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Part 3: Benefits 4-7 of scaling Agile

the-scaled-agile-difference

This is the third installment in a series of posts about the benefits of scaled Agile. If you haven’t read the first two posts, click through the links below to catch up on anything you missed:

In the previous installment of this series, we discussed the first three key benefits of scaling Agile:

  • Strategic alignment across the enterprise
  • Funding by value stream
  • Optimizing capacity and resource management across the enterprise

In this post, we’ll share four more benefits of scaling Agile, along with our recommendations for how to realize them:

  • Coordinated value streams
  • Enterprise-wide visibility
  • Real-time reporting and analytics
  • More engaged employees

4. Coordinated Value Streams

The true value of offering a portfolio of solutions is to leverage integrated capabilities to respond to expanding end-user patterns and needs. For many organizations, this is the ultimate goal—to operate with a sort of Swiss army knife-type of versatility, with the agility to anticipate and respond to user needs with the exact tools for the job.

Traditional work management methods don’t support this sort of integration—teams are typically organized by solution and operate independently of each other, typically in silos. Progress, learnings, and setbacks are shared upwards to executive leadership, but not across the solutions.

The Agile Difference:

Organizing into value streams is the first step toward coordinating the efforts of your teams to maximize capacity and process efficiency.

Adopting an Agile PMO can help to coordinate efforts across the value stream to manage dependencies and identify opportunities within the portfolio. It can also facilitate Agile practices like developing Communities of Practice and establishing a Lean-Agile Center of Excellence to bolster a continued commitment to Lean-Agile learning.

Regular PI (Program Increment) Planning is also foundational to scaling Agile, as it promotes the connection of the delivery teams to the organization’s strategy, giving everyone across the business clear visibility into current and upcoming initiatives.

Put It Into Practice:

  • Present leadership’s business vision and context and establish key business priorities
  • Collaborate with stakeholders and create capacity-based plans
  • Visualize cross-team dependencies and identify risks
  • Commit to the plan for the next PI and establish key organizational meeting cadences to present progress and maintain alignment

The 7 Benefits of Scaling Agile Whitepaper

5. Enterprise-Wide Visibility

While everyone in the enterprise stands to benefit from increasing visibility, executives in particular seem to enjoy this benefit of scaling Agile.

Most Agile implementations include some sort of visual workflow management—commonly, enterprise Kanban.

The Agile Difference: 

By visualizing the work from all the teams aligned to the value stream(s), leaders and managers can see bottlenecks and impediments, creating opportunity to reallocate work to deliver on-time. As organizational priorities pivot, leadership has the information necessary to make informed decisions around cost of delay, downstream impact, and cross-functional dependencies that might be affected.

Using a hierarchy of connected Kanban boards to manage work across the enterprise arms executives with the information they need to make smarter, more Agile decisions.

Put It Into Practice:

  • Connect the work of disparate Agile teams into a shared view via an enterprise Kanban board
  • Manage dependencies across teams with multiple, interconnected boards and dependency visualizations
  • Roll up the work of all teams of teams to see program and financial progress against the value streams and strategic objectives

6. Real-Time Reporting and Analytics

As organizations grow in size, they grow in complexity. Unless your organization prioritized the collection and reporting of business intelligence data from day one, it’s likely that key insights are buried deep within the disparate tools your teams use. As management expert Peter Drucker famously said, “You can’t manage what you can’t measure.”

The Agile Difference:

In the first post of this series, we discussed the importance of having a tech solution that enables visibility and agility at scale. This is the first step required to realize the benefit of scaling Agile reporting and analytics.

The second step is to actually doing something with that data. Here are other practical steps you can take to realize the benefit of real-time reporting and analytics in scaled Agile:

Put it Into Practice:

  • Set up dashboards to track the progress of delivery by value stream
  • Review real-time metrics at regular intervals to inform decisions around funding practices
  • Encourage leaders throughout the organization to champion data-driven decision making over less concrete methods
  • Use PI planning as an opportunity to regularly assess if value stream funding needs to be reprioritized based on strategic goals and objectives

7. More Engaged Employees

Embracing Agile requires leaders to thoroughly examine how they feel about what motivates people. In the 1960s, forward-thinking social psychologist Douglas McGregor created a framework of understanding human motivation in his book, The Human Side of Enterprise, which is still used today.

McGregor described two styles of management – authoritarian (Theory X) and participative (Theory Y). The style you prescribe to will directly impact how happy and engaged your employees will be.

Theory X assumes little faith in the skills, motivation, or strategic thinking abilities of employees—executives are seen as the ‘grown-ups in the room’, and everyone ‘beneath’ them in the organization serves to execute the ideas of those in power.

Even if leaders might not feel this way about employees (most successful people in the world understand that business is a team sport), the way most organizations are structured supports a Theory X approach: Employee and team performance is measured by efficiency and predictability—how quickly did we do the thing we said we would do? – above other measures of progress.

In a Theory X environment, efficiency and predictability are seen as the paths towards profitability—which, they can be—as long as they’re efficiently and predictably delivering the right things, the things that matter most to the customer. The reality is that the approach you take to motivating people is largely a self-fulfilling prophecy: If you believe people don’t care about their work and can’t be trusted, you’ll end up with an organization full of people who are simply there to collect paychecks. You’ll lose the innovative, forward-thinking employees to companies who enable them to shine.

The Agile Difference

Lean-Agile companies structure their organizations around a different philosophy, which McGregor calls Theory Y. Theory Y says that most people want to do their best work and enjoy being challenged, and that they will do the right thing when given the choice.

If you believe in Theory Y, you’ll adopt a participative approach to management—you’ll lead with a sense of trust in your employees and see your role as empowering them to do their best work. You won’t tell them what to do or how to do it—you’ll work together to align around a shared, customer-centric goal, and you’ll see it as your job to remove anything that stands in their way.

As a result? This approach enables the self-sufficiency, self-organization, and autonomy seen in high-performing Lean-Agile teams. It creates a breeding ground for innovative ideas. It attracts smart, hungry, talented people who want to feel invested in the work they do every day.

Put It into Practice:

  • Facilitate training and continued education around Lean-Agile leadership practices
  • Prioritize Lean-Agile leadership experience when hiring, especially for managers of people
  • Enable self-organization within value streams and promote autonomy about how work is accomplished
  • Demonstrate servant leadership by spending time learning from teams (going to the Gemba)
  • Connect users within and across teams with a flexible, connected approach to work delivery
  • Replace leaders unwilling to adopt a Theory Y approach

That wraps up this series! For a comprehensive look into all seven benefits, be sure to download the full whitepaper, “The 7 Benefits of Scaling Agile.”

Lean Portfolio Management for the PMO Whitepaper

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Emily Peterson
Written By

Emily Peterson is a Product Marketing Manager for Planview's Lean & Agile Delivery Solution, focusing on helping organizations achieve agility on their terms and timeline. She uses her professional experience in agile marketing to leverage new ways of working across the organization, connecting all parts of the business to the overall goals of the organization.