Scaling Agile what it means? and how to measure it?

Instead of being a goal, Agile for me is enabler for the organization to stay in business and therefore to grow. I believe Scaling Agile is about the effective use of this enabler to solve organizational problems which stand in the way of its own growth. The idea is that it is not definitive on how the organization can grow so that it can remain in business. The organization needs Agile as enabler or tool to uncover such problems and address them.

“What is measured will be achieved or anything explicit will be gained” is what Prof. David Snowden has taught us in this presentation titled Practice without sound theory will not scale. Snowden created the CYNFIN framework, which for me, was so useful to understand the kind of systems we work on.

Because it is about organizational change, Agile implementation must have management commitment. In other words, since growth is essential for almost every organization, it is hard to be realized and therefore requires commitment from the leadership.

Please allow me to reiterate, Agile framework is not a process to comply to, rather it is enabler for growth. This framework has manifesto and principles which are far from being prescriptive. The organization decides how to rationalize them to enable its growth through and by coupling with XP/Scrum at the team level along with the Lean mindset.

On the same line of thought, Agile is a delivery framework for the whole organization rather than being a team process. Then, how the leadership can assess that their enabler (Agile) is being effectively implemented (Scaling) to the benefit of growing their organization?

The answer is: Measurements can encourage the desired behavior, please refer to Snowden’s presentation above. Those measurements are to cover the dimensions of Culture/ Leadership, Business, and Process & Implementation.

Leadership dimension- measuring leadership alignment

In my earlier post titled Growth mindset for enterprise Agile adoption, I applied the psychology research of Prof. Carol Dweck to organizational leadership in their Agile journey. Instilling the growth mindset should be accompanied with culture alignment, Jim Collins has addressed the importance of alignment as a main reason behind visionary organizations which he has studied. The work in this space requires education of the leadership on the mindset of Agile.

I have no specific experience in measuring leadership alignment other than trying to measure how the organization understand and react to:

Risks vs Learning: Agile mindset is a growth mindset which pursues learning and building knowledge. In my view the word risk is more applicable to traditional project management but in Agile we measure the amount of learning.
No predictability vs Value creation: Agile leadership do not demand upfront predictability and assertiveness instead it demands creation and measurement of business value. Leadership employs continuous feedback and has participatory role in value creation.
Failure vs Success: Organizations learn more from failure than success. If the leadership treats failure as learning and capitalize on this experiment to advance towards creating value, this means it adopts Agile mindset.

Business dimension- measuring business alignment

This is the space where Lean can be particularly useful, through applying the ideas of:

-Visualization of the end-to-end Value Stream.
-Limiting Work in Progress.
-Controlling the batch size of the business request.
-Waste identification and removal.
-Understanding the bottlenecks.
-Measuring of Lead Time.

Translating the previous ideas to the subject of this post, we should avoid common patterns, for example:

-The team implementing Scrum, but up stream process is based on toll gates,
-A new team is formed every time a project starts,
-A team is disbanded after the project,
-Artificial articulation of product management,

traceabilityX for process metrics time from idea to dev startSetting a goal as the threshold for the time from origination of an idea or business request till the team actually starts coding can help to measure business alignment. I find this time is in months or even years in many companies. This is anti-Agile and anti-Lean alike, and will not allow growth, despite of implementing rigorous Agile practices downstream.

Rationalizing Agile at the business level is the way going forward to improve this metric.

Process dimension- measure technical and process alignment

traceability for process metrics

Trace-ability analysis on the technical and process level can help understand how we measure in terms of implementation.

To summarize, Scaling Agile is the use of Agile for organizational growth. The measures of scaling Agile should cover the dimensions of Leadership, Business and Process. Lean principle and metrics should be integrated in Agile scaling.











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