Rethinking agile – Why agile teams have nothing to do with business agility written by Klaus Leopold is great book to cope with agile transformations and what you have to do to increase the chance of success. It definitely busted the myth that having agile teams makes you agile.
The book is divided into four parts: the problem, the causes, the first solution, and the result.
The book starts with a case study of an organization that wants to optimize their time-to-market. They want to reorganize their teams. All teams should be cross-functional and organized according to the premise: One team, one product. Teams could choose the agile method they wanted to use, and the following requirements needed to be fulfilled: work should be visually managed, hold daily stand-ups, retrospectives, throughput and cycle time must be measured. All 600 IT employees followed a one-day agile mindset basis training. Management realigned the teams according the product structure and the reorganization took place through self-organization (marketplace). External support in the form of 16 coaches helped the teams to run system design workshops and create Kanban systems to visualize and manage their workflows. As a result, all teams were fully transformed and fulfilled the stipulated agile framework conditions. But the ability of the teams to deliver had not changed much! Projects are not being completed more quickly!
The author describes four causes why their projects were not completed more quickly.
Cause #1: The pitfall of simplistic inference in the change process
- Implementing agile is a means – not a purpose – for achieving business agility
- The change process as a project (pull versus push principle)
- Change is a new organigram – mixing up cause and effect.
Cause#2: Dealing with dependencies between teams and products. They forget to consider:
- One product, many teams
- Dependencies between products
- Peculiarities in knowledge work.
Cause #3: An incomplete value stream
- What is happening downstream? Integration? testing? release? …?
- What is happening upstream? Idea pool? Triage? Business case, decision making. …?
- End-to-end management of the value stream was missing.
Cause#4: WIP limits at the wrong place
- Reducing WIP: Park the work in front of the system (option pool)
- Limit the initiatives, the number of projects in the system (strategic portfolio management).
As a solution the author discusses the added value of the flight level model as a communication instrument to identify the effect of specific improvements at operational level (team), coordination (value stream) and at strategic portfolio management (company) and to discover where within the organization it makes sense and/or is possible to leverage improvements (visualizing the work, setting WIP limits, establishing feedbackand determining and implementing improvements). On top of that he sees three areas of improvement: make dependencies visible (product boards), integrating the upstream (be aware of traps: too much, too exact, too unnecessary) and strategic portfolio management (strategy board).
The book ends with a summary to make your business agile:
- Start at the top (the first agile team)
- Agility begins with the change process
- Focus on the goal not on the method
- Agility is not a team affair
- Identify the flight levels (operational level, coordination and at strategic portfolio management)
- Manage and eliminate dependencies
- Incorporate the drivers for lean business agility at every flight level (visualize, manage WIP, feedback loops, improve).
Conclusion. Great book and nice illustrations (by Matthias Seifert). A must read for those who are starting or in the middle of a business agility transformation to learn what others did wrong and what you can do to increase your chance of success. A next print could benefit when a contents paragraph and chapter and paragraph numbers are added.
To order (Amazon): Rethinking agile
To order (bol.com): Rethinking agile