The Disciplined Agile / FLEX Approach for Adoption and Improvement

This section of the portal is for supporting the Disciplined Agile Value Stream Consultant Workshop (DAVSC), currently under development. Discussions on the pages here will take place on the Disciplined Agile LinkedIn group.


Most approaches to Agile at scale have a company start with essentially a set approach. While some tailoring is suggested, the main intent of many frameworks is to adopt the framework.  This, unfortunately, has people be following a plan. Not something that inspires passion.

Disciplined Agile’s principles:

  1. delight customers
  2. be awesome
  3. be pragmatic
  4. context counts
  5. choice is good
  6. optimize flow
  7. organize around products / services
  8. enterprise awareness.

require a focus on where you are, not on where a framework suggests you be. Passion comes from an attachment to a goal, a principle to follow.  Not a practice that may or may not be applicable to you.

We never want to stop improving.  It is important that our approach can be used to both get us started and to continuously improve. It is equally important that it does not provide any psychological barriers to going beyond it.

Creating a plan by going from where you are to where you want to be

One of the key tenets of Disciplined Agile is that no one size fits all. Principles 3-5 (be pragmatic, context counts, and choice is good) means that your path for improvement needs to be your own. The best way to create this path is to see where you want to go. It may be surprising, but most companies have similar objectives they need to meet.  These include:

  • creating strategies
  • portfolio management
  • product management
  • development intake
  • planning and allocation of people
  • development
  • release
  • metrics
  • improving

It’s not so much what you want to do as much as how you do it that’s important to identify. The intentions are common across many industries, the how is usually unique to each organization.

Instructor notes

Why Disciplined Agile Provides Solutions Within the Context of Vision and Questions

Imagine if MLK had said “I have a plan.” Think of the emotion that would stir. Or not. Consider this from the Brightline Initiative’s People Centered Transformation – “Organizations cannot change unless their people change, and most transformation efforts fail because organizations over-emphasize the tangible side of change and under-emphasize the emotional one.”

There are several challenges in giving solutions to people. First, they may be the solutions to the wrong problem. Solutions are like answers to questions. Pre-defined solutions are to pre-defined questions. They may not be the right questions you need asked.

Even if correct, people may not have an emotional attachment to them – they may even resist them. People need to be given something they can emotionally attach to – a vision. Something they can identify with and work towards.

DA’s principles of to be pragmatic based on context drives DA’s choose your way of working. DA provides both questions and answers (in the form of solutions). These are based on the experience we have with thousands of clients. DA helps those people doing the work to ask better questions and choose from a toolkit of solutions.

Creating Tension to Achieve Change

There is another reason to have a vision prior to action. Being clear about where someone is and where they want to be creates tension to move them forward.

Frameworks contrasted with Disciplined Agile’s toolkit approach.

Frameworks are easy to understand and quick to adopt. But the common design of frameworks creates built in limitations both in where they apply and how they can be enhanced. Frameworks contain sets of pre-defined practices that may or may not apply to your situation. Since no practice is universal, neither is a framework that uses it.

Proponents of a framework defend these limitations by saying “it’s just a framework, it is intended to be extended.” But this ignores that:

  • few frameworks discuss how to extend them and few people naturally know how to do this
  • frameworks need to be modified as much as extended
  • years of berating people (e.g., “Scrum-but”) who improperly extend/modify frameworks has led to a psychological barrier to even attempt doing so (e.g., “Scrum-but” sounds wrong even if it’s an improvement)

Disciplined Agile, on the other hand, is a way of looking at your situation to see how to improve it. It’s based on guided continuous improvement from the very start. There is no particular set of practices to do, you choose your way of wors from the multitude of practices DA provides. It’s practices are choices, not limitations. DA teaches how to use these in stages so as to not be overly complicated.