Improving Frameworks With Operating Models

Executive Overview

An operating model is a representation of how an organization works and is defined and used in order to help make decisions throughout the business development process. A framework is a set of roles, events, artifacts, and the rules that bind them. While frameworks are intended to have practices added to them, the frameworks themselves are mostly immutable. Operating models, on the other hand, are designed to help organizations create their own roles, events, artifacts and the rules that bind them and have these evolve over time as the organization evolves.

Operating models should have the following:

  • a “to be” state to provide guidance
  • a method to determine if the operating model is achieving its intended result
  • a support structure to help coaches navigate the challenges that are likely to occur
  • a set of terminology to use
  • a set of agreements on how people should work together (e.g., the guardrails)

Net Objectives’ Operating Models

Net Objectives’ FLow for Enterprise Transformation (FLEX) is an operating model based on Lean-Agile that can be applied to any organization to achieve business agility – the fast realization of business value predictably, sustainably and with high quality.  FLEX can also be an operating model that includes SAFe. Scrum/APM is an operating model, also based on Lean-Agile, which wraps Scrum to make it more effective. Scrum/APM is one of the available team operating models for FLEX.

Operating Models Don’t Require Immutable Aspects

Frameworks typically require or suggest an all-in-all the way. For example, the Scrum Guide says “Scrum’s roles, events, artifacts, and rules are immutable.” SAFe, while having different levels pre-defines the levels and requirements many of its practices in order to be considered to be SAFe. Both FLEX and Scrum/APM focus on intents of practices. If a practice is not ideal, both FLEX and Scrum/APM provide alternatives to it. The focus is on the outcome, not prescription.

Operating Models Provide a Transition from “as is” to “to be”

Operating models provide both a “to be” state and a method of getting there. A method for navigating  from “as is” to “to be” is part of the operating model. This requires a method of telling if improvement is being made. The value stream impedance scorecard was created to provide such a method.

Operating models can provide starting points that fit the organization using them.

An attraction of frameworks is that they provide well-defined starting points. At scale, however, this can be problematic because the number of levels in an organization may not match the number of levels in the framework. At the team level, a single framework will not work for all contexts.

However, the need for a simple starting point does exist. Operating models accommodate this need without requiring immutable component by providing a starting point that can be tailored to the organization adopting it.  An example of such a starting point for Scrum/APM is Scrum as ExampleFLEX also can provide a pre-defined start of roles, events, artifacts and the rules that bind them. This means there is no advantage for a framework over FLEX.

What Operating Models Add to Frameworks

  • A well-defined start that is provided as an example of the next step of “to be”
  • This start can be tailored to the existing organization as needed or desired
  • A well-defined path for improvement that takes less experience than a framework
  • Principles underneath this transition path that provides guidance if the organization should come to a situation where a known solution to their challenge does not exist.
  • They enable a framework to be used anywhere, even if some of the framework’s immutable aspects are broken.
  • There is less likelihood of dogma as people are clear they are working towards improvement, not in following the framework