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Agile at Scale: How to Avoid Missing the Point

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As companies expand and evolve, scaling Agile becomes increasingly important due to the rising complexity of product delivery with more people and customers. While the typical approach is to implement a popular out-of-the-box Agile framework across teams, departments, or the entire organization, it's crucial to acknowledge that these frameworks have limitations and may not always prove effective.

A key goal of implementing Agile throughout an organization is to encourage innovation and collaboration among all stakeholders, with the ultimate aim of developing high-value solutions. This is achieved by streamlining the entire value delivery and communications process, from ideation to product delivery.

With this, it's essential to clearly understand the goals of Agile at scale. They are to improve communication, address organizational impediments, increase access and flow of information, and ensure alignment with program goals and progress across the enterprise. Moreover, fostering collaboration and balancing the value delivery stream, connecting individuals to participate in the delivery process, and bringing diverse perspectives and skills from across the company to advance the program is a priority.

The flaw in the out-of-the-box approach to Agile scaling is replicating a process designed for small teams across multiple groups. Stretching an Agile team-level method such as Scrum across the organization can be limiting. Cross team-collaboration is often restricted to small silos of seven plus or minus two people, working within predefined rules that can restrict connections and collaboration across the organization. As a result, the benefits of cross-team collaboration and knowledge-sharing across the enterprise are often left untapped.

Furthermore, this can lead to replacing the existing delivery system with an equally complex one requiring specialized training and certification. Teams often become overly focused on processes, neglecting the values that make Agile work. The outcome can be as slow and cumbersome as the previous system, with no significant changes in individual behavior. This departs from Agile's original objective of simplifying and streamlining organizations. As a result, almost everyone involved misses the point and the benefits of Agile.

To implement Agile at scale without falling into this trap, organizations must prioritize Agile values over methods. The Agile Manifesto outlines four values: individuals and interactions, working solutions, customer collaboration, and responding to change. Regardless of the framework or methods used, these values form the foundation of any Agile transformation. Therefore, any system, process, or method implemented across the enterprise must be measured to improve the company across all four values.

Additionally, organizations must be willing to experiment and adapt. Agile is built on the idea of continuous improvement, which also applies at the organizational level. Organizations must be willing to try and adapt new methods and approaches, measure their effectiveness, and make changes as necessary. Designing custom systems to engineer the desired outcomes instead of strictly implementing a static out-of-the-box framework is crucial.

This goes back to the simple notion of whether your company wants to be a recipe follower or a chef. Being a recipe follower means relying on generic frameworks and following established processes without considering the specific needs and goals of your organization. On the other hand, being a chef means taking a customized approach, experimenting with different ingredients, and adapting to the unique needs and challenges of your organization. Ultimately, the choice is yours, but it's important to remember that in today's rapidly changing business environment, being a chef may be the key to staying ahead of the competition.


We invite you to take nuAgility's free Agile Values and Culture online class to learn more about Agile Values.

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