Scaling Agility - the easy way!

Recently, we've seen a lot of activity in the marketplace focused on "scaling Agile." It seems after a decade or so, people have been willing to admit the "Scrum of Scrums" concept just wasn't cutting it. There is now sufficient evidence of large scale failed Agile transition initiatives to know that previous decade's hypothesis about delivering large scale Agile adoption hasn't worked. Now we have a new wave. IBM has DAD (Disciplined Agile Delivery) and Dean Leffingwell and Rally Software Development have SAFe (Scaled Agile Framework). Other tool vendors in the market are encouraging emergence of "me too" scaled Agile solutions.

None of this is really new. These frameworks are composed of many of the practices we've known for over a decade, almost two decades in some cases. We know these practices work in the small scale. What is new is that they are now offered within frameworks for tailoring, although I am increasing hearing that there is very little tailoring actually happening in the field and the transition is to a prescribed pre-defined enterprise scale process.So, what hasn't changed is the change management approach - large scale transition initiative to prescribed, designed or tailored solutions, with a preference for prescribed, apparently because it is easier and requires less skill and knowledge on the part of the constulants or trainers delivering it. This means consultants and trainers can be certified quickly and on a large scale It is only a matter of time until most of these initiatives crash and burn against the same old obstacles - (1) the people being changed resist the initiative. The resistance is passive-aggressive and initially is not detected. It takes time before it is obvious the organization hasn't embraced the new way of working, and (2) the managers have not changed their behavior. While managers believe that there operational capability is a "process problem" they will continue to buy process solutions expecting them to fix the workers and how they work, while what is truly broken is the management and how managers make decisions.

Scaled Agile doesn't fix the real problem while it continues to promote the same old failed 20th Century approach to change. There is a truly easy way to scale agility in your organization. You adopt the Kanban Method as an approach to managing service dellivery, and you scale it out, across your organization, in a service-oriented fashion, one service at a time.

At our Lean Kanban University, Foundation Level training, "Getting Started with Kanban: Improving Service Delivery" attendees learn how to see services in their existing organizational structure, how to analyze demand for those services, and techniques for improving service delivery by relieving over-burdening, improving predictability of delivery by eliminating sources of variability and disruption, improving customer satisfaction by analyzing business risks and modeling classes of service around those risks. The result is a better service with better customer satisfaction. Kanban training is management training! Kanban training is management training designed to focus managers on improved service delivery!

Once, you've learned to implement Kanban for a single service, scaling it out, across the whole organization is easy. You simply repeat the same process of system thinking to design a kanban system for each service you see in your business. Our Advanced Practitioner class, "Practicing Kanban at Scale" is design to teach people how to do this. They learn how to use Kanban at scale planning portfolios, large projects and using operations reviews to provide the system of systems level feedback loop that allows for evolutionary change on a grand scale.

Four days of training is really all it takes if you are determined enough*. Kanban has been the alternative path to agility since 2004. Stop following tired old 20th Century models for change management. Abandon the 20th Century industrial engineering model. Processes should be emergent, not designed. Processes should emerge as unique workflows as a result of the simple policy rules enacted by managers who understand complexity and managing for uncertainty using probabilistic approaches. To scale agility across your organization, train people to manage better - to make better decisions and set better policies. Forget process adoption. Focus on management skills for all knowledge workers.

Scaling agility need not be difficult. In fact, it should be easy! The easy path to large scale, institutionalized adoption, of methods that improve business agility is to train knowledge workers to manage their work better. Kanban training offers such a path. How many times do you need to see a process transition initiative fail in our organization, or across your career, before you are willing to try a different approach? Try some management training and focus your knowledge workers on improving service delivery.

Significantly large scale Kanban initiatives are continuing to make a different at businesses like Siemens, Petrobras, Globo, BBC, eBay, Sandvik, Volvo and Yahoo! Try the search on and look for case studies in an industry sector that interests you!

[* For those lacking the determination, we recommend you seek assist from a Kanban Coaching Professional (KCP). Involvement of a KCP even a few short days per month is correlated with successful institutionalization of large scale Kanban and significant improvement of service delivery. KCPs receive 5 days of training in leading change using the "Kanban should be like water [and flow around the rock]" approach, and in qualitative and quantitative risk assessment. Risk assessment is vital to facilitating deferred commitment, better decision making and maximizing the value delivered back to a business through the provision of its services.]

Related Post: Kanban - the Anti-SAFe for almost a decade already