Hitting the wall while trying to Scale Agile?

The use of Agile tools and work management continues to gain ground across the enterprise. With more and more teams adopting tools that are so easy to implement and use, organizations need a coherent strategy scale and incorporate Agile adoption into their overall approach to work governance, without impacting or slowing innovation. It’s at that point that many hit the wall, and where the addition of portfolio management capabilities can spell the difference between success and failure.

The lack of portfolio management continues to be a problem

Organizations that use traditional project management processes have dodged this issue for years. But having the proper portfolio management controls in place is just as critical for Agile work management as it is for traditional PPM. Adopting a new method of execution won’t simply make the old problems associated with lax portfolio management simply go away. And if you continue to ignore instituting the standards that proper portfolio management help you put in place, regardless of how your organization decides to manage work, you’ll just be back to square one.

Governance shouldn’t be a dirty word

For many who adopt Agile execution methodologies, the term governance can have a negative connotation of hampering agility. But like brakes on a car, good governance isn’t there to slow things down, it’s there to actually help you go faster, secure in the knowledge that the proper controls are in place. Rightsized governance ensures teams have the flexibility to execute in any way they see fit, while also providing the flexibility to dynamically adjust as conditions dictate, all the while ensuring that the key stakeholders have the visibility and insight required to change course as needed.

Tying all execution back to financial performance

High-performing organizations understand the need to integrate financial insight into the work management process, to ensure that all initiatives are delivering value. The trick is doing so without disrupting the team’s execution. Providing executives and key stakeholders with the financial insight they need helps ensure that all funding decisions are made in alignment with specific desired outcomes.

Agile teams still need to manage and allocate resources

One of the elegant aspects of Agile work management is how it enables resources to flow to the work that delivers the most value. Teams can form and adjust based on the work required. One thing it doesn’t typically do as well is provide the executive team with the visibility and insight they need to understand how effectively all those resources are being allocated. Keep in mind, most executives don’t really care what type of execution methodology is being used to execute work. But they do want to have insight into how effectively those resources are contributing to the organization’s strategic initiatives.

The importance of ongoing performance management

Again, most executives couldn’t care less about the specific details of how work is being executed. But they do care deeply about how much it’s costing, when it will be delivered or when they can expect it to begin delivering value. And they definitely care about how many resources are being allocated, and how all of that aligns with company strategy. Any work management process that supports Agile across the enterprise must speak to executives in the terms and language that they expect and require, not in the vernacular of those executing work. Which is why it’s critical to be able to report on performance and demonstrate the underlying value or all work.

How are you measuring outcomes?

Regardless of the execution methodology used, the work being done is being done to achieve specific outcomes. To scale your Agile processes across the enterprise, you’ll need to clearly identify and articulate across the team what those expected outcomes will be. You’ll also need to have clear KPIs in place, and have the ability to measure progress against them. It’s also critical to be able to tie those measurements back to how each desired outcome will specifically deliver value to the organization.

Acknowledge the fact that that a variety of approaches exist across the enterprise

We call it the Tri-Modal Reality. It’s the simple fact that no organization’s approach to executing work is homogenous, and that a variety of methodologies will need to coexist across teams, departments and organizations. It’s one thing to manage this at the execution level, and more and more organizations are developing processes to do just that. But you’ll also need to deliver visibility into how all that work fits together at the executive level, which is where the real challenge – and ultimate value – of scaling Agile across the organization begins to manifest itself.