Project Management

Why Teams Should Have a Tailored Approach for Adopting Agile

From the Manifesting Business Agility Blog
This blog concerns itself with organizations moving to business agility—the quick realization of value predictably and sustainably, and with high quality. It includes all aspects of this—from the business stakeholders through ops and support. Topics will be far-reaching but will mostly discuss FLEX, Flow, Lean-Thinking, Lean-Management, Theory of Constraints, Systems Thinking, Test-First and Agile.

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When considering how to start and continue an Agile adoption, there are several important aspects of the adoption to consider:

  1. attending to the context the team is in
  2. deciding how to start based on the team and the type of work they do
  3. how to learn and continue to improve
  4. clarifying your improvement goals

Attending to context. When starting, it’s easy for teams to get lost in their own world.  However, the team itself is only part of the value stream(s) they are embedded in. How teams do their work must include how they are a part of their organization. This includes what they chose to work on as well as who they must provide information to while they are working.

Deciding how to start. Teams uniquely combine personalities, type of work being done and other factors. There is no one way to start that fits all teams. Adopting a framework that provides only one approach to starting runs a high risk that there is a large difference between what it suggests and what would be more optimal. This means our adoption will be slower than it needs to be.

Fortunately, there there are a reasonably small number of solution patterns that covers most teams’ needs. In the same way we don’t need a custom made suit to fit our needs but can take something that’s our size and style off the rack, a team can select from a collection of proven methods to fit their needs. The one chosen should match the type of work being done, the skill level and attitude of the people doing the work and how the team must relate to other parts of the organization. . 

Once started, teams must continue to learn to improve. Fortunately, the same methods an experienced coach uses to create a tailored starting point are learnable by practitioners. A learning process is best accomplished when it is clear where a team is and where it wants to go as well as what it should be looking at to get there.

Clarifying a team's improvement goals. While teams are unique, the objectives teams must accomplish to be effective are surprisingly similar. Even teams who are subject to industry specific constraints (e.g., insurance regulations, FDA), have the same set of core objectives as others without the constraint. Flow and Lean principles can provide insights into how to deal with these additional constraints.

Challenges with not doing the above

Few frameworks espouse the above adjustments. Most go to one extreme or the other. Both Scrum and SAFe have several required practices, roles, rules and events. Kanban, while more flexible, ignores many issues that can provide jump-starts because of its mantra of “starting where you are.”  Disciplined Agile’s middle ground of seeing where a team is, choosing a way of working based on the team’s situation, abilities and type of work, and then continuing to learn with the methods that were used to get started makes for an effective start and sustainable improvement.

Agile Frameworks Should Be Agile Themselves

Agile means to be flexible. When we use Agile to develop products we adjust to what we've learned and change the product we're building to what's needed. Our frameworks need to do the same - adjust to what's needed. 


Posted on: December 01, 2019 09:08 PM | Permalink

Comments (6)

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Dear Al
Interesting perspective
Thanks for sharing

How, in your opinion, should organizational transformation be implemented?

PDCA with a pilot team?

We haven't heard from you in a while.

Is everything ok with you?

First, thanks for the concern. Everything's great. just was heads down getting ready for this week at seminars world. Also, needed to get my head around as to how to best contribute.

That's a big question re transformation. but something like PDSA on a pilot. I was in the process of writing this up when I was acquired by the PMI and now we're integrating FLEX and Disciplined Agile. But I should have a high level view within 3 weeks and will post it.

Dear Al

I look forward to your reflections

Thanks for sharing this, Al - as you know, I'm eager to see the next iteration of your FLEX/DA flow.

Culture is a very important aspect of context - the prevailing culture of the company often establishes a default for the culture of the team so understanding where they are and striving to develop a culture which is more attuned to delivering better (speed/quality/making people awesome) should be on their improvement backlog.


Certainly, helping others to understand the basis of leveraging a new way of thinking with the flexibility for different teams and individuals to find their own path within a given framework. A prescriptive direction is an anti-pattern unto itself and confuses the team when given opportunity to be self-organizing but in a restricted capacity.

I hear a lot of good things about DA. Might be worth taking a deeper look.

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