I am in the waterfall approach for more than 20 years and around 8 in agile. Agile opened my eyes to a new managerial dimension, I embraced agile as soon as I knew it, it was powerful, dynamic, considerate with the customer, with the teams, based on transparency and value. After some years implementing agile in teams, I discovered Disciplined Agile Value Stream (DAVS) a huge step in agile, based on Business Agility and lots of common sense.
When waterfall organizations ask me how to become agile, these are some of the premises I handle based on the Disciplined Agile Value Stream (DAVS).
1/ Agile does not mean fast
The adjective “agile” comes from the latin “agilis” (having quickness of motion, nimble, active); from the root of the verb “agere” (to set in motion, keep in movement) and the suffix “-ilis” (chance or capacity). This is probably why at least in Romanic languages like Spanish, French, Italian, or Portuguese (among others), when you want to become agile is most of the time mistaken for doing things faster, easier, and even cheaper. Agile seems to be a silver bullet.
For embracing agile, an organization has to understand that agile is a matter of mindset. Before starting a change in our organizational approach towards management, we need to be ready for a new mindset:
- to deliver value sooner, reduce risk sooner, empower teams to be self-organizing and semi-autonomous
- to consider the different lifecycles, the differences in organization culture
- based on less command and control
- with less time in planning
- focused on delivering a vision
Nevertheless, being the mindset the basis of an agile transformation process, we need a more holistic way to approach change, based in Laws, Values, Principles, and Practice.
2/ Business agility vs team agility
Most times when we think about starting agile we basically are thinking about agile teams. It is not strange that when an organization is asked about their agile transformation strategy, they focus transformation on the sw developer’s side, There is a lack of overall strategy.
With business agility, we are aiming at realizing the highest business value in the shortest time, in a consistent manner, sustainable, and with high quality. Business agility implies a strong link between the business side and the implementation side in any company.
How could this be achieved?
- Think of your organization as a whole, as a series of actions that take place to add value to the clients since the very moment their request starts and throughout the flow. You need to start and end with the client but not just focusing on the development teams (on how they can provide value to the client) but on the organization as a whole, with a system thinking approach. We have to expand our agile vision to include the whole organization which means to envision an idealized value stream to be able to see challenges, identify actions and keep on improving. We need to make all work visible to identify dependencies and as @AlShalloway says because “Lack of visibility causes lack of collaboration.”
- Engage executives, make them committed with the whole process. Work with them in the Discovery Workflow and its result, the Intake Queue. This could be a good starting point to engage executives and managers in our value stream. Remember that most executives and customers think that in organizations the problems are in the implementation area. On the contrary, most of the time it is in the business area where problems are generated.
- Make them understand what an agile and lean budgeting is. We call it agile budgeting because it’s focused on the customer. We call it lean funding because lean is about just-in-time delivery. We want to allocate our money just in time. DAVS borrows from Beyond Budgeting and presents a practical way to understand Agile budgeting and Lean funding aligning development teams with initiatives and providing insights on handling CapEx and OpEx issues.
- Count on the middle managers and train them, tell them what is expected from them. Talk with managers, start by listening their concerns, learn about their challenges. You need to have an active listening culture. If you need to change culture talk about improving behaviors, creating safety, creating trust and improving collaboration.
- Count on a transition coalition – transition team. We cannot change an organization in a weekend, coworkers can even be the impediment in our process. Start making them part not only of the executing processes, but also defining the transition one.
Do you want to initiate in Disciplined Agile? We train in Spanish and English.
3. Why DAVS is different from other agile approaches
Although agile has been primarily used in IT and, focusing on IT teams could be a kind of “natural entry” of agile in our organizations, reality brings us companies that dissociate SW development from the rest of the company who does not want to know anything about iterations, sprints, Kanban, flow, lean…
The business side of the organization does not take part in the agile transformation process, nor do the operational, marketing… areas. When we start scaling up agile, things become really difficult. Operations, support, delivery, marketing… are not normally integrated into the value stream, so they are distanced from anything related to agile which they feel simply touches tangentially they work.
In DAVS, management is an umbrella for products, services, operacions…
With DAVS, 4 types of value streams are made visible already in our Discovery Workflow showing a commitment to the Business Side of the organization and of the organization as a whole. DAVS considers:
- Development Value Stream. Product development or service
- Operational Value Stream. Product usage or service delivery
- Enabling Value Stream. Work that enables the operational value stream to be used
- Support Value Stream. Work that supports the work of the organization
There are other contributions of DAVS like MBIs but integrating different value streams is in my opinion the one that opens DAVS to any industry. You can always say that agile is not only for IT development but, frameworks only refer to product development on the tech side, not integrating their efforts with the rest of the company. DAVS does integrate.
4/ We are not interested in mastering a framework, we want to improve our work
When we start Agile, most of the times teams request to start with a known framework or pre-sets solutions that are useful in the first moments. The fact is that after a while, in some theory, a couple of pilots… teams get the feeling they are becoming fluent with agile while in fact, they are becoming experts in a specific framework. No change in the framework is allowed, most of the time this is frustrating and with time, what they do is accommodate their problems and dependencies to the framework. Taking into account that each organization is different, is in a different stage, has its own culture… a common fixed framework does not seem to be the best solution in the long term. George Box once remarked: “All models are wrong, some are useful”.
We need an “attitude adjustment” in agile as you can see in the Double-Loop Learning image above. As W. E. Deming said: «People copy examples and then they wonder what is the trouble. They look at examples and without theory, they learn nothing.” The DA Mindset reflects a philosophy of shared, ever-adapting knowledge rather than a framework. DAVS takes a Pragmatic Approach, focusing on what works. Its integration of Flow, Lean, and ToC enables it to provide deep insights into actions to take, to improve a value stream. I like the question: Is my agile more a way of thinking or a framework? When I heard it for the first time, it made me think.
Do you want to be able to use and adapt de Disciplined Agile Toll Kit? We offer training in English and Spanish
Would you like to share your experiences into business agility? we could make an interesting thread.
Thank you for your time.