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Three Things You MUST Know to Transform Any Sized Organization into an Agile Enterprise #Agile2015

Mike Cottmeyer Chief Executive Officer
Reading: Three Things You MUST Know to Transform Any Sized Organization into an Agile Enterprise #Agile2015

Here is the talk I just submitted for the Agile2015 conference coming up this year in Washington DC. Noodling on submitting another one before the deadline in a few days, but I’m kinda one track on this topic right now, so it’s pretty much all I can really muster the energy to speak about ;-)

If you’ve got a minute head over to the submission site and give me your feedback.


The deeper we go down the path of scaled agile transformation, the more we are learning that adding additional process and additional complexity can only ever get us part of the way there. At some point size and complexity is going to limit our ability to be truly agile. To be truly agile, we have to reduce size and complexity and move toward greater organizational simplicity.

The challenge is that large organizations ARE often complex and usually anything but simple. Most agile transformations get started by either ignoring the complexity inherent in the system or by wrapping that complexity in planning constructs that can help in the short run, but are ultimately doomed to limit your business agility over time. There has to be another way.

To really achieve agility at scale, we have to stop chasing more advanced ways to manage complexity and seek out more effective patterns for moving toward greater simplicity. In short, it’s not the end state of an agile transformation that we must stay focused on, it’s the systematic process of reducing complexity that is critical to achieving your ultimate business goals.

To transform any sized organization into an agile enterprise, there are only three things you need to know to be successful:

  1. You must have complete cross functional teams
  2. You must have clear backlogs
  3. You must have the ability to produce a working, tested increment of product on regular intervals.

Every other benefit of agile is impossible without creating these three conditions for success; everything that gets in the way of creating these three conditions is an impediment to your transformation which has to be removed; and your transformation roadmap should be solely focused on how your going to make all this possible in your organization. Until you make this happen… nothing much else is going to matter.

This talk will explore patterns for creating cross-functional teams at scale, what that looks like, what get’s in the way, and how to get there. We’ll discover why clear backlogs are so hard to create and what you’ll need to do about it. Warning, this will not be easy! Finally, we’ll discuss why working tested software created on regular intervals is the secret sauce to actually getting the business benefits your organization is looking for.

Learning Outcomes:

  • Participants will learn the critical importance of forming complete cross-functional teams, why many common patterns for forming teams fail, patterns for forming teams successfully, and strategies for progressively reducing dependencies between teams over time.
  • Participants will learn common failure patterns we see around creating backlogs, how the guidance contained in Scrum and SAFe can actually prevent some organizations from creating effective backlogs, and patterns for creating backlogs that really get teams moving quick.
  • Participants will learn what it really means to create a working, tested, increment at the end of every sprint, release, or PI. They will learn how making this kind of progress support solid delivery metrics, increases predictability, and earns the trust of the business over time

To hear more about my talk and what to expect from Agile2015, check out a new podcast we recently recorded, All Things Agile2015.

Submission Link:

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Comments (3)

  1. Craig Zello

    I am a bit surprised that you didn’t mention Having a Product Owner. Project Sponsorship is so important

    • Mike Cottmeyer

      You don’t need to have a product owner… you need a well groomed backlog. There is a difference ;-)

    • Mike Cottmeyer

      I can’t tell you how many organizations we work in that have Product Owners but don’t have well groomed backlog. I’d suggest its the backlog we actually need and that there are several ways besides having a PO that can get you there.


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