How to turn your business into an agile one

By now you’ve heard about "doing agile". You hope creating such teams will solve your organisational problems, from missed commitments, bad quality and lack of visibility to stalled innovation. Unfortunately, many bosses find they aren’t getting what they expected from their agile investments.

The truth is, doing agile – especially at a team level – isn’t at all the same as being an agile business. Frankly, doing agile is not of much real value. And it’s not the team’s fault. Too often they’re building the wrong things because the company doesn’t have a way to connect strategy and execution.

These employees have a hole – a chasm – right in the middle of their organisation. Bosses that learn how to bridge this chasm can invest in the right things and build them the right way; but most importantly, they can regularly and inexpensively change what they are building to stay ahead of their markets and generate the most value from their development effort.

That’s the promise of lean/agile at scale, of truly becoming an agile business. But how do you get there?

Lost on scrum island

The first three things to consider are: (1) How are your teams structured? (2) How does work flow to teams? (3) How do you plan? Typical answers focus on the number of teams, roles, technologies, processes, estimating story value, sprints lengths, and so on. We can always improve team-level disciplines, but so what?

Everybody has Scrum teams. Scrum won’t solve the big problems facing your company. In fact, if all you do is implement these individual Scrum teams, you’re probably worse off than when you were doing waterfall.

Let that sink in – the agile guy said we’re better off doing waterfall. Here’s why: In waterfall, we make decisions up front when we know the least about the work. Experience tells us projects will be late and over budget, but we will know what is built because scope is fixed. Compare this to what I call “Feral Scrum” – optimised teams that deliver software fast. They’re on Scrum Island doing their own thing.

Sometimes their only connection to the organisation is a single, shared product owner. They are putting a lot of something into production, but we don’t know if what they deliver is what we truly need right now.

Read on to find out how to turn your business into an agile one

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