Agility at Scale. Why it doesn't work for you.

So are you trying to scale Agile? Join everyone else. And of course, vendors are queuing up to help you do it. Going for the SAFe Scaled Agile Framework? Or perhaps you’re implementing the Spotify Model or Large Scale Scrum (LeSS). There are plenty to choose from.

And there are many tools to support you too. CA Agile Central, VersionOne, Jira all enabling you to ‘link your business strategy with delivery’ and unlock enterprise agility.

All sound like great solutions, but if you are a large organisation the reality is very different to the shiny marketing pitch. We don't live in a perfect world. Every time I see a client implementing one of these frameworks the expected benefits don't arrive. The framework promises a solution, but it fails to help solve the real problems. I've spoken to many business teams who are disappointed with the outcome. Implementing agility in a complex business is difficult and risky.

 You can't make your business agile by implementing a standard framework. They don't address the specific problems that are stopping you from being agile. In fact, from what I've seen in large corporates, they make things more complex by introducing techniques that don't fit the organisation yet. They introduce complex, new approaches that need larger organisational changes. Complexity reduces agility.

 For example, if you are looking to implement SAFe, the first thing you need to do is send your people on a leading SAFe course. Which strangely teaches you to implement the change in a traditional, waterfall change programme. The way I remember implementing change in the 90s. If only the world moved that slowly now!

 All these tools have some value for sure. But they don't provide the one solution that will solve all your problems. I guarantee that none of them will provide your solution to agility. That will depend on your problems, your people and the way your business works.

 To find your solution you need to pick and choose techniques that remove the specific problems blocking your path to agility.

To do that you'll need to understand your specific problems, find likely solutions and test them to see if they actually solve the problems you are facing.

Use your own people to understand your problems. Your people know how your business works. Give them the skills to identify and understand your top problems blocking your agility. If a problem is too difficult to sort now, choose something that can be done. As you remove each problem, others get easier to solve.

 Know what's out there. There are many techniques that help bring more agility and you need to know what they are. Get a few people to understand each of the frameworks – but don't be a slave to one. Do some research. Search for ideas that can unblock the specific problem you are trying to address.

 Mix and Match. Don't go for one framework. Focus on one problem and choose something that could solve it. You'll get the best mix of solutions optimised for your organisation and the way you want to work.

Test and Learn. Try things out. Find what works best for you. Don't be afraid to change your solution if it doesn't deliver the benefit you need. You've learnt something that can inform your next choice.

 In a modern business, transformation starts with your own people. They’re the ones that know how your business works and where the real problems are. They’re the ones who can change things. Create an environment of continuous learning and innovation. Help them run experiments to test new ideas. Turn your business agile step-by-step from within.

 So, before you send everyone off on a leading SAFe course, think about what you really want them to implement. If it's real change, then focus on educating your people in test and learn techniques. Spend time bedding that into your culture. You'll reap the benefits and be surprised with the amazing solutions your people come up with to solve your most complex problems towards achieving true business agility.

 In my next post I'll be looking at the techniques you can use to reveal the problems you face on your path to increased agility. How do you know what to look for and what skills your people need to root those problems out.