Scaling agile? Five important considerations to get it right

Agile is not a cookie cutter framework or set of practices.

I’ve been a part of large number of agile organizations some as CTO, some as CIO, and now as President of StarCIO. Although I’ve reapplied similar agile practices across multiple organizations and teams, none were implemented the exact same way.

Agile can’t be baked into a one size fits most framework. It’s one reason StarCIO brands them as Driving Digital Practices - because they are building blocks that are selected, roadmapped, and adopted to an organization’s culture, goals, and legacies.

Going from one or a handful of practicing agile teams to an organizational practice, culture, and mindset requires a strategic organizational change program. That's especially the case when organizations start agile with their best talent on the most strategic programs - a smart strategy - but an approach that won't easily scale to other teams and projects.

Here is a starting set of things to think about

  1. Define and share your agile principles - Why are you moving to agile? What's not working today and why? What are the goals of the transition and what's expected of teams and people? How can people participate in shaping the program? Document the vision, share, communicate, and reinforce frequently.
  2. Self organizing versus agile practice standards - This can be the hardest thing for organizations to determine on their own. Where teams are empowered to self-organize and where organizations decide or require standards should be defined and evolved.
  3. Kanban may be better for some teams - Many organizations are using scrum, but it may not be optimal to standardize it everywhere. New teams to agile may be better off starting with Kanban. Also, innovation teams, infrastructure teams, and ones that largely provide supporting functions may also be better off with Kanban.
  4. Agile portfolio management takes time to mature - Organizations that want forecasting, resource management, and other portfolio management practices must first give basic agile practices some time to mature.
  5. Agile and SDLC practices must coevolve and drive both customer and business benefits - Optimizing and maturing agile must be done in consideration of technical practices and vica versa. Both must drive customer and business benefits. Many of the leadership discussions I've facilitated and debates I've refereed revolve around figuring out courses of actions that align strategy, customer need, process and technical capability.
Reach out to me @NYIke if you want the next five!

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