Most organizations began their journey to an Agile Enterprise by focusing on the adoption of Lean-Agile practices by technology teams to the exclusion of all else. The stark reality of this approach is that implementation of technology team agility creates challenges across the entire organizational stack that can threaten success and generate conflict.
Most companies that invest in Agile product and software development methods (in pursuit of enhanced innovation, quality and speed) fail to overcome the obvious: entrenched norms, beliefs and behaviors at all levels of the organization. Worse, Agile “improvements” often inject new conflict into the work processes, often amplifying an Us/Them attitude that already exists. This is particularly true at the technology-business interface.
A Network of Networks: Three Natural Collaboration Layers Already Exist in Companies
The basic structures of an Agile Enterprise are the informal networks of relationships underlying the formal hierarchy. Unlocking the potential of these highly participatory relationships is the work of scaling agile. Achieving this goal however, is easier said than done.
Over the last ten years Gear Stream has accumulated field experience working with thousands of software and product development stakeholders striving to become more Agile at the team, group, and enterprise level. During this time GearStream has been rigorously observing and documenting those patterns of collaboration that have a positive influence on the outcome of these efforts. These patterns routinely produce improvements to software and product development speed, agility, innovation, customer satisfaction, brand loyalty, and, ultimately, compelling financial results.
At Gear Stream, we have codified our field experience into an Agile Maturity Model used for helping track and guide improvements to team, group, and enterprise agility. This model uses three validated teaming levels that exist within larger organizations: Portfolio Teaming, Program Teaming, and Working Surface Teaming:
Working Surface Teaming:
The Working Surface is where organizations typically begin their Agile journey. This level consists of the individual development teams responsible for building and delivering products or services. These teams break the Features into Stories and may leverage different execution formats (such as Scrum, Kanban, Hybrid, Waterfall) depending on their individual stage in Agile skill development.
Program Level Teaming:
The Program Team includes cross-functional representatives who work to evaluate and develop the initial goals and solution ideas for product initiatives. These representatives provide the overall vision, build business cases, and overall program roadmaps. In addition, this level introduces new skills and analytics into the product development process that reduce risk and define the value each feature contributes.
Portfolio Level Teaming:
The Portfolio Level includes a diverse group of stakeholders working across organizational boundaries. These representatives coordinate workflow among divisions/functions and Program Teams. This capability is important to product delivery in large enterprises, where multiple parts of the whole are under the jurisdiction of independent entities within the organization. The Portfolio Team is the single point of engagement for business units seeking to use the internal services across the technology organization.
The True Nature of How Work Gets Done: Understanding the Human Network
Work doesn’t get done “within” the organizational silos, instead, each technological function or area interacts and works with other areas across the company to deliver a deployable product. Smaller enterprises rarely encounter these types of challenges. This perspective emphasizes how work is actually done along a value stream, dependent upon the organizational structure, which serves the specific business unit function and leverages the existing networks at each level.
The New Role of Leadership: Shaping Employee Networks for Agility & Innovation
Leaders need to understand how work flows from one part of the organization to another – crossing organizational boundaries (silos) and delivered by a network not a single team. Each area must interact and work with other areas within the company, moving knowledge, information, scheduling, and problem solving seamlessly across internal boundaries. The three different teaming levels are interdependent: Portfolio teaming influences program level teaming which drives working surface level teaming. People and teams that used to be separated by formal structure are now partnering together on a daily basis. Work actually gets done simultaneously and in parallel across all levels within the value stream, coming together at decision points and moving apart during execution at various sites.
The next series of blog posts will introduce proven scientific methods that can reveal the “invisible” ways in which work is done in an organization. The methods are those of Organizational Network Analysis (ONA). ONA techniques identify structural solutions related to communication flow, departmental collaboration, leadership effectiveness, information dissemination, decision bottlenecks, and integration of function and expertise.