Strategic Agility at Scale: Applying Agile Across Your Organization

Strategic agility at scale refers to the application of agile and lean strategies across your entire organization. The goal is to be adaptable, to be able to react and better yet create opportunities in the marketplace to delight your customers. To do this you require adaptability at the individual, team, group, and enterprise levels and adaptability in your process.

Our experience is that it’s important to consider two views when you scale agile across your organization:

  1. The Organizational View
  2. The Process View

The Organizational View

There are four organizational viewpoints to consider when scaling agile. These viewpoints may be pertinent to both tactical agility (scaling agile at the team level) and strategic agility (scaling agile across your organization). These viewpoints are:

  1. Individual (tactical/strategic). As an agile professional, you need to understand the fundamental agile/lean principles and to follow those principles in your every day work. In other words you need to “be agile”. However, being agile isn’t enough, you also need to “do agile” by following agile strategies and practices. To be effective you need to understand how these strategies and practices fit together, and when (not) to apply them. Finally, you need to be flexible enough to modify your approach for the situations that you find yourself in.
  2. Team (tactical/strategic). Your team needs to be “whole”, in that it should include team members with the skills to address the problem that it faces. The team should be organized and work in manner that reflects the scaling factors that it faces. This is particularly true for IT delivery teams.
  3. Group/department (strategic). For example, your IT department will have delivery teams facing different situations, which means that they will be following different tailorings of the DA toolkit (or may even be following non-DA strategies, sadly enough). The implication is that your IT strategy must be sufficiently flexible to support such diversity.
  4. Organization/Enterprise (strategic). Your entire organization should work in an agile/lean manner that dynamically optimizes your whole, overall strategy.

The Process View

We believe that every large organization at its heart is a software organization. A bank just happens to be a software company that makes money providing financial services to you. A grocery chain is a software organization that makes money selling food to you. An insurance company is a software organization that makes money selling insurance to you. This observation has a profound implication for your organization’s processes – if your enterprise is a software organization, then to be successful your organization must be effective at its heart in the creation and operation of software that provides real business value to you. This isn’t to say that other aspects of your organization aren’t important, in fact they’re very important, but it does say that because software is at the core of any modern organization that you must becomes very good at it if you are to thrive.

As you can see in Figure 1, DA distinguishes between four process layers. Each level is organized into several process blades, each of which describes in detail an activity or capability within your organization. The layers are:

  1. Disciplined Agile Delivery (DAD)DAD supports the six delivery lifecycles – Continuous Delivery:Agile, Continuous Delivery: Lean, Exploratory/Lean Startup, Lean/Kanban, and Agile/Scrum, and Program (the coordination of a large delivery team).
  2. Disciplined DevOpsDisciplined DevOps expands on DAD to add five process blades – Security, Release Management, IT Operations, Support, and Data Management – depicted in yellow.
  3. Disciplined Agile IT (DAIT). DAIT expands on Disciplined DevOps to add the following IT-specific process blades: Reuse Engineering and IT Governance (which are depicted in brown). It also adds several blades that overlap into DAE: People Management, Product ManagementPortfolio Management, Enterprise Architecture, and Continuous Improvement.
  4. Disciplined Agile Enterprise (DAE). A DAE is an agile business. This level adds Business Operations, Marketing, Sales, Finance, Legal, Procurement, and Control (Corporate Governance).
Onion diagram of the Disciplined Agile tool kit

Figure 1. The Disciplined Agile (DA) tool kit.

The table below describes each process blade and provides links to more detailed discussions about each blade.

Table 1. Process blades that support Disciplined Agile IT.

