Transparency is at the core of agile. As we get proficient at agile, everyone in the team has access to all the information they need to make the team successful. But then, things change, and the type of decisions the team needs to make changes. And new information needs to be available for that to be successful. So what to information do we share? And how does that evolve? How do we get over the ‘scaling’ hurdle, without introducing ‘big process’? What models for sharing larger businesses’ strategy are available?
Target Audience: Managers, project leaders, decision makers
Prerequisites: Agile, management or project management experience
Agile ‘transitions’ keep failing. Even while delivering plenty of value for the organization. I think that is because the levels of transparency within an organisation can’t keep up with the changes the organisation is going through.
Transparency is crucial for all levels of progress in agile. Once we’re proficient at a certain level, everyone in the team has access to all the information they need to make the team successful. But then the situation changes, the definition of the team changes, and the type of decisions they need to make changes. And new information needs to be available for that to be successful.
In this talk I’ll show how we can use transparency at different stages of our agile journey to achieve the goals we have. And how new levels of transparency are needed to get to a next level of agility. And how not providing those new levels can trigger a slide back to where you started from, if you’re not careful.
I’ll also discuss how the more advanced levels are still very hard to arrange for. It’s not coincidental that we end up with overwrought processes like SAFe for scaling, as good models and mechanisms for sharing larger businesses’ strategy are hard to find, and even harder to make accessible and measurable. We’ll discuss some alternatives that can make this work, and their limitations.
Transparency is crucial for all levels of progress in agile. I look at this through the lens of the Agile Fluency Model to discuss what information is needed in different stages of an organisation's development:
Zone 1: focus and common goals. Transparency is on what we want to achieve, and on what we’re doing. And we can see what the difference is.
Zone 2: focus is on how well we’re delivering, and how fast. Transparency is on quality metrics, failure, and cycle/lead times that we’re getting.
Zone 3: focus is on delivering what the market wants. Transparency is on what we think the market wants, and then measuring whether that was true.
Zone 4: focus is on wider market impact and strategy. Transparency is on what our strategic plans and models are, and how we can see whether they’re working.
This has impact on what is shared within a team, and within the larger organisation. Both in metrics/KPIs, and qualitative information.
Being successful in one zone has a pull-effect into the next. If we get really good at focus, in all but very specific cases we will need to get good at delivery. If we don’t we fall back, lose focus in frustration on problems in delivery not being solved. Lose focus, and lose people. Frustration.
If we’re good at delivery, the same is true: if we don’t start working on charting our product’s market, we’ll fall back. Because what’s the point of being able to deliver 30 times a day, if we know our customers don’t care. Or if we don’t know our customers care.
Then in Zone 3, we get really good at probing our market and customer base, and successful commercially. But what if the product grows. How do we retain focus over multiple teams, with slightly different (parts of) products? We’ll need to move into Zone 4 to handle that.
Often, especially existing larger organizations start out with that last problem foremost in mind: scale! Over teams! It’s what gives us things like SAFe, etc. But even an organisation the grew in an Agile way, like Spotify, has this kind of problems.
And we have very little in our tool-chest for that last part of the growth path. Strategy is hard. But strategy almost always lives in people’s minds. Or guts. What tools are available to make strategy not just more concrete, but allows us to make it transparent within the organisation? Use it as a communication device, and feedback mechanism?
The lean concept of Hoshi Kanri is known to some, and used in this way. It defines the process more than the tools and means of communication, though. Wardley Maps allow for communication, but don’t provide much in the way of concrete measurements and feedback.