Reblogged with permission from Srinivas Garapati, the original author of this content, as a contributor to blogagility.com. Originally published on LinkedIn, June 28, 2017.
Scrum and other agile frameworks may be easy to understand, yet prove extremely challenging to implement – especially in any large organizational environment. Why is that so? The following metaphor is an attempt to explain the difficulty. Every metaphor is imperfect, but we will try to give a gist of the challenges involved.
We apologize should anyone feel offended, and this is not to disparage the great work that everyone contributed to the agile movement. The knowledge and great learning that we have accumulated over the years would not have happened without this journey through the Agile manifesto.
What’s a framework?
A dictionary definition says that Framework is “a skeletal structure designed to support or enclose something”.
For example, in the construction industry, a typical framework that is widely used when constructing skyscrapers is scaffolding. No expert would doubt that erecting scaffolding is a valuable help in constructing large skyscrapers.
When it comes to invisible knowledge work of social organizations, the greatest challenges are the human interactions, which are more complex and dynamic than any mechanical interface. To address these challenges, many management gurus have come up with their version of frameworks to manage interactions in social organizations.
What a framework really does?
In order to understand what a framework does in a management of organizational systems, let us explore the concept through a metaphor as follows.
Let us consider this framework, such as Scrum/LeSS/SAFe/etc., as a “great golden photo frame”. Does purchasing this “great golden photo frame” enable you to draw a wondrous piece of art like Picasso within that frame? Certainly not, unless you are already a seasoned practitioner and understand what is required to create a “great work of art” within your own organizational context.
A training course in an agile framework provides you with a “great golden photo frame” – nothing more than that. In order for you to design a desirable organization, evolve a sound culture etc. within that “golden photo frame” you will need the experience of an actual practitioner: knowledge and skills in various domains like systems thinking, organizational behavior, lean thinking, lean product development, several other management and human psychology models, and many more. Developing such skills requires you to go on your own learning journey. There is no shortcut. Until you have reached a certain maturity level in that learning path, your drawing in that “great golden photo frame” will likely look inapt.
This is also challenge of all certification focused training companies whose focus is to generate “microwave” 2day/5day “master coaches” and also all organizations who try to hire only so called “certified” consultants. (Thanks to Jeff Liker for the term “microwave consultant”).
Unfortunately, many organizational leaders think erroneously that these frameworks are a panacea and provide instant agility and will solve their organization problems. Disregarding the challenges of human interactions, they only seek for a means to meet the core goals of cost, quality and delivery in the dynamically changing environment.
Finding and discovering the real talent and skills required to bring organizational wide transformation changes is itself a daunting challenge, especially when one does not yet have the experience to discern what comprises such talent. Leadership in most of the organizations would get on to the bandwagon of “Agile transformation” with so called ‘Microwaved’ consultants/master coaches. It comes to no surprise that many of these so called transformation initiatives are challenged right from the conception and often provide disappointing outcomes.
What are the sound alternatives to bring organization transformation changes to bring the real agility?
Organization wide transformation.
Organizations who are serious in their desire to undergo organizational wide change, whether they call it “Agile transformation” or whatever the name may be, need to take time to gain a thorough understanding of the challenges they would like to address, the goals/objectives they would like to meet, etc.
They also need to embrace the concept of social organizations, management models, lean thinking, social systems, complex adaptive systems, etc.
The key word is ‘synthesis’: How much and which kind of efforts have you made to gather knowledge from these domains to design a suitable framework for your organization?
Transforming IT organizations
When the focus is to transform an entire organization, then thinking through the following views would help to address some of the challenges:
1. Good quality software engineering practices/ATDD/BDD, etc.
2. Focus on the flow of value
3. Focus on Adaptive/Interactive planning at all levels and at all times.
4. Enable self-organizations teams at every level of the organization and create effective feedback loops between these teams. Don’t get enamored by the structure suggested by a specific framework, rather learn to understand the feedback loops and their value.
5. Continuous integration and continuous deployment are more than infrastructure, process and practices – they also require a mindset and culture!
6. Identifying good problem solving tools and follow through all the time and at all levels.
7. Institute relentless improvement cycles and improve all practices/processes.
8. Add dissenting views and ponder them seriously.
9. Last but not the least: identify the values that you could adhere to all the time. The values are whatever combination of Agile Manifesto, Lean Thinking, and your organization defined values you consider beneficial.
Your own framework – aka The Great Golden Photo Frame!
Finally make an effort to develop your very own framework that is suitable to your specific environment.
When you have gone through the suggestions in this article, you might well be on your own way to create your own “great golden photo frame” that is fully compatible to your organizational environment. This could be more sustainable path to agility. Implementing that golden frame off the shelf might get you to end up seeing more firefighting than actually being agile!
Srinivas Garapati, Principal, The Agility Mind Inc, Rochester, New York, USA www.TheAgilityMind.com
Michael Küsters, Agile – Framework Agnostic Coach & Trainer, Cologne Area, Germany http://failfastmoveon.blogspot.com/