I’m going to be controversial and talk about frameworks, methods, and strategies.
Some people can operate purely from values and principles, but often, when they are under pressure, those same people battle to figure out what they should do without the benefit of practices and tools to help guide them.
Over indexing on tools and practices can be harmful too because you are being very mechanical about your agility.
I am of the belief that scaffolding using agile frameworks and methodologies can really help if those frameworks are used within the context of freedom to explore and discover. We don’t want too much prescription.
We may want a few rules, but not so many rules that the team get caught up in red tape.
There are some scaling frameworks that I am not a fan of because they are mostly about prescription and contain too many rules. They restrict creativity and collaboration rather than promoting these elements, which isn’t great for Agility.
In large organizations where you have thousands and tens of thousands of people, you often find that people don’t know what to do when they have too much guidance and prescription.
So, in my experience, giving people a few rules with a great scaffolding that supports the bare minimum of what is required, can be incredibly useful.
I am a big fan of open space and open agility that empowers people to create their own frameworks, methods, and strategies based on values and principles.
There is some merit in the commoditization of some approaches like scrum, Kanban, lean UX, etc. as it can help by providing a basic scaffolding that allows them to get started and discover the most effective way to work through empirical evidence and operational experience.
I would just reinforce that it is important for the team to adopt and embody the values and principles which those frameworks are built on. It really does help and ensures that the team get the most value out of that framework.
A word of caution.
Be careful where the framework is more like a prescribed methodology rather than a scaffolding that supports great product development. You don’t want to replicate the traditional waterfall-style of project management by prescribing each step in the process.
Sometimes, it just becomes too complicated for people, and they can’t remember all the steps in the prescribed framework. Instead of creating an environment where people are creative and collaborative, you end up with an environment where people follow the rules to the letter.
If you are evaluating an agile framework that attempts to describe each element of complexity within an environment in a single big picture, you will find that it is describing complicated environments rather than complex environments.
Complicated versus Complex Environments
A complicated environment is something like civil engineering where the work is difficult and complicated, but all of the variables are known, and people know how to build the elements they are building, or they know how to solve the problems that they encounter.
In a complex environment, the solutions are unknown, the variables are unknown, and the team are attempting to create or build something that has never been built before. There is no formula.
In a complicated environment, you can have many people working on the same project without too many issues. It could be up to 150 people. According to the EU field guide, you can have a maximum of 15 people working on a crisis in a complex environment.
A maximum of 5 people is recommended when dealing with chaos in a complex environment.
So, the rules aren’t the same in a complicated environment when compared with a complex environment.
A good scaling framework needs to take culture and mindset into consideration. It needs to take complexity into consideration. It needs to be flexible and fluid enough to empower people to experiment and discover the right answer.
If is too prescribed, to the point where people are simply following a process, that is fraught with danger and create more problems than it solves. That would be a classic sign that you are trying to buy ‘agility in a box’ rather than nurturing and growing authentic agility within your organization.
As an executive or leader within your organization, you have great influence over how the organization adopts agility and how effective the organization becomes at achieving business agility.
If you are considering agile frameworks, LeSS (Large Scale Scrum) can help. The creation of Agility islands can help. Nexus can help and flight levels can help.
In my opinion, SAFe (Scaled Agile Frameworks) can be damaging as can Scrum at Scale.
Those frameworks tend to grow product owners like flowers and since those product owners don’t have power, in the context of SAFe and Scrum@Scale, it just sends the wrong message and prevents the team from doing meaningful work that creates real customer value.
So, focus on achieving authentic agility by truly understanding how the work moves, how the system works, and how your organization works. Help your people deal with the frustrations that live in front of them, help them resolve those frustrations, and help to optimize the system by decluttering workflows, processes, and systems.
You can even go as far as to declutter the products and services that you offer to help the team focus on the most valuable work.
According to Jared Spool, when we keep adding ‘stuff’ to our products and services, they become so complicated that people don’t know how to use them, and we run the danger of being disrupted by competitors who have a great understanding of the competitive environment.
So, be careful with attempting to buy ‘agility in a box’ because it often represents the opposite of true business agility and instead, simply replaces one prescribed methodology with another.
John Coleman has deep experience and expertise working with executives, #leadership teams and product development teams to achieve increased #businessagility and create environments where creativity and collaboration produce high-performance teams.
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