To scale more efficiently and have a more functional team, you need to change processes.

Becoming an Agile company sounds very straightforward, but for any company or team, changing processes really means changing the fundamental way that they work. And we all know that implementing new organizational structures is never as easy as it seems on paper.

So where should businesses that want to scale Agile begin? Let’s start by defining the term.

What does scaling Agile actually mean?

Scaling Agile allows enterprises to accomplish their organizational goals by producing the highest quality product in the shortest sustainable amount of time.

The term ‘Agile’ in a business context refers to being able to move faster and more flexibly and therefore be more customer-centric. This may be easier for SMEs, but larger organizations with their complex natures and sprawling internal structures may find it more difficult to initially transform to being Agile.

It’s not impossible – the question is how to make it a reality. In my experience, the only way to realistically achieve the ability to scale Agile is through top level involvement. Business leaders need to be willing to implement new practices and change certain behaviours in order to spearhead and galvanize agility amongst teams.

Taking the first step towards Agile

It’s important to remember that ‘Agile’ is not a silver bullet, and that the mindset shift needs time and effort to function well. Businesses need to define a clear vision, objectives and goals behind which they are aligned so they can effectively communicate with the wider company and cross-functional teams.

Before revamping the core structures of an organization at large, it’s best to start small. Applying changes and different methods of working are more easily implemented in smaller teams. Once these teams are empowered and a proof of concept is established, scaling across the business is easier. 

What Agile frameworks to use?

There are numerous frameworks companies can use to become Agile, such as Scrum, Kanban and Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe). All are frameworks designed to help teams to collaborate more effectively.

Scrum Framework

The Scrum framework is an approach to product development focusing on a regular cadence of delivery that utilizes time-boxing, where work is broken down into fixed time periods known as sprints. This helps define and limit the time dedicated to a certain activity, and lets stakeholders know when their features will be worked on and delivered, especially important when dealing with open-ended or ambiguous tasks.

Kanban

Another framework is Kanban, a scheduling system for lean processes that helps in the management of creating products through continuous delivery. Unlike Scrum which is time-boxed, Kanban aims to keep the development team from being overburdened by advocating the setting of WIP limits. 

Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe)

A third and popular framework is SAFe, a prescriptive method which outlines a highly structured framework to adopt and operate with Agility in an enterprise setting. It allows businesses to retain a lot of their organizational and process structure whilst benefiting from working in an Agile manner. 

While each framework has its own advantages and disadvantages, it’s important to remember they can co-exist. However, in order to empower teams to make the best use of these approaches and start delivering results, people need to be given ownership.

What are the benefits of scaling Agile?

Specific benefits will differ for each company, but, overall, teams will become more interactive and collaborative, as transparency across teams increases and information is shared more efficiently. As a result, members of different teams will start talking to each other and become accountable for what they do.

With simplified decision-making, ways of working will become more manageable, more collaborative and teams will be more committed (especially to timelines!), enabling companies to develop their products more quickly.

Overcoming scaling Agile challenges

There are various technologies that streamline changes in process, but sometimes business processes clash with the change, resulting in endlessly prolonged implementation attempts. As any large organisation has these procedures and structures in place to support business operations, the question is how businesses can collaborate across different teams, countries or cultures.

While the overall aim of agility is to maximise operational flow and efficiency, the main challenge is to show the business (and its leaders and stakeholders) that processes in a large organisation can be changed.

How to take the first step to scaling Agile

1

Educate your team and explain the process to begin changing their mindsets.

2

Begin with a small and capable team to proof and offer value. Once there is success, you can expand and scale.

3

Don’t change too many things at once, or you won’t be able to pinpoint which change made the difference.

4

Empower and champion your team. Make sure you give them agency and ownership over the project, as that’s how to make teams accountable.

What does a successful Agile implementation look like?

Success will look different for every company. But when determining whether something is working or not, it’s necessary to track progress and have metrics in place right from the start so that you can have data-driven insights that will inform how to improve tasks and projects (i.e. faster product delivery) that way.

The basic measurement approach looks like this:

Implement a new approach

Test and learn

Does it work?

If yes, move on to the next phase
If no, change, improve and/or be Agile

When trying to measure the success and value of a certain project, companies need to remember what they are trying to change and within what time frame.

Where does this leave business leaders?

The fundamental change is not about the technology and new processes, but rather the shift in mindset that needs to occur among the wider team.

How to achieve a mindset shift? Business leaders need to take a step back and to get a more objective viewpoint of the business, its challenges, its potential and its future path. 

While understanding the different frameworks, such as Scrum and Kanban, is a great start, the key to success in implementing Agile transformation processes is the engagement of the leadership in combination with education and training.

If you want to spark change Biqmind Discovery Workshops may be just the right forum for your organization.  We work with your stakeholders to rapidly build a strong foundation for transformation by visually mapping best routes, developing common understanding, and capturing actionable requirements. 

Learn how you can kickstart your digital transformation journey today through Biqmind Discovery Workshops.

Shireen
Author

Shireen Bailey

Shireen has over 14+ years of project management experience. Having implemented agile in corporate multi-stakeholder environments, she is uniquely placed to advise on agile implementation and project planning for large organizations. At Biqmind, she oversees overall project planning across software, hardware, manufacturing and operations and leads our Quality Management efforts. Shireen is certified as a Prince2 practitioner, Kanban practitioner and Scrum Master. 

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