Scaling agile practices are helping organizations overcome challenges that deter quicker time-to-market, engagement, product quality and productivity. However, scaling agile fails when practices used to establish working surface teams – or those doing the core technical and design work) – create conflict at the more complex levels of product development and portfolio planning and coordination.
Agile scaling beyond the working surface
A decade of agile implementation has taught that successful scaling beyond the working surface level requires:
- New teaming models at the program and portfolio levels.
- Managing uncertainty, complexity and turbulence.
- Moving self-organizations into networks, not just small teams at the local level.
Human networks at the core
A network of people within an organization creates financial value, which in turn encourages learning, stimulates collaboration and innovation, and promotes effective operations. These networks surge across the enterprise, supporting agile scaling by effectively bringing decision-making to the working surface, enabling collaboration and connections, driving relational communication, synthesizing the collective knowledge, and allowing quick adaptation to changes.
A networked organization still requires guidance and design. Organizational Network Analysis (ONA) provides visibility into the informal networks that people use to collaborate, innovate and get work done. ONA also enables leaders to perform intentional interventions without a full reorganization of the existing hierarchy. This “agility” provides the opportunity to flex and respond to demands, without disrupting the entire network.
One of the problems with scaling agile, it essentially puts some of the organization’s personnel into the obsolete category. However, a network approach can repurpose middle managers (whose roles are made redundant by agile) into network connectors, information brokers and boundary spanners – or roles that can drive organizational productivity, efficacy and scaling.
Moving toward agile success
Instituting self-managing teams across the organization is highly disruptive and requires:
- Managers to become internal change agents, taking on new roles and responsibilities.
- The need for increased trust across organizational boundaries.
- Tools and conversations that creatively link people, ideas and resources.
These requirements necessitate significant change in the organizational approach for teams and it’s often too easy for people to fall back into previously comfortable yet non-productive roles. To prevent fallback to the status quo, involve people early and often. Successful enterprises that scale business agility follow these practices:
- Give each person a stake in the outcome.
- Intentionally establish norms for communities and networks at every level of the organization.
- Purposefully state a clear vision of the value people are creating through their actions.
- Facilitate access to people with ideas, knowledge, skills and resources.
For organizations to scale agile practices, they must focus on human networks and recognize the disruption that the endeavor inflicts upon teams and processes. Analysis helps drive human network potential and gives new purpose to old roles.