Disciplined Agile

Using Consistent Objectives to Enable Self-Organization of Teams Across an Enterprise

The Disciplined Agile tool kit is founded on a number of important principles including context counts, be pragmatic, and maintain enterprise awareness.

“We recognize that every person, every team, every organization is unique. We face unique situations that evolve over time. The implication is that we must choose our way of working (WoW) to reflect the context that we face, and then evolve our WoW as the situation evolves.”

At an enterprise level, we want consistency while supporting local variations. The approach is to define intentions and objectives for all teams while allowing individual teams to choose their way of working – to select which practices they want to use – to meet those objectives. 

This article describes a number of benefits for this approach.

Consistent Objectives Facilitate Teams Working Together

Consistent objectives make it easier for teams to work together.

  • Enterprise alignment. Enterprise needs drive everything in the organization; therefore, teams must align their work to a common vision from the enterprise side. Because all the product owners or equivalent backlog owners of all the teams are using minimum business increments (MBIs) to guide them, it is easier to achieve alignment when conflicts arise.
  • Local prioritization within enterprise prioritization. Teams use a consistent approach to determine what’s important for them to work on and they do so within the context of enterprise priorities.
  • Velocity. Teams measure velocity in a similar way so that it can be used for cross-team forecasting, planning, and coordination.
  • Collaboration. Teams work together to plan, create, and integrate.  By creating a bigger picture view, teams focus on MBIs, not just their own individual backlog items in isolation. This creates a bigger team-of-teams mindset.
  • Systems thinking. Teams understand that local optimization is not as important as sustainable global optimization, and they set sustainable global optimization as the goal for any local optimizations. Therefore, local optimizations must be made within the context of the bigger picture and must be sustainable for global optimizations to be sustainable.

Consistent Objectives Help Onboarding and Transfers

When all teams are working to implement the same intentions (even though each is doing that in their own way), the onboarding process is much easier. Focus on the consistency of intentions and objectives of all teams and discuss ways that teams get to choose their WoW. This creates a consistent process for all teams. It also reinforces the mindset that all teams should have.

Likewise, when teams operate from consistent objectives, then whenever a team brings a new person into the team, they only need to make that person aware of the ways that team is doing its work differently. This is even easier when the team is using explicit workflows. It helps the new member quickly to discover and understand the workflow.

Consistent Objectives Ensure Management Has the Visibility They Need

Every team is required to ensure management can get visibility of whatever they need and whenever they need to see it. This minimizes interruptions and frustration for all parties. It improves predictability.

Consistent Objectives Promote Learning Between Teams

Teams are trying to accomplish the same things but are doing it in different ways. When a new way is discovered, or a team decides the intention of an existing approach is wrong, they can convey this to other teams so that the entire community of teams learn from this. Because teams are focused on the same intentions, there is more ground for common conversations and learning. This also helps avoid each team thinking they are so different from other teams that they cannot learn from other teams or cannot share what they learned with other teams.