Different Approaches to Improvement

There are currently two different popular ways of improving an organization. The first is to adopt a framework, such as SAFe or LeSS. The second is to start where you are and make a series of small changes, each designed to provide some level of improvement. Both have advantages and disadvantages and I’ve used both.

An advantage of the first approach is that it provides clear guidance on what to do – something many folks want. If it is an established approach, it may be easier for people to buy into it. However, because the framework is preset, it may or may not fit the company adopting it. Also, all too often, the framework, which should be considered a mid-point, somewhere between where the organization and where they want to end up, becomes the targeted end-point. There are all too many cases of SAFe adoptions that started out well only to stagnate later. Also, the initial change of adopting a framework may be more than the organization can bear – and by attempting too much, may backfire when a retrenchment is necessary.

The challenge with the second is that it requires an understanding of what must be done and as well as having a strong coach to lead it across the organization. It also risks the chance of missing options for improvement that require larger changes than just a series of small ones.

With our deeper understanding of how to achieve business agility, there is now a third option:

  • creating a vision of the future for what an effective organization looks like
  • See where the organization looking to improve stands in comparison with that
  • Create a roadmap to close the gap between the current state and the desired future state

This third option has the advantages of the first two by providing:

  • An established starting point tailored to the company adopting it
  • A roadmap which can provide context for the series of small steps to take
  • A vision that will likely never be reached but provides impetuous for continuous improvement

As a thought leader in XP, Scrum, Lean, Kanban and SAFe, I’ve used all 3 methods. I have found the third option most effective for those willing to take it.