Process Blade Description Further Reading
Agile Describes the beginning-to-end solution delivery lifecycle for teams working in an agile, or Scrum-based, manner. Project teams who are new to agile, or who find themselves in situations where a regular work cadence is effective for them, will often choose to adopt this lifecycle. The Agile/Scrum-Based Delivery Lifecycle
Business Operations Addresses how lines of business (LoBs) or value streams can work in an agile or lean manner. Business Operations process blade
Continuous Delivery: Agile Describes the beginning-to-end solution delivery lifecycle for teams working in a Scrum-based continuous delivery manner. Agile product teams who are often working in a DevOps environment often adopt this strategy. The Continuous Delivery: Agile Lifecycle
Continuous Delivery: Lean Describes the beginning-to-end solution delivery lifecycle for teams working in a Kanban-based continuous delivery manner. Product teams who are often working in a DevOps environment often adopt this strategy. The Continuous Delivery: Lean Lifecycle
Continuous Improvement Addresses strategies for sharing potential improvements across teams; supporting teams; and governing the continuous improvement efforts. Continuous Improvement process blade
Control (Corporate Governance) Describes how leadership may govern in an agile/lean manner. Control process blade
Data Management Addresses strategies for improving data quality; evolving data management assets; and governing the data management efforts. Data Management process blade
Enterprise Architecture Addresses strategies for supporting stakeholders; supporting delivery teams; evolving the enterprise architecture; capturing the enterprise architecture; and governing the enterprise architecture efforts. Enterprise Architecture process blade
Exploratory/Lean Startup Describes the beginning-to-end solution delivery lifecycle for teams working in an exploratory, or “lean start up”, manner. Teams who find themselves in situations where rapid innovation is called for often follow this lifecycle. The Exploratory/Lean Startup Lifecycle
Finance Addresses strategies for how to finance agile/lean teams, how to approach financial reporting, and how to budget flexibly. Finance process blade
IT Governance Addresses strategies for consolidating various governance views; defining metrics; taking measurements; monitoring and reporting on measurements; develop and capture guidance; defining roles and responsibilities; sharing knowledge within your organization; managing IT risk; and governing the various governance efforts. The IT Governance process blade
Lean/Kanban Describes the beginning-to-end solution delivery lifecycle for teams working in a lean, or Kanban-based, manner. Teams who have many small, relatively independent requirements (be they change requests or potential defects) and who are working on an existing solution will often adopt this lifecycle. The Lean/Kanban-Based Lifecycle
Legal Addresses how to support legal considerations, including regulatory compliance, in an agile/lean manner. Legal process blade
Marketing Describes how to take an agile/lean approach to marketing. Marketing process blade
Operations Addresses strategies for running systems in production; managing the infrastructure; evolving the infrastructure, mitigating disasters; and governing the operations efforts. Operations process blade
People Management Addresses strategies for forming teams; helping people to manage their careers; training, coaching, and educating people; human resource planning within your IT department; managing movement of people within your organization; reward structures; and governing people management efforts. People Management Process Blade
Portfolio Management Addresses strategies for identifying products/projects; prioritizing products/projects; initiating product/project teams; managing vendors; and governing the portfolio management efforts. Portfolio Management process blade
Procurement Addresses how to support agile/lean teams to procure the resources they need in an agile manner. Addresses procurement of physical items, services, and intellectual property (IP). Procurement process blade
Product Management Addresses strategies for managing a product, including allocating features to a product, evolving the business vision for a product, managing functional dependencies, and marketing the product line. Product Management process blade
Program Management Addresses strategies for managing large product/project teams; allocating requirements between sub teams; managing dependencies between sub teams; coordinating the sub teams; and governing a program. Program Management process blade
Release Management Addresses strategies for planning the IT release schedule; coordinating releases of solutions; managing the release infrastructure; supporting delivery teams; and governing the release management efforts. Release Management process blade
Reuse Engineering Addresses strategies for obtaining assets; publishing assets; supporting delivery teams; evolving assets; and governing the reuse engineering efforts. Reuse Engineering process blade
Sales Addresses how to approach sales within a value stream and across your organization as a whole. Sales process blade
Support Addresses strategies for determining your overall support strategy; escalating incidents; addressing incidents; and governing the support efforts. Support process blade