Keep your business agility efforts "right side up"

During our F500 customer agile transformation engagements, it’s become clear that the strategy of scaling agile in delivery is upside down and backwards when it comes to business agility.

This hypothesis is based on conversations with customers that asked the same question we’ve heard many times, “So, how do we get our agile journey going with the business and delivery both aligned to be a part of the right agile operating model?”  These are the same customers  surrounded by an ocean of process experts and agile evangelists - all with an educated opinion.

As companies venture outside of scaled agile in delivery into the new world of business agility, the formula for success in delivery is actually a pattern for failure.  There’s a different audience outside of delivery that has different interests that need to be addressed - and that’s the business.

Upside Down

The agile approach to business agility is upside down, especially when selecting the agile scaled model. Companies have been conditioned to start their agile campaign with exhaustive processes to select the right scaled agile model and begin implementing it with full blown training and consulting campaigns. This approach has had good results in delivery: improved productivity with faster delivery, increased morale, better quality, and greater transparency. We should celebrate that.

But, when it comes to business agility, this approach of committing to an agile model up front and putting corporate mandates on top of it turns it “upside down”. 

Right side up comes from stakeholders acting as the driving force with the model in support of them. The starting point is putting in place a model that conforms to the “way work gets done” with the customer at the center. From there, a series of tough conversations and collaboration with the business happens with a mutual goal to get “the right work get done better” with the customer at the center. With everyone’s fingerprints on the effort, the model will emerge and reveal itself - and model selection becomes anti-climactic.

Backwards

Agonizing over a scaled agile model is Backwards because it breaks an important sales rule when it comes to approaching the business audience with agile ways of working. That sales rule?  It’s about selling the value of your offering, not features and functions. There is a natural inclination to rush into showing “how to” implement this model with the details. Since only 12%* of technology and business groups are aligned around agile proves that a different approach is needed. 

Conclusion

Companies are thirsty for ways to put the customer as the center of all they do. Now is the time for IT to connect with the business to share perspectives and find ways to collaborate to develop solutions that are competitive, and responsive to what customers have said they want. For Agile Delivery leaders to achieve this buy in from the business they need  to bring more of a business acumen mindset to conversations that involved creating the right things that are valued. This approach starts with answering the “why pay attention” question for the Business - the answers to which lead to the “what is the ideal solution” question second. With these two foundational questions asked, IT can unleash their agile experts to support the plan. 

Disclaimer: We write this observation with the understanding that there are exceptions and hoping that you view this as an invitation. We would love to hear your story on Agile Business Radio (these are hard to find).