To deliver Agile at scale you need a programme team who really understands how to do it

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So you’ve trained up the team in Agile practices, sent your programme managers and architects on a scaled agile boot-camp and you’re ready to deliver your largest Agile programme.

But old habits die hard. The programme manager brings in her standard controls to keep the delivery on track. The steering group, workstream leads and programme office are all in place. The enterprise architects are engaged to review the new platform to ensure it is fit for purpose. It’s a big investment, so confidence is needed that the programme is under control. Gate reviews are included in the end-to-end plan.


A good start. But it’s not long before the controls and governance begin to erode progress by diverting the focus of the team. The delivery teams are busy, but it’s difficult to see the progress across the whole programme. Management get nervous that they can’t see a detailed delivery plan to complete the programme. More upward reporting is introduced by the PMO. Architecture start to veto creative solutions that don’t support the 5 year vision. Teams need to provide additional updates for the monthly board  pack. Delivery gets slower and slower. We need to re-group!


Traditional command and control governance applied to an Agile programme can seriously dilute the benefits. Every programme layer you add chips away at the Agile benefits and will force the teams to do more work on the things that add the least value. Your ability to change and deliver value regularly will be limited. You are just back in the large, unwieldy programme world where all that’s changed are the delivery team practices.


I’ve seen this pattern many times now where the programme leadership team and various gatekeepers, e.g. Operations, Architecture, and Finance, just don’t get it. The Agile delivery team end up doing the best they can and the project managers go grey at an early age. (After all, it’s always the project manager who gets the blame for everything!)


So what can you do that’s different?

You need to create a programme team that understands how to manage  and deliver with Agile.  You need Architects who know when to empower the team, and when and how to give technical direction; leaders who understand how Agile works and when it breaks; a PMO that allows you to have a high level plan that gives direction, but doesn’t dictate what the teams do.


Sounds easy, but it takes experience of delivering Agile at scale to make it work. Applying governance and controls that fit the Agile way of working with a focus on responsiveness without losing control.


If you want to deliver the right software faster, talk to Wisereach about how we can get you the right leadership team to navigate your biggest Agile programmes to success.

Peter Weare

Industry leader in digital transformation. Passionate about delivering a frictionless consumer  experience. Regular commenter on getting delivery right.

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