Organizational transformation I: Agile Scaling Frameworks

It’s important to reflect on the use of agile practices. Are we applying and evolving Agility with a purpose? Are we copying the Agile framework only because it’s a trend? Do we implement Agile scaling frameworks for the sake of it?

The Paradigm Of The 5 Monkeys

The monkey paradigm is an experiment where researchers caged five monkeys, placed a ladder in the middle, and bananas on top. When a monkey climbed the ladder to grab the bananas, the researchers sprayed freezing water on the rest of the monkeys.

The monkeys learned the relationship between the ladder and the stream of water. So as soon as they saw a monkey climb the ladder, they rushed to beat it before it managed to reach the bananas. The researchers decided then to replace one of the first monkeys to ever climb the ladder. They observed that before it got to grab the bananas, the other monkeys beat him up. After the episode, the newcomer never climbed the ladder again.

The story continues, the researchers replaced the original five monkeys with new ones. They didn’t spray them with cold water. Yet the monkeys behaved oddly. The monkeys complied with the old norm for no reason. They hit whoever climbed the ladder. Maybe because it had always been done that way with the other monkeys.

agile scaling frameworks
The paradigm of the 5 monkeys


This story isn’t real, so we can’t draw any scientific conclusion out of it. What can we do then? If we tell the story for didactic purposes to leave a lesson about human behavior but don’t take into consideration the veracity of the story… Wouldn’t we be then making the same mistake the monkeys made? Repeating a seen action without thinking whether it agrees with the situation or not.

We could also take this line of thought when applying the Agile paradigm. We need to ask ourselves for what purposes we are doing it, and if it is the most appropriate for our organization. It’s important to be assertive.

Customer satisfaction

Agility emerges from the need to solve the problem of rapid and continuous delivery of value. It intends to please customer demands and contribute to the return on investment.

The first Agile Principle says it:

“Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.”.

That is why when developing large, complex projects, Agile scaling frameworks tend to be the number one choice. There are different types of Agile scaling frameworks that organizations can apply. The most common are: Large Scale Scrum (LeSS), Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe), and Nexus.

Agile frameworks are great, but consultant companies often forget one thing. Scaling Agile in an organization goes beyond implementing a framework. It is a process that needs to fit the chosen organization or else problems may emerge.

Agile scaling framework problems from a global point of view of the organizations:

  • Client distancing
  • Prioritization becomes a struggle, it’s more complex
  • The organization follows IT’s imposed dynamics
  • Good Cycle Time of IT teams vs. Bad Lead Time. Cycle Time encompasses the amount of time it takes a team to complete a project. It starts when an item appears in the “in progress” part and ends when it shows up as “done”. Lead Time is the time it takes a project to end and get shipped to the client.
  • The excessive infantilization of gamifications.
  • The Developers are lacking interest in the business
  • Questionable language and metrics
  • Lead Time and Cycle Time – Scrum framework
agile scaling frameworks
Lead Time and Cicle Time – Scrum framework

Reasons why these problems go undetected:

  • Not all teams are products in an organization, yet we organize them as if they were.
  • IT functioning as a silo, generating dependencies with the rest of the organization.
  • Many consulting firms doing business with agility do not understand Agility. Check the Agile Moneyfesto
  • Organizations applying Agile frameworks to be trendy. We said it already: an Agile framework by itself isn’t enough. Without understanding the patterns that underlie Organizational Agility it’s a waste of time. Comprehending the basics makes it easier to adapt processes along the way.

A meaningful transformation starts with asking yourself the important questions. Choosing an Agile framework comes later. Such as thinking about the best way to please the customer with early and value delivery.

Remember, we are not saying that these factors aren’t important. All we want to remark is the importance of knowing your company to be able to choose the best way to run it.

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Organizational transformation I: Agile Scaling Frameworks

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