a flat organization, it is possible to fall into the trap of ending up with too wide a span of control, especially for the Tribe Lead. A Tribe Lead might end up with having too many Product Owners and Chapter Leads reporting into him or her, leading to loss of productivity.
We suggest a few common approaches recommended to limit the span of control for Tribe Leads.
- Create the role of a Tribe Performance Lead who plays the role of a Product Owner Chapter Lead to handle the scale of Product Owners. The Product Owner Chapter Lead will then report to the Tribe Lead instead of having all the Product Owners reporting to him or her.
- Leverage on senior Chapter Leads to handle the scale of Chapter Leads. The senior Chapter Leads will report to the Tribe Lead instead of having all the Chapter Leads reporting to him or her.
- Move ownership of select Agile teams to different tribes to maintain the balance of reporting lines.
In our experience with past clients, we found Option 1 to be particularly helpful as it freed up more people to deliver business outcomes and creates a defined career path for Product Owners.
Other enablers of scaling Agile in the organization
We need to cognizant that every organization is different and the Agile scaling pathways might be different as well. In ADAPTOVATE, we tailor the design principles to be specific to each organization. Apart from the six elements discussed, other enablers are pertinent to the success of scaling Agile.
- Broad alignment on purpose: How do you drive alignment on purpose in Agile organizations through OKRs, QBR, and a mission control?
- Certainty on team and funding: Ways to drive high performing Agile teams and funding approaches to stand up Agile teams in an Agile organization
- Autonomy and collaboration: How to design an Agile organization structure that emphasizes autonomy and collaboration?
- Empowered people with authority: How to design Agile roles and career paths to build mastery?
- Growth mindset culture with embedded test and learn behaviors: How to build an outcome-based culture and what are the new leadership behaviors expected in an Agile organization?
- Sustainable Agile and lean practices: How to set up and run Agile practices that are sustainable?
- Flexible architecture and integration: How to set up an architecture and platforms that enables teams to organize and coordinate with minimal dependencies?
When if not now?
Every market around the globe is experiencing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is the ‘Big Bang’ disruption at its peak. Companies around the globe are increasingly being forced to pivot, adapt, and evolve their way of working not only to survive but to thrive in these uncertain times.
Agile will be able to create customer-centric products/services, drive employee value proposition, and ensure the sustainability of the business in the market.
Scaling Agile can seem very daunting but what is scarier is the inability to transform the organization to keep up with the changing times. Let us in ADAPTOVATE work together with you to bring you through every step of the Agile journey to build a world-class adaptable organization.
“What got you here won’t get you there” Marshall Goldsmith