FLow for Enterprise Transformation: Mid to Large Scale

This page describes our typical engagement using FLEX for mid-sized companies. To learn more about FLEX, see our portal's FLEX subsite. When this page references a page on the portal it will open in a new window. 

Net Objectives has been doing large scale Agile since 2005. Our goal is to help our clients achieve business agility - the quick realization of value predictably, sustainably and with high quality. FLEX as a consolidation of mindsets, practices and principles based on our experience with Agile at Scale. This enables it to work by itself or to support other methods. To understand our approach, we must understand the value stream, that is the flow of work from inception to realization of value. We depict this in figure 1:

Figure 1: Depiction of the value stream

How FLEX Works

The above diagram not only illustrates the value stream, but lists the different actions that must take place in order to have an effective one. These include:

  1. Lean-Agile Product Management
    • Strategic Planning
    • Preparing work for technology
    • Controlling the intake process
    • Continuous preparation and intake
  2. Continuous preparation, intake and planning
  3. Planning event or using flow
  4. Organize the talent
  5. Attend to technical aspects of development
  6. Technology workflow 

FLEX can work on either an iterative approach, such as LeSS and SAFe, or on a pure flow model as espoused by Lean. Which to use depends upon several factors including the organization's culture, problem domain, current skill level with Agile, the ability to coordinate teams and more. 

The Net Objectives Approach Using FLEX

We don't believe a "one-size fits all" approach works. But, perhaps surprisingly, virtually all companies need to achieve the same things to get to business agility. They just have to do it in the order and manner that's right for them.  Essentially we help customers by:

  1. understanding where they are, who is driving the change and what progress they want to make given the budget they have
  2. identifying the challenges they are having
  3. looking at how FLEX can be adopted to the client's needs
  4. creating a roadmap using FLEX for the client
  5. implementing the roadmap

We do this in a multi-phased engagement:

Phase I: Assessment and Leadership/Management Training

  • Perform a 2-day to 2-week challenges assessment and create an initial challenge-response map.
  • For the sponsor and their key stakeholders and influencers, give a 2-hour introduction to our approach and how it fits into the challenge-response map.
  • For leadership, product management, and the PMO, give a 1-day leadership overview of Agile Product Management and how it fits into the challenge-response map, and discuss Lean-Agile practices that should be adopted.

Phase 2 (if able to get leadership/stakeholder involvement): Strategies, initiatives and funding

We prefer to work from the top, but this level is often not interested in participating in an Agile adoption. If they are, there is a great opportunity to create clarity on:

  • what do we want the company to invest in
  • how will we use this to create strategies and initiatives

Doing this will help resolve conflicting requirements that occur further down the value stream.

Phase 3: Product Management

  • Provide 3 days of product management workshop/coaching starting with the selection of a pilot initiative that will affect most of the teams, and working with product managers, business analysts, and product owners, as applicable, to craft thin-slice requirements from the initiative-level all the way to team-level stories.

Phase 4: Workshops for managers, Scrum Masters and the team

Phase 5: Kicking off the real work with a planning event

FLEX will support an iterative model where teams plan separately, or an iterative model where teams plan together (like SAFe) or even a pure flow model. But we find that to get things started, a two day planning event focusing on collaboration, identifying depedencies and making agreements with each other is important.

Phase 6: Post planning coaching

Provide 3 weeks of follow-on coaching for the development teams and for product management to:

  • Coach on crafting Sprint-level scenarios and stories, and on estimation
  • Coach on a full cycle of Scrum or Kanban ceremonies as appropriate
  • Help implement
    • A multi-tier Kanban board (e.g. Initiatives → MBIs → Features → Stories)
    • Team-level Sprint kanban boards
    • A ross-team dependency board for planning and forecasting

For leadership, product management, and the PMO, do a 1-day pilot review workshop to demonstrate outcomes, retrospect the effort, and discuss next steps.

Phase 7: Technical Skill (optional)

We highly recommend some Agile Software Development training (Design Patterns, TDD or Emergent Design) for architects and team leads who develop code. In addition we include our online, self-paced Foundations of Sustainable Design for all developers in the pilot at no additional cost. 

The steps of these phases are shown in figure 2:

Figure 2: The steps to mid-large scale agility with FLEX.

To see these graphically on our portal click here.

Solutions Need to Address Challenges

FLEX builds on what has been learned about solving the challenges organizations have. The most common ones are:

Challenges in business and product backlogs

  • Product backlog not properly organized
  • Chunks of work too big
  • Unclear requirements

Challenges in implementation

  • Some people are overloaded with work making them constraints to other parts of the system
  • Insufficient collaboration across teams
  • High technical debt. This means having the right capacity for the most important work to be done. Having the right capacity means we have all the right amounts of the right skills. When certain individuals’ skills or experience are in higher demand than they can manifest, then they will be constraints to other individuals and teams.

Challenges in integration and release

  • Integration errors
  • Teams complete work but value not realized due to leaving out required groups needed for value realization

Challenges in management

  • Managing people instead of the ecosystem / workflow.
  • Management not knowing what their role is.

Challenges in visibility

  • Lack of visibility
  • Ops being blindsided and pulled in many directions
  • Teams not understanding the value of what they are working on

Challenges in Work-in-Process

  • Working on too many things
  • Constant interruptions.  Solving these Challenges

Costs

If you are planning on doing a 6 sprint planning event, the preparation work we use in our engagement can create a major return with no delay. The reason is with product management and teams doing Lean-Agile Product Management the need for a 6 sprint planning event is eliminated. Most of the engagement described above is working on people's actual backlogs anyway. But the time delays due to workshops are made up by having a shorter program increment. The end of the first (now shorter) increment will now be about the same time as what it would have been without this engagement.

When people have visibility on what they are doing, and the work is supported by proper agreements, frameworks can be lighter and less expensive - in both time and dollars. Through the use of innovative training and workshop methods, we can provide more scope for a smaller cost. Having a complete solution that includes all roles and provides long-term training of Scrum Masters while they are working is a key to sustainability.

FLEX and SAFe

If your organization is already doing SAFe, you can learn more about how FLEX can help both simplify SAFe while making it more effective. See our Using FLEX to Enhance SAFe for more.