The Benefits of Scaling Agile

Team working in modern office

Agile has become a hot topic in project management. Many top businesses around the world are interested in scaling Agile across entire organizations. But despite its recent surge in popularity, Agile methodology is far from a new concept in project management. Officially created in 2001, Agile’s origins go back multiple decades and have been used to help teams succeed in fast-paced jobs where the nature of work is constantly changing.

Traditionally, the Agile method was implemented at the team level. Groups would custom tailor an Agile system that helped them meet their goals and objectives. This worked well because it gave teams more autonomy and flexibility. They developed their own Agile systems, independent of their peers, which means that different departments had their own procedures for good project management practices. In other words, the Agile method typically operated in silos and wasn’t part of a greater project management system.

Since then, Agile has become an incredibly popular way to manage projects. As such, a number of enterprise-level organizations have looked at scaling Agile across their entire company. But how would an approach that enhances productivity at the team level be applied across an organization? And would it even be effective at improving corporate performance?

In short, yes, it’s possible to scale Agile across an organization. But it does come with its own set of challenges that one must consider when making the switch.

Bringing Agile to the Company Level

The biggest obstacle that organizations face when scaling Agile is finding a middle ground that works for everyone. Ultimately, you want to connect the structured nature of Project Portfolio Management (PPM) with the distributed nature of Agile. That way, teams keep some of their autonomy, while working together to push the company forward. One way you can do this is by following the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe).

SAFe is a collection of principles and practices designed to help large organizations with scaling Agile and Lean methods across their company. It challenges organizations to rethink the way they approach project management. Instead of focusing solely on the project itself, SAFe requires stakeholders to focus on and fund value streams. Elements like outcomes, products, experiences, and services are prioritized, and each value stream is allocated its own budget and guidelines for spending. This gives teams more autonomy over what they can do to accomplish their work, while still giving PMOs the authority to monitor and manage budgets.

With SAFe, organizations can roll out company-wide Agile initiatives while still focusing on what matters—cross-team collaboration. When implemented successfully, scaled agility should create and maintain stable teams. What’s more, there must be a strong focus on continuous improvement under SAFe’s infrastructure. As teams work together, they should be exploring ways to better their performance. Moreover, that improvement needs to be measurable. And it’s the manager’s job to track and assess performance to ensure workers are improving.

The Challenge of Implementing Company-Level Agility

As you can imagine, implementing a company-wide Agile program comes with its own obstacles. The biggest challenge is getting team members all on the same page in the early stages of the project. Remember, most organizations originally started Agile as a team-level initiative. As a result, most teams have their own ways of running things. They have different methods and Agile execution tools to help them work.

More often than not, managers try to address this challenge by standardizing project frameworks so there’s consistency across all departments. Not only does this undermine the team-oriented nature of Agile, it also creates chaos and uncertainty in the workspace.

Simply put, there’s nothing easy about scaling Agile across an organization. With that said, companies can reduce unnecessary friction and deliver a smooth transition by:

  • Taking into consideration that most teams develop their own Agile framework to suit their unique needs.
  • Never interrupting team flow, except in situations where you have to.
  • Giving teams the autonomy to make project-related decisions.

Try to be as flexible and adaptable as possible while scaling Agile. That way, your company’s productivity isn’t interrupted as a result of your initiatives.

What Are the Benefits of the Scaled Agile Method?

Despite the initial challenges your organization may face while scaling Agile, there are a number of advantages that come with adopting a company-wide approach.

As we’ve previously mentioned, the primary goals of Agile are:

  • To increase speed and productivity.
  • Pushing team members to constantly improve.
  • Empowering team members to make more work-related decisions.

In order to scale Agile effectively, you need to make sure your framework includes these three goals. That way, your Agile infrastructure will include the autonomy and flexibility necessary to empower teams to work quickly and efficiently.

Let’s dig a little deeper into what each of these goals means in a scaled Agile workplace:

  • Easy collaboration: Agile’s flexible nature makes it easier for workers to participate in cross-team collaboration. This is because Agile places a greater emphasis on delivering value rather than completing projects. As a result, employees start to develop a collaborative mentality where teams work closely together to improve the value stream.
  • Heightened productivity: Scaling Agile brings all of your organization under one roof, linking all departments under the same task-management system. This, in turn, creates a transparent workflow where workers know who’s accountable for what actions. As a result, people are more aware of their jobs and responsibilities, meaning there’s less downtime between tasks.
  • Improved decision-making: Agile’s focus on autonomy enables team members to make task-based decisions. This reduces the need for managers to micromanage projects, while empowering workers to use their own knowledge and experience in the decision-making process.

As you can see, scaling Agile across your organization is an excellent way to boost productivity and drive innovation. But how’s it done?

Creating Agility Across Your Organization

Implementing company-wide agility isn’t an easy task. Even if you follow the Scaled Agile Framework, there’ll still be challenges and setbacks along the way.

The good news is that there are a number of management solutions for scaling Agile across entire organizations. Unlike traditional PPM software, a scaled Agile solution connects with the various individual tools across your organization. It then pulls data from those tools and delivers it in an easy-to-view project management dashboard.

This allows teams to continue working with the tools they’re comfortable with. They keep their autonomy while enabling PMO teams to monitor the progress of projects in real-time. The end result is a flexible Agile system that’s adaptable to meet the needs of each team, while effective enough to give management the ability to track progress and remove obstacles as they arise.

Want to learn more about how to scale Agile in your organization? The Planview LeanKit Agile Scaler datasheet has the information you need.