Scaling an Agile team to an organizational mindset is one of the biggest challenges in any Agile transformation. There are many approaches and frameworks to solve them. But in the last article we described, why we might need to look at the problem of scaling differently and how this could look like.
This blog article will attempt to visualize the complexities of an organization using the powers of ten (If you do not know, what this is or need a refresher, check this article). As we described, Agile is not just a process and a set of tools to follow. It is rather a complete new mindset.
Instead of just following a process or tools, we rather focus on how we think differently about our job. It is more helpful to base our decisions and questions on a set of principles, than a process or framework. Principles can help us to guide decisions we are making. Processes and tools just tell us how to do things differently. And we never ask why.
We recommend following these 7 principles:
(You will find a more profound description of each of these principles in this article).
Now, let’s look at different reframing possibilities to understand the challenges for each different level of an organization. Please beware, that this article does not explain the absolute truth. So, do not follow this as a recipe, but rather as an inspiration.
The different flight levels for each power of ten could be depending on the flight level of the organization (in brackets the reference of the scale in the video):
Now that we have established the different flight levels, we can take the perspective for each of the level. The key to change the way we look at our work, is not to give them the tools, but rather supporting them with questions (Tools can be made available via a repository).
An Agile Transformation is change management, which impacts everybody in the organization. On the level of Mindset, the perspective on looking at the change is pretty individual. If we follow our 7 principles, the most significant change for the individual might be around the role of the individual in the team. As teams are supposed to be cross-functional, competent and self-organized, we might focus on that principle mostly to understand, what that change would mean for them individually.
Some questions the individual might ask on this level:
The individual mindset and how we as an individual approach individual interactions will influence the quality of said interactions. However, whenever we interact with someone, we should not always have to ask about their approach and/or mindset. The mindset of the individual should be visible at this stage. Therefore, the following questions might help to improve the quality of interactions for better self-organization:
Technology on this level touches on ensuring that the information is available and individuals within a team or outside the team are aligned in their priorities and work. As an example, it should support making the progress of work visible and should provide as many answers as possible (and not inviting for more questions). On this level, we do not touch the technology stack for software engineering focused companies – this might come on the Product/Service level.
Teams are a group of people with a shared mission. They usually and consistently work on the same area of the product or service to ensure the delivery of said product & service. Our principles mention the important attributes of the team, but also addresses the role of management. Therefore, we could address the Agile transformation on this level with the following questions:
The product and the service are, what brings in the money in the end. Therefore, the questions around the product are around bringing the most value as fast as possible to as many customers as possible. Focus on customer-oriented priorities and incremental & iterative value delivery might just be the key:
When it comes to strategy and alignment, the role of management* becomes key. Traditionally, a manager is the person who controls the teams and gives them the work. For teams to be effective in uncertain and complex environments, the role of manager should change from being a transactional leader to a facilitating role. Therefore, the Manager’s job is to enable alignment, transparency & focus with the other teams. Like an ambassador for the team.
*using the word management on purpose in this context. Even in a fully self-organized team, there is management needed to ensure operations. We might not need managers specifically appointed to do so.
This is the view, on which most C-Level Directors look like. When it comes to an Agile transformation, at this level, it is not about the individual process of a team, nor about enabling the alignment or transparency – as we learned through this journey, that might happen already on lower level. The C-Levels of a company is suddenly not the decision maker or driver of the change – similarly as the technology at a lower level, they become enablers. Similarly, as on the tribe level, their role of management is more about facilitating, than about the decisions.
The highest flight level on the organization could be the market. This is where the need from the customers come from and might be the level investors or shareholders look at. It is a strategic level for any organization, and it would help to drive the initiatives for the portfolios or tribes and in the end the product. However, this view might also change the perspective from the internal company view to the external market view:
As mentioned before, this article is just an inspiration, not a recipe. It is not a framework, and you may not need to break down your organization into the powers of ten at all. However, it may give you an inspiration: When thinking about scaling, maybe before you think about jumping onto the next framework, to check, if with the right question, you can enable a change for everybody on how to look at their work. If they do this radically honestly, and with any given authority about their own work, they will change the way they work. And this will likely lead to a more agile and resilient organization.
But for being able to do so, it is better to focus on principles rather than frameworks.
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