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FLEX avoids the dilemma of people needing to start with a solution while recognizing that no one-size-fits-all by taking a step-wise approach to Lean-Agile transformation. At any point in time, FLEX provides a well-defined, well-documented set of steps that have been tailored for the company undergoing the transformation. We don’t need to create a complete set of solutions or road map, just the first steps that are clearly the place to start. See FLEX’s Philosophy of Transformation for more.
What you want to achieve
FLEX applies Lean and Agile thinking to the goal of business agility: The quick realization of business value predictably, sustainably, and with high quality. A side benefit of doing this properly is that one has the ability to continuously change direction as needed when new information both inside and outside of the company is attained.
FLEX is not an attempt to “be Lean” or to “be Agile.” Rather, it uses both of these concepts to achieve “business agility.”
FLEX focuses on identifying the things a business wants to invest in. Examples include “improve the customer experience,” “retain assets,” and “improve our internal environment.” All of these are based on the vision of the company but not all of them are customer facing. Another way to think of the list of business value is “what are we willing to invest in?” This might include helping improve our people.
FLEX goes beyond Agile. The Agile Manifesto is focused around the technology side and the technology side’s purpose, creating and manifesting value. A focus on customer value is not all a business does. There is a foundation of belief in what the company doing the focusing that is not well present in most organizations. Clarity of purpose is present in all successful organizations, but is lacking in most. In order to truly transform an organization requires going beyond a customer focus. Here are other actions to take:
There is no one set way to start. Figure 1 illustrates a way to start. It is just a guide. The bright green items (such as Use MBIs) are typically the most helpful ones to start with. The lightest ones are typically the last things to implement. You must look and see how each of these interacts with the other because systems thinking (and experience) tells us we are in a system where each change affects other actions.
Figure 1. Example of a way to start.
Determining where to start
Factors to consider when selecting items to start with are:
Although there is no “right way” to implement the aforementioned solutions, they generally go in the order of the diagram below (from left to right).
Although there is not a set roadmap of adoption, there is a definite pattern of adoption. Variations may occur in order, but mostly they occur to the degree to which the steps are adopted.
Selecting the first steps of a Lean-Agile transformation
A common adage when starting a transformation is to take the low-hanging fruit. That is, those actions that are easy to take and that return a quick investment. However, taking low hanging-fruit does not account for its effect on later changes. Sometimes starting with the wrong thing may be easy but may make later changes more difficult. For example, starting with Scrum may achieve better Scrum teams but 1) doesn’t necessarily help the bigger picture problems and 2) may make it that teams don’t want to slow down later when they need to in order to work with other teams. That is, teaching local optimization as a start can make it harder to achieve value stream optimization.
When considering what to do first (or next) one must consider the overall benefit and/or cost over time. Doing things out of order may make certain steps more difficult. Things to consider include:
Taking steps at the front of the value stream such as using Minimum Business Increments (MBIs) has a positive effect on the rest of the value stream. These costs and benefits vary from organization to organization so an exact order for all organizations does not exist. However, patterns from working with scores of companies and talking to hundreds of others suggest using a pattern of phases starting as close to the initiation of the work as possible.
Start with these practices
In general, it is good to start with these practices.
For more information, see How to start with Acceptance Test-Driven Development.
Ensuring you are on the road
Looking at the end game
The reason FLEX can work is that the end game is typically the same for different companies of the same approximate size. Variations in regulation and outside constraints do make a difference and FLEX will be expanded to include those in the near future. If you’d like more information on what the steps to achieve are take a look at Using the FLEX Mindset and Experience to Determine What We Have to Do.