Aligning Organizations at Scale

The key to Agile at any scale is collaboration. This requires alignment of all aspects of discovery, implementation, deployment and setting up for realization of value. The larger an organization is the more important and difficult this is. There is a distinction between creating alignment and managing alignment. While techniques from startups are intriguing it must be remembered startups are typically very aligned and the business value of what’s being worked on is very clear. Taking a Lean startup technique into larger organizations where alignment is the problem is fraught with risk. This is precisely why FLEX uses the Minimum Business Increment as well as the MVP of the Lean-Startup.

In large organizations MVPs are very valuable for new products and self-contained innovation groups. In other parts of an organization stakeholders and product managers should understand what value will be realized for an increment of value even if there are uncertainties in both its details and cost.

Frameworks such as SAFe and DAD attempt to achieve this alignment by having different roles and backlogs. In large organizations this clarity of purpose. It usually increases alignment but is done in a more complex way than required. Trying to get alignment from the bottom up depends upon leaders of each portfolio agreeing to what’s important – but if each group is driven through independent funding this may be a challenge as well.

We have found that the best way to align is around the purpose of the organization and focusing directly on the goal of achieving business agility – the quick realization of value predictably, sustainably and with high quality

When one thinks about it, that is virtually the only thing on which you can align. People can be at a company for any number of reasons. It may be a short-time gig for experience, they need the money, their significant other is there, who knows. But if they aren’t working in alignment with the purpose of the company they shouldn’t be there. It really is as simple as that.

Aligning around the purpose of the organization is key and can be achieved by:

  1. Creating clarity on what represents value for the Business and its customers
  2. Creating strategies based on these
  3. Defining initiatives to implement these strategies
  4. Crafting Minimum Business Increments (MBIs) based on these initiatives
  5. Sequencing these MBIs based on cost of delay
  6. Organizing the technology group around the initiatives
  7. Allocating the capacity of the organization to the most important MBIs
  8. Using Acceptance Test-Driven Development/BDD to decompose these MBIs into stories