Updated: Nov 8
Agile Fluency is a fantastic model. We just love it. With this model, you start seeing your journey as a series of paradigm shifts and stages toward higher fluency in Agile:
The Agile Fluency model has been as an inspiration for us, when we were designing Org Topologies. So, no surprise, there are some similarities.
The axes of Org Topologies are two kinds of fluency – in delivering and learning value, along which different organizational archetypes can be mapped in the boxes. Each move from and to any box on the map is a realization of a certain paradigm shift. Org Topologies can be used by leaders to analyze the current state of an organization and find a roadmap for change. It is envisioned to serve as a map to navigate to the perfection state of high organizational adaptivity:
Org Topologies as a Map for Mastering Agile Fluency
Having understood these two models, you shall be able to see how the Org Topologies can help to map a journey for Agile Fluency in a series of radical change steps (Kaikaku in Japanese).
It all starts with focusing on value. Without defining value, no agile transformation is possible. This is because the goal of such a transformation is to design an organization that discovers and delivers customer & business value continuously.
After focusing, delivering goes – as a shift towards creating customer-facing self-managing teams. In Scrum terms, this is about improving upon the Definition of Done. And in the 21st century for software development teams, this means realizing the paradigm of Continuous Delivery.
Once the value is defined and the teams starting to learn and deliver, the change isn't done yet. In fact, it is never done. As optimizing & strengthening are continuously applied improvement katas that are performed within the organization to never stop improving and experimenting.
The image below illustrates this idea, mapping Agile Fluency stages onto the Org Topologies. And the next chapters detail these change steps.
Some organizations are winning when they realize the collaboration, transparency, and cost savings that come from Focusing on business results. agilefluency.org
We believe this too. On the map of Org Topologies, focusing can be represented as a vertical move – a move towards a higher understanding of value.
Of course, every journey will be unique: some organizations will be capable to comprehend value at the feature level, to begin with. Others – at some higher levels, for instance at the level of customer needs and journeys. If so, they are likely to be forming value areas. Focusing on the value must be the first strategic move in the game of transformation. And only once the target understanding of value is clarified, the next steps of restructuring should take place to focus the teams on that value.
Structurally speaking, focusing is about creating organizational understanding of value. It shall result in clear accountabilities (e.g., role of a product owner) to manage the value at that defined level (e.g., with a product backlog). Plus, the technical capabilities in the form of teams focused on the value as goals and priorities.
For instance, if the target understanding of value is the value area scope (see the B-row on the Org Topologies map), then there should be found a leader who can take an accountability to maintain a Value Area backlog. And then, based on the company strategy and portfolio management decisions, an estimated number of teams to be funded, created and focused to work in that value area with that leader. In this scenario, of course, there can't any other backlogs for teams, no team-level backlogs of any kind. We discussed this issue in details in our analysis of the Spotify's Tribes and Squads model. To recap on that key message: if an organization is serious about optimizing delivery at the level of a value area – that should be seen as an organizational cell, with no suboptimization within.
Other organizations require the minimal defects and high productivity that allows them to ship on cadence and receive the market boost that comes from consistently Delivering when the market demands. agilefluency.org
Once there is a target understanding of value and corresponding supporting context for it (strategy, leadership, a backlog, teams), now the second part of the journey starts – to improve the delivery capabilities of the teams, individually and collectively.
On the map of Org Topologies, delivering can be represented as a horizontal move towards multidiscipline and multilearning work with flow. Again, it is up to a given organization, how high it sets the bar and how incrementally it sees that change happening. But Org Topologies can be used to set the direction.
For instance, an organization might go with some stream-aligned and platform teams. That might be the right move to a better state in terms of fluency in delivering, but some thorough critical thinking is to be applied to make such improvements work continuously. Not to get stuck in mediocrity.
We have reviewed those ideas in an article on Team Topologies and highlighted some serious drawbacks of such an org design. But nevertheless, it is now the job of the leaders and coaches of such an organization to find the path of improving delivery of the value.
Optimizing & Strengthening
Yet other organizations need to anticipate the market, dance with change and receive the benefits that come from smoothly Optimizing their value and applying their market expertise in new ways. agilefluency.org
We love the Agile Fluency because it is a description of a journey, not a static picture. There are enough static frameworks out there, that might help organizations improve just slightly or almost superficially. A good example here would be SAFe. So be aware. In order not to get stuck in some kind of agile-limbo state, an organization needs to have a perfection vision that will be pulling it further, not matter what.
The mission of Org Topologies is to help organizational leaders to discover their long-term organizational development vector towards perfection and embark on a never-ending journey of realizing it.
We are carefully picking the words here. We are saying “development” (as a never-ending effort), rather than a “transformation project” (that can be accomplished and marked 'done').
In this view, Agile Fluency is alike, it helps you embark on a journey. And now with Org Topologies, we want to believe, you also have the maps to help you navigate the land of agility.
© Alexey Krivitsky and Roland Flemm.