One definition of scaling Agile is simple: Add more Agile teams. For some companies, this may be the right choice. But even as their Agile teams develop innovations better and faster than ever before, in our experience, the company’s overall innovation velocity is unlikely to improve. The impact remains quite local.
The other definition of scaling Agile, the one we are focused on here, is creating an Agile enterprise. These enterprises aim to create Agile business systems by transforming corporate bureaucracy and innovation into symbiotic partners. As partners, they collaborate to deliver better results more broadly (see Figure 1).
The right balance between the two varies. Managing R&D activities for an innovation leader in robotics will demand far more change than managing mining operations for a commodity player in the gravel industry, for example.
Agile enterprises typically do five things that help them achieve their goals:
- Create an Agile vision and strategy.
- Use a taxonomy of teams.
- Sequence the transition.
- Harmonize bureaucracy and innovation.
- Plan for interdependencies.
Agile teams are ready to launch when they:
- Focus on a major business opportunity with a lot at stake;
- Accept responsibility for specific outcomes;
- Are trusted to work autonomously, properly resourced;
- Commit to applying Agile values, principles and practices;
- Feel empowered to collaborate closely with customers;
- Are able to create rapid prototypes and fast feedback loops; and
- Feel supported by senior executives, who will address impediments and support adoption of the team’s work.