Defining “Scaling” Agile, Part 6: Creating the Agile Organization

We might start to think about agile approaches as a project change. However, if you want to “scale” agile, the entire culture changes. Here is a list of the series and how everything changes the organization’s culture:

All of these “scaling” ideas require change.

Agile organizations become very good at small changes all the time. They are adaptive and resilient. They understand how change works and they embrace it. (Big changes are quite difficult for almost everyone. Small changes tend to be much easier.)

Here is a picture of the Satir change model. We start off in Old Status Quo with some level of performance. Some Foreign Element arrives and we have uneven performance while we are in Chaos, searching for that Transforming Idea. We discover that TI and practice and integrate that idea into our work until we reach a New Status Quo, hopefully at a higher level of performance.

The change model works for each human and for the entire organization. In fact, I don’t see how you can have an agile organization until people become comfortable with small and large changes on a regular basis. This is one of the reasons I say we should take an agile approach to agile. (See Agile is Not a Silver Bullet.)

Do you need to be a fully adaptive and resilient organization? Only you can answer that question. Maybe you start from teams and the project portfolio. Maybe you look for incentives that don’t create optimization “up.” (I need a new word for this! Do you have suggestions for me?? Please comment if so.)

You do not have to have a fully agile organization to recognize benefits at the team and project portfolio levels. Agile is Not for Everyone.

Decide how much change your organization needs to be successful. Practice change, as often as you can. That will help you more than an agile label will.

One last comment: I’m not sure “scaling” is the right way to think about this. For me, the scaling idea still has roots in silo thinking, not flow thinking. That could be just me. (Grin!) I wish I had a better way to explain it.

My ideas of scaling agile are about creating a culture based on our ability to change:

  • How do we treat each other? Do we/can we see each other as an intrinsic part of a whole?
  • What do we discuss? Do we discuss “failures” or learning opportunities?
  • What do we reward? How do we move to rewarding non-silo work? That is, work to deliver products (in either projects or programs) or other work that rewards collaboration and flow efficiency.

I hope you enjoyed this series. Please do comment on any of the posts. I am curious about what you think. I will learn from your comments.

Johanna Rothman

Johanna consults, speaks, and writes about managing product development. She helps managers and leaders do reasonable things that work. You can read more of her writings at
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