What Are the Prerequisites to Scaling Team Agility to Enterprise Agility?

 

Once you’ve seen what Agile can achieve on the team level, it’s hard not to begin imagining the potential impact for an entire enterprise. It’s not just your imagination, data shows that Agile teams prefer to work with other Agile teams because it makes collaboration that much easier and more effective.

But understanding the benefits of enterprise agility and getting there are two different things. The complexities of making an Agile transition on the team level can be compounded when you expand it across functions in a larger organization.

The good news is that we’ve been helping lead enterprise-wide Agile transformations for years and have summarized the key prerequisites for you here. By getting these 6 things right, you’ll have a strong foundation for a successful transition to enterprise agility.

What Are the Prerequisites to Scaling Team Agility to Enterprise Agility-1

1. Provide Examples of Success

Any enterprise-level transformation, Agile or not, is difficult. For individual leaders and teams, not having a clear idea of what the end-point is and what benefits it will bring makes it all the more difficult.

Fortunately, if you’ve already successfully implemented Agile in one or more teams, you have fantastic examples to use. Use these teams to show your larger organization that Agile can work for your context. Beyond that, try creating a case study around any Agile teams you already have ramped up, using metrics and testimonials to clearly demonstrate the value of this new way of work.

Understanding just how valuable the end-goal of enterprise agility is will make it far easier for everyone in your organization to put in the work needed to make the transition. You can also bring in function-specific examples from areas like HR, sales, or procurement to show those teams what others like them have achieved with Agile. 

2. Find and Use Agile Champion(s)

Trying to get an entire enterprise to make an Agile transformation without an Agile champion is a bit like trying to herd cats. You simply can’t expect so many people to move forward into a new way of working without a point person who they can ask questions, look to for guidance, etc.

They are also critical for deciding what elements of Agile will work for your organization and which you can safely set aside. Making these vital decisions is something you want to leave up to a seasoned Agile practitioner, not someone with a passing familiarity with it.

Lastly, an Agile champion is the one who can ensure the transformation has buy-in from leadership, build enthusiasm amongst teams, and generally act as a cheerleader for the project.

While an Agile champion is important for bringing even a single team into Agile, the role becomes far more important once you want to scale up. So even if you managed without one when making your first team-level Agile transformation, this isn’t a good time to roll the dice again.

3. Ensure You Have the Necessary Time

One of the most common questions about Agile transformations is how long they take. While 12-18 months is typical in our experience you have to make sure you build in the time needed (with some wiggle room). 

This creates space for leaders and teams to get trained and educated in Agile and to then focus on design thinking and experimentation rather than just rushing through their work.

As we mentioned above, tailoring Agile to your organization is always going to be necessary, and that takes time. Things like bureaucracy, insufficient support, and leadership changes can all lead to delays. So ensure you’re ready for those potential challenges and are prepared to push through to get to enterprise agility.

4. Use an Enterprise Agility Transformation Roadmap

If you’re taking on an Agile transformation for an entire organization, you should expect to get a lot of questions. Everyone from individual team members to senior leadership will, understandably, want to have an idea of what the path forward looks like and what they can expect along the way.

That’s why it’s so vital to begin with a transformation roadmap created with your Agile champion. This is your vision for what your organization will look and function like after you’ve achieved full enterprise agility. It should also include a breakdown of the steps you will take to get there.

Remember, one of the most common myths about Agile is that it doesn’t involve any planning. There’s plenty of planning in Agile, but it also understands that plans must change. In fact, 13% of Agile teams say that leadership providing too much of a detailed direction is a challenge they’ve faced.

So you may want to create a full roadmap based on learnings from your Agile pilot and be prepared to make further adjustments as you go.

5. Get Leadership Support

While it’s not 100% guaranteed to fail, our experience has shown that attempting an Agile transformation without leadership buy-in does not go well. As we mentioned previously, these transformations usually take 12-18 months and require dedicated Agile champions along with extensive training and coaching.

In most cases, only senior leadership can approve the amount of resources necessary for such a transformation to succeed. But beyond simply getting a thumbs up, you want leadership to be invested. This is to avoid getting 10 months into a transformation only to have leaders decide they’re not interested anymore and torpedo the entire endeavor.

Use your Agile champion to win over senior leadership armed with real-world data and experience from your Agile team(s). Be clear about what the transformation is going to cost and how long it may take. 

This isn’t time to sugarcoat things or decide to ask for forgiveness rather than permission. This is a time to be clear-headed, straightforward, and passionate about what enterprise agility can do for your organization.

6. Consider How Enterprise Agility Will Function Vertically

Even if you begin with a solid understanding of how Agile functions on the team level, you may not be prepared to connect Agile teams across an entire organization. Moving from a hierarchical structure to a flat one must happen iteratively and step-by-step. What happens when an individual team’s priorities or abilities clash with strategic directions offered by senior leadership? How can senior leaders track what’s happening on other levels? Taking a gradual approach to weaving greater cross-functionality and accountability across the org chart can help answer questions like these over time.

Fortunately, visual workflow techniques that span across teams, like Portfolio Kanban, offer ways to address these challenges in the long-run as well. But whatever strategy you use, be sure you’ve considered how you’ll address these questions before you begin scaling Agile throughout your organization.

Checked Everything Off Your List?

Once you’ve got these 6 key prerequisites accounted for, you’re ready to take the leap and begin the move towards enterprise agility. But if you or any of your colleagues are still unclear on the benefits of business and enterprise agility, you should consider taking an introduction to business agility course

It provides all the fundamentals you need to understand how agility functions across a larger organization and how to balance the needs of senior leadership with the needs of on-the-ground team members.

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