SCALING THE UNSCALABLE: WHY IS AGILE SO HARD TO SCALE?

SCALING THE UNSCALABLE : WHY IS AGILE SO HARD TO SCALE?

  • Dr. Alireza Zamani and Roksolana Semtsiv
  • Published: 11 January 2023

 

Operating a successful Agile IT team is no longer special, let alone revolutionary. In fact, most organizations are past mastering Agile adoption in their IT and are seeking to extend these practices to their support functions, such as HR, procurement, etc.  

However, because these support functions have wildly different processes, practices, and culture compared to IT, it comes as no surprise that there are more botched cases of scaled Agile than success stories. The Annual State of Agile Report confirms that “inconsistencies in processes and practices” are the top blocker (at 46 percent) to achieving true organizational agility. 

In this blog, we provide three recommendations to help improve the success and sustainability of scaling Agile to support functions.

Three actions to increase success


  1. Align strategy and execution through middle management
    The greater the shared understanding of strategy, the more the teams are committed to its execution. But as highlighted by Harvard Business Research, “the positive impact of visionary leadership breaks down when middle managers aren’t aligned with the top management’s strategic vision”. Indeed, middle management is responsible not only for facilitating the top-down breakdown of strategy, but also for creating bottom-up feedback loops from the delivery teams to leadership. This allows end-to-end alignment as well as increasing the shared understanding of the problem being faced. After all, Agile is about alignment on the purpose and autonomy on how to deliver that purpose.
  2. Bring transparency around the problem and the prioritization 
    Once you have the end-to-end alignment on the problem you are trying to solve, it’s necessary to bring transparency about it to everyone who can influence the solution. This is fundamental to applying systems thinking, as what follows alignment and transparency is the optimization of the flow of value through globally optimal decisions. Without alignment and transparency all you have is locally optimal decisions.
  3. Create localized plan-do-check-act loops
    In reality, the resources to drive the transformation are often limited and will be stretched thin. So, it is best to focus on growing local data-driven decision-making loops throughout the organization.

This aids decentralization as well as empowering people to tackle challenges themselves and take ownership, especially when it comes to quality. Never forget, creating awareness about how people can continuously improve products and processes is integral to sustaining transformation.

Conclusion


In today’s tumultuous markets, where organizations are relentlessly trying to gain competitive advantage, the prospect of being a fast-moving, adaptive, customer-centric and Agile organization is the new differentiator. 

Based on our experience of guiding and supporting financial organizations through their transformation journeys, the above factors are fundamental to scaling Agile beyond IT and achieving that differentiation. 

As every company is unique, the implementation requires close collaboration with a team of Agile experts. Capco’s Agile services partner with organizations through every step of their Agile journey, from determining the organizational readiness to scaling and accelerating the transformation. Contact us to discuss how we can help your firm establish, improve or scale Agile and achieve your transformational goals.  

References


15th Annual State of Agile Report digital.ai. https://info.digital.ai/rs/981-LQX-968/images/SOA15.pdf 
Why visionary leadership fails, Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2019/02/why-visionary-leadership-fails