Scaled Agile Framework Case Study from Nokia team

Scaling Agile is often daunting and seems unattainable for many large enterprises. The Scaled Agile Framework team and contributing consultants have pulled together case studies to share the journey challenges and are freely available at:

The most recent addition is from a global organisation across multiple countries – no small feat for any transitioning organisation. Given the size of the program and the timing of the scaling agile journey this case study is an essential read for any leader looking for a how to list of successful agile transitions. In fact, that’s why it’s one of my favourite case studies. The presentation done by Allen Rutzen and Sunil Roy presented at Agile India in 2014 really cuts to the chase of what worked. I highly recommend reviewing their Watefall to Enterprise Agility in 22 Months presentation to create your own Scaling Agile checklist.

A couple of the things that really stood out and will bare well for all journeys is that they approached it in a principled manner; test – experience – grow as the iChing principles states. They started with small pilots, learnt from that experience. Expanded the next pilot size, proved benefits and grew again from there. Although it may seem light on without the context of the presenters conversation use this case study as evidence for your leaders that it is possible to scale agile across an enterprise and as a checklist for your rollout.



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.

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.

Create a Connected Corporate Culture to accelerate agile

Building connections among people is essential for creating high powered teams and it is definitely essential for leading cultural change to align with the Agile Manifesto. For example a person can’t actively participate in valuing individuals and interactions over process and tools when people aren’t valued and interactions are assumed only to be control instructions. Many corporations are disconnected not only from their customers but also their own people who serve those customers.


The phenomena of elite performance from groups of people is not a new pop psychology hypothesis; it’s a founding character in human nature. Great examples include ANZACs, sports teams, and even on an individual level Ronald Reagan laid a foundation to end the Cold War by building a personal relationship with Gorbachev. In fact one of his most famous quotes on how he did it was to “trust first, check second” because that trust on a relationship level then allowed a conversation to occur, unified objectives to evolve and agreement on next steps. Sounds like collaboration to me!


Creating unity with-in teams is often done by introducing social sessions, social events and games playing at varying intervals. Playing games and having social sessions are fantastic when the team is co-located and of fairly good social standing but when you’re working with a large enterprise program with disparate relationships, and a strict control hierarchy it’s important to start with the basics; introduction, social values and good behaviour.


In order to create the strong relationships there are three key activities that you can do to establish interpersonal trust and team bonding in your new team planning session; they are,


1. Introductions to bridge personal disconnection and build interpersonal bonds

2. Professional introductions that re-map hierarchical roles to ‘delivery team roles’

3. Review behaviours and create a social agreement so that an agreed way of working together is understood.

4. Reconnecting people with the art of saying thank you and leveraging thank you as a means of breaking down tension, dissatisfaction and rebuilding new connections in the workplace.


In this post I’ll talk through personal introductions then follow up with posts on the remaining items.

Let the fun begin …


The “Say hello” exercise is constructed to be incredibly simply, easily doable and intentionally mindful of human behaviour. If you think about what it’s like being a stranger at someone else’s party; the unfamiliarity, the social butterflies and nervous banter – well, work can be just like that! Especially if it’s the first time the extended program team or release train has come together. This easy exercise intentionally facilitates the calming of nerves and social bonding.


Here’s the process;

1. On a sticky note, write down the top three things you most love to do on the weekend

2. Place your sticky up on the poster

3. Place your photo separately next to the poster

4. If we don’t happen to have your photo here yet, draw an avatar and pop that up. Also catch up with the “co-facilitator” to have your photo done in the break

5. As we progress through the workshop we’ll be play together to identify which items match with which person

6. Let’s try a couple first up before we do the formal introductions…

7. The facilitator picks one sticky and reads out their own so that an example of personal trust and humility can be established… “Here’s my top three…” and so forth

8. Do a couple, and if you are wrong – laugh at yourself, be humble, show humility – all the characters that allow humans to bond and trust you that it is a safe environment to talk. Suggest everyone chats to get to know each other in the breaks so they can do better than you when it’s their turn.

9. As the workshop goes through pick out a few at the start and/ or end of each session continuing to build personal connections among the team

10. It’s also good to start rotating the facilitation of the “game” by asking for volunteers to come up

Sounds simple enough; however, as facilitator you need to be very conscious of guiding the social balance between sharing insight and exposing personal vulnerabilities. In a group situation the personal affects can be accentuated, so I recommend being mindful. Your job is to “reach out” to each of those isolated individuals, enable a safe environment for sharing personal stories, connecting the network of relatedness so that individuals feel united. A unit of “mates” has more strength to create change or swarm despite the challenges of the surrounding organisation.


So why the particular steps above?

Writing the top 3 things you love gives the person focus time to reflect on what’s valuable to them in life. The ‘fond focus’ triggers good memories, endorphin release and calm. Most importantly these are often three things people are proud to share because they inherently make them happy. Besides setting the focus towards valued things in our lives, you are facilitating self-expression which – although it can be vulnerable – is just a simple safe participation act to set the level of comfortability for participating in the future. One of the incredible benefits it achieves is that adults are less likely to be aggressive to each other when they see each other as a father, a son, a brother, daughter etc – as a normal human being rather than just another rank in an org chart they must compete with.


“Although the connections are not always obvious, personal change is inseparable from social and political change.”

Harriet Lerner author of the Dance of Intimacy.

