How To Grow (sustainable) Agile In Your Company!

How To Grow (sustainable) Agile In Your Company!

Scaling Agile is as organic as the humans involved. Regardless of the methodologies or tools you bring; a successful and sustainable scaled agile program depends on a good human foundation. Agile is driven by people and molded by company culture. People and companies have underlying and historic values that need to be relinquished or evolved, otherwise they will rust any practices you put in place. Values define thinking, reactions, inevitably ‘how we process things’ and all to often decisions – even economic ones. The below three factors are a simple foundation for you to consider as a smart way of preparing for scaled agile success.

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1. First and foremost focus on building an inherent ownership (not just adaptation & adoption) of the agile values. The founding Agile Manifesto values must be strongly rooted among your culture so that any switch to practices and tools is ‘successfully effective’ and sustainable. Otherwise, it’s just another process we all “have to follow”…{punch in time card and yawn }

2. Understandably being humans we prosper from having a clear set of guidelines that interpret those values into actions and outcomes. That’s simply why the Agile Manifesto includes the dozen principles to help you on your way. Strengthen the core of your organisations agile principles by adding in the well practiced and proven principles from Agile Architecture, Lean Enterprise, Continuous Improvement, Product Delivery Flow and Leadership and you have a strong as oak core culture. Have a unified and understand core culture of principles creates adhesion across multiple teams, no matter the size you are scaling to. It really is nice when everyone on the row boat paddles in unison.

3. With a foundation of agreed values, strong understanding and permission to exercise the strong principles you have a flourishing petri dish to ‘practice agile’. Now choosing which practices, which tools, what do we do in this situation is soo much easier because every person in the organisation has the guiding decision framework to solve problems and create value.

Yep, scaling agile is still about solving problems, creating value (building the right thing for the customer + building things right + building speedily) more than it is about what is the “right agile process” to use or what is the “right agile tool” to use.

Here’s a simple exercise you can do with your teams to gauge how your growing without the complexities of an agile maturity index or agile survey. It’s also a great ‘how we growing agile team retrospective:

1. Draw a tree with roots, trunk, branches on a big poster
2. Ask the team to jott down on stickies;
a) What do we value daily in our work
b) What principles guide our decisions and actions
c) Are practices in tune with our values and principles
3. Pop the stickies around the left side of the tree on the poster
4. Facilitate an insightful conversation. For example; ask them to discuss an surprises, contradictions, more or less important
5. Bring the team to a decision and actions. For example; ask them to pick One Value and 3 corresponding principles that they would like to practice better over the next month.
…..note: I’ve chosen a month to allow the team time to develop the values over a number of sprints. Values and principles go to the core of how we behave. Often organisations have competing drivers that need to be addressed, people need time to understand what that new value means to them in their role. And for a value and principles to stick it’s good not to short change the long term commitment that’s required with a short term training session.