Agility is the ability to move quickly and easily. The prerequisite of agility is general fitness. General fitness provides one with the strength and endurance to be able to move with agility. For those who are unfit, getting fit requires one to adhere to a disciplined, structured regime, one which is followed consistently to reach their desired goal.

Organisations that want to achieve agility or become agile, must start with the basics – inculcate discipline, apply it consistently, strengthen capabilities, and get fit. It is at this point that they are able to successfully execute their agility strategy.

Agile Ways of Working

Over the past ten years, Agile has become the dominant approach to developing software, and businesses that have embraced Agile have reaped the benefits. However, going from a team of 5 to 7 developers creating a single product and scaling to hundreds or even thousands of teams requires a different approach. Agile must be scaled throughout the business, and such a massive change comes with its share of pitfalls.

Scaling Agile requires scaling governance throughout the business and seeing the complete picture, instead of focusing on silos (such as product lines or team dispersion).

With the rise of more Agile ways of working, it is evident that traditional governance methods are inflexible and inefficient at adapting to the constantly changing environment around them. Delivery, with the myriad number of methodologies available, can become a minefield for debates over what constitutes ‘good’ governance.

Moving to Agile is a Cultural Shift

Implementing Agile is not merely a checklist of tasks to complete. Instead, it is a dramatic change in mindset, especially for companies that have never implemented it within their development practices. When scaling, Agile must be adapted to all aspects of the business.

Historically, decisions are made at the top in a waterfall approach, trickle down to project management, and eventually to the delivery team. Senior management and executives receive time- and money-based progress reports from the PMO, usually with a red, yellow, or green status. By the time problems surface, it is often too late to rethink the strategy, and corrective measures must be put in place, yielding extra costs and frustration. Sometimes, to maintain appearances, teams produce misleading reports, which compound problems when they come to light.

Agile requires transparency, trust, and working with empirical evidence instead of predictive calculations. Instead of looking at the past and determining how the future will be, aim for a defined future and let the teams decide on a course of action. Management’s role is no longer to tell the delivery team what to do, but rather that of facilitation. You become a servant leader rather than one who gives orders.

Agile must be agile

Agile is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Many companies have failed to implement agile methodologies in-house because they tried to implement them in business units where they yielded no benefits. When implementing Agile, take an agile approach. Instead of changing everything at once, determine where the business could generate value, and implement Agile there.

Such a step-by-step approach implies that the various corporate business units will not implement Agile at the same speed. Some business units may never implement Agile because it would provide no value. As part of agile governance, leaders must ensure that the non-agile business units continue to adequately support agile business units. If not, frustration ensues, there will be resistance toward the implementation, and in the end, you will not reap the expected benefits.

What Else to Consider When Scaling

  • Understand the governance landscape – focus on elimination of the duplication between systems, tools, and even your organisation chart (roles and responsibilities)
  • Understand dependencies – invest time in understanding your dependencies, this is a big challenge and can significantly slow down productivity
  • Optimise for speed – teams need to move independently, control your own domains, reduce high coordination overheads, agree upon principles upfront and make sure everyone understands these
  • Check alignment –define the key principles/guardrails and allow teams to get there any way they want
  • Over-communicate – consider the impacts of remote working on agile teams and remember that a lot of communication is nonverbal. Working through teleconference / video conferencing is not an energising form of communicating so identify alternative ways to keep the team informed and engaged, think Ted Talks Tuesdays, share surprise videos, online showcases, live workshops to co-design, phone calls whilst walking at lunchtimes or invite people to submit questions and answer them in special Q&A sessions

Get Support

With such a large change, it’s imperative to get the proper support. Small-scale Agile deployment is easier to implement and can be left to the smaller delivery teams. However, scaling requires expertise that most companies do not have at their disposal. Hiring a coach or an Agile consultant during this transformation is one of the best decisions that senior management can make. When considering governance, you need to remember that Agile governance and Agile delivery are not the same things, so having experienced consultants who understand the difference is key.

“Agile governance is not Agile delivery”

Before committing to any approach, leaders must take the time to determine whether that approach will fit with the corporate culture and the DNA of the company. There are so many scaling approaches that can be applied (SAFe, LeSS, Scrum of Scrums, Disciplined Agile) that deciding on the best one requires someone who understands how each approach is better suited to a company’s reality.

Companies that have implemented Agile throughout, and have implemented appropriate agile governance, have reaped benefits that greatly surpass their investments.

People Do Not Notice Good Governance

A move to Agile means we need to enhance the way we govern. Governance will still apply whether it be coming from external regulations, enterprise policies, or project-specific requirements. Many organisations move to Agile delivery and remove traditional governance functions without replacing or transitioning the necessary governance that is still necessary within the delivery. As such, there is a significant burden on delivery teams and executives who are often gap-filling as a result.

As a partner to delivery, the AMO practice model works with teams to ensure alignment across the value chain, by removing roadblocks, providing executive-level visibility, streamlining repeatable processes, and improving the ability to move at speed. A solid foundation in concepts, tools, and methods paves the way for clean and effective implementation.

Remember Agile makes you nimble but to be agile you have to be fit. Agile is two letters away from ‘fragile’. So, get fit before you get nimble. Let us embrace agility and all that it offers us. Let’s not fear failure, lets disrupt and drive value. And remember Use Agile Responsibly.

 “Agile makes you nimble but to be agile you have to be fit”

Do you need support on your Agile journey?

We will be launching some new and exciting workshops to help governance transition to more Agile ways of working, to find out more and register your interest, click here.

In the meantime, if you’d like to learn more about how we may be able to help you, please go to Agile Management Office and check out our BRAND NEW website launched this month.

If you’d like to engage Fatimah as a coach/advisor for your organisation to help you make sense of the chaos, then you can reach out to her by email at Fatimah.a@agilemanagementoffice.com