Reading Recommendations:
If you are interested in reading more about ontology, human behaviour, creating workplace connections here are few books to help you think for yourself about creating a connected corporate culture;
~ Wired to Care, Dev Patnik

~ Third Culture Kids, Dr Ruth Useem

~ The Long Walk To Freedom, Nelson Mandela

Using Kanban to simplify and save time on complex enterprise integration projects

Often the introduction of new methodologies and change programs are overwhelming for important professionals whom have no capacity for “another fandangle change movement” as a wonderful engineer once told me. He is quite right! All too often agile change programs are directed upon people without; compartmentalising time to complete current expectations, time to learn, and time to practice the new introduced methods.

Kanban BoardThe example below is based on an engagement with a very small and extremely important Environment & Configuration Team supporting multiple project teams through releases every 8 weeks across an 8 digit valued delivery program of work. Often these operation teams are the engines that can’t stop; they service multiple managers, teams and departments; and the last thing they (think they) want right now is to give precious time working with (another) Lean Agile coach. Add to that boiling mix of gurgling soup was a built up agile coaching resistance. I was the fourth Coach brought into to assist because previous adoptions hadn’t achieved fluidity; the combination of high demand, complex conditions, and conflicting relations had burnt through the well intentioned previous coaches.

As coaches we know that time invested in Lean and Agile methods is time exponentially returned; however, even after reviewing the evidence, many people are literally too stressed to consider new ways of working.

“I can’t make the old way work after all this time, and they said that was a new better way of working back then too!”

So I decide to go with the flow. If that was there world, then I became in rhythm with it, and rather than interrupt it with new ways of working I decided to add a new beat that was in compliment to the flow of work they had to maintain.

First I sat with them – there home was my home. I observed their world carefully – the patterns and streams of work in flow. I listened, and listened to assure that I truly understood what was happening. I listened to what was truly important to these guys and then in a briefing to the Solution Manager on the approach and why he will get value for endorsing my coaching, it came out almost like a whilted hope that had long ago become impossible. One of the guys said “I’d just love to get home to dinner with my son at least once a week”. There it was, the underlying “why this is valuable to me”. Without that why as a coach you won’t get people buying tickets to your agile journey. That become our commitment we would all work for.

Secondly, with managerial nod and a very human aspiration I negotiated just 15 minutes a day to start adding in all that good healthy agile stuff!

15 minutes a day is initially not a daunting amount of time to give up, to start focus on learning, and it also became the most important time of the day as it set the focus and created opportunity to continuously improve. (As a coach it was excellent as it also trained me to be very succinct and relevant in the teachings during that short time.)  First it was 15 minutes of listening daily (in person, fact was at that time I was 80% listening, watching, learning about them and 20% coaching).

As the days progressed the team were able to expand their ‘learning listening’ to take on doing personal kanban – a wonderfully simple Lean framework to initiate agile principles and a good coaching engagement.  Stage by stage, day by day I guided the team through visualising ALL their work, and to build understanding of the demand tunnels that previously drove their work. Identifying where they create value, and how much they do to fix failures. They practiced flow through concepts, experimenting with their WIPs. They achieved an extraneous amount of work in their first month. Not necessarily a massive chunk greater overall, that wasn’t important. They did it without having to do the normal amount of overtime.  Not only did they surprise themselves, the key reward was being able to sit back and actually see their achievements on the wall, share those achievements, understand their capacity and start to go home proud.  Previous to seeing their accomplishments visualised on the wall they stated “I’d just go home and pass out on the coach wandering if I was ever going to get on top of it all”.

Over the second month the team tested out concepts of focus, noise deflection, prioritisation models, retrospection and request methods to really hone their self organising skills. The 15 minutes would occasionally expand as the team needed. The beautiful thing was that the time extension was their choice based on their needs. They were experiencing a return on their 15min time investment for themselves and as a coach I was accessible, available and pulled the knowledge they needed when they needed it. If I didn’t know the answers on the spot I would research, investigate and find the resources or people that they needed.

In the third month the team felt confident enough to initiate their own program group stand-ups. The team pulled together the key doers from the multiple areas they serviced. The content focus of the stand-up was their shared work area. In essence the team – who three months earlier was too under the pump to learn Lean & Agile methods – was now hosting their own stand-ups, running an improvements backlog and teaching others what they had learnt 15 minutes a day.

In my following articles I’ll share how they become the base rhythm by which everyone else followed, and the third key element in their journey, Continuous Integration successes.

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The importance of PLAY to agile…to the human spirit

This is a wonderful short documentary on the importance of play; in essence,

Play = practice space = relate + communicate + push + pull + explore + bound + what if + solutions = human experience


Quotes from the video

  • play creates a reason for them (people) want to engage
  • “might we have understimated the value of ‘play’?”
  • How would your life look if seen through a playful state of mind?
  • Practicing in a play state gives the opportunity to build confidence
  • In elementry school it’s understood that ‘play is the way you learn’
  • as you get older…

    play is a time of day

    as you get older…

    time is an object…

    play is a frame

    play is a space that is designed for you to be successful
    Might a playful state of mind enable the strength of our true human spirit?

    Play is such a natural state of being, a good ways of learning that is lost as we grow older. Like many things great in life we unfortunately forget to bring them into the workplace to leverage the benefits for better business. Play can reduce stress – it’s why footy tipping is so popular! People love to have a game as a point of socialisation and building relatedness amongst peers at work. The bonding of workers also has a positive effect on business communications, especially preventing distanced and dysfunctional work places. As an agile coach who works with a multitude of teams I have seen how the absence of ‘joy’ in workplace interactions has directly caused dysfunction in team delivery. The time required to create flow – which comes more naturally to teams that have bonded – is approximately double the time it would normally take with a functional team. A good business coach, executive coach and agile coach will bring play and games into their services to help people more easily adopt learnings, build strong relationships and dissolve excessive stress in work environments.