Do It Once Before You Scale It

So many orgs using the language of Agile Software Development haven’t ever tried to really practice it with a single team. Which makes “scaling” rather difficult to do successfully. What would it mean to really try it?

  1. Identify something meaningful that a small group of people could create over the course of a few months.
  2. Assemble a fully cross-functional team with all the skills necessary to create that thing.
  3. Let them focus on it, moving or pausing other commitments.
  4. Organize the work around meaningful increments of value and prioritize the most valuable work first.
  5. Do the work in short cycles, reflecting on the results and making small improvements to how the team works.

Simple But Rarely Easy

Each of these steps simultaneously makes progress on some important element of genuine agility while testing what’s possible in your org and surfacing organizational impediments to address before you scale.

Step 1 tests whether you can identify a meaningful but relatively small chunk of value in your context.

Step 2 tests org structure. A fully cross-functional team is a key prerequisite to actually taking an agile approach to work. If you can’t form even one cross-functional team, you’re probably not ready to reorganize everything around cross-functional teams.

The biggest impediment to building cross-functional teams in most orgs is having way too much work in progress and, therefore, way too much multitasking. Step 3 makes this very visible. If the thing you identified in step 1 really is important but you can’t protect capacity to build it, you’re overcommitted.

Step 4 builds the habit of breaking big goals into small ones, another key prerequisite for genuine agility. Challenges around quality and technical debt often become very visible at this point—”we can’t deliver even a small increment of value in 3 days because of how much we have to touch in our system to do anything!”

Finally, step 5 builds a habit of continuous improvement and tests what impediments can be resolved within the team and what requires leadership support (and whether that support actually happens).

Book a Free Strategy Session

We work with leaders who want to take this kind of pragmatic, experimental approach to change in their organizations. It’s so much more effective over the long-term than an “install the process” approach to change. Interested in booking a free strategy session with us to discuss your org change goals and how you can achieve them via incremental experiments? Contact us and tell us a bit about your situation to schedule your session.

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