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Why Team-Level Agile Isn’t Agile Transformation

Mike Cottmeyer Chief Executive Officer
Reading: Why Team-Level Agile Isn’t Agile Transformation

True Business Agility requires a lot more than team-level Agile. It requires an integrated operating model across the entire organization, where all the different parts of the business are plugged into an Agile System of Delivery, and it operates as an integrated whole. Otherwise, you won’t ever unlock the full potential of team-level Agile or Agile at Scale.

Video Transcript

Yeah. If you’re a small project in a large organization? Sure. Do Agile. You’ll probably get a lot of business benefit from it. But that isn’t the same as Business Agility

(Musical Interlude)

Hey, everybody, thanks for joining us today. We are engaged in the middle of a conversation around the idea of common misconceptions around Agile Transformation. What we’re going to talk about today is the idea that team-level Agile is sufficient to basically being Agile at scale.

Now, where I think some of this comes from is that there are a lot of organizations out there that are really naturally oriented towards an Agile ecosystem. They might not be doing Agile, but they’re kind of anchored towards it, right? So, they have very well-defined products, they have product areas, they have the opportunity to organize teams around feature areas. There might not be a lot of dependencies between different parts of the team. You know, the teams can operate independently from each other. And so, there’s a lot of places where you can pick up Scrum. You can pick up Extreme Programming. Or maybe, you know, in a workgroup environment, pick up SAFe and get a lot of business benefit from doing those practices.

But there’s also a lot of organizations out there that are, you know, currently heavily Waterfall, very functionally siloed, and the technology platforms have lots of dependencies between them. And so, not only is it insufficient to do team-level Agile, but there’s also like a way we have to think about it in order to be able to tie that team-level Agile up into program and portfolio and investment tier objectives.

There’s a lot of thought and intentionality that has to go into how are we going to introduce this incrementally and iteratively into the organization over time. There’s like really interesting things about like how we’re going to deal with, you know, corporate compliance and financial governance and, you know, audit, product management, enterprise architecture, DevOps, right? There’s a lot of different stuff that goes into this.

And so, if you’re thinking about doing Agile in a really large organization just at the team level, well, that might work for like if you’re a small team within a larger department and you’re trying to use Agile to get a project done. Again, not saying that that isn’t possible, that you couldn’t use just simple small team Agile in a large organization to get some sort of initiative done.

But the context of the question is what does it take to achieve Business Agility? What does it take to achieve Enterprise Agility? And when that’s the question we’re asking, how do we get the entire company to not only respond to changing markets, but also to get like the very fabric of the company responsive to changing markets? And like everything else we’ve been talking about, so much of it comes down to organizational design.

It comes down to organizing teams around business capabilities, product areas, feature sets, reducing the amount of coupling dependencies between different parts of the organization. And then you can start to think about once you have encapsulated delivery teams, how do those delivery teams roll up into more complicated like value stream type deliverables? How do those value stream or product deliverables tie up into the portfolio?

How does the portfolio operate in smaller batches? How do we start changing all of the different aspects of the company in order to be able to really exploit this this team level delivery capability that we have?

So, where I might end this little bit of discussion is that, yeah, if you’re a small project in a large organization? Sure. Do Agile. You’ll probably get a lot of business benefit from it. But that isn’t the same as Business Agility.

If you’re in a larger organization. What we have to recognize is that not only do you need really solid team-level Agility, but you also need Agility in terms of how you think about doing work decomposition, how you make investment decisions, how you govern and control everything else around those? And it all comes down to how do we, in effect, fund and support independent teams that are working autonomously at the local level, but also rolling up into larger program and portfolio level of objectives.

And so, while you might be able to Transform a team using training or going to Scrum, when you’re really talking about doing Agile at scale, it requires a whole lot more than team-level practices. It requires really an integrated, Agile operating model across the entire organization where all of the different business functions are plugged in to that Agile System of Delivery, and it operates as an integrated whole.

What we found is that that is the only way to truly get not only the benefits of team-level Agile, but also the benefits of Agile at scale and how to achieve true Enterprise and Business Agility. You have to look at the system holistically.

The cool thing is, is that the principles that we’re applying at the team level are the same principles we’re going to apply at scale. It just requires a bit of refactoring of the organization and some thoughtfulness about how you’re going to get there. So those are the kinds of things that LeadingAgile does, the problems we try to solve. So, if you’re interested in having that conversation with us, we appreciate you’re here, and we’re looking forward to continuing that conversation.

Have a great day.

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