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Applying Lean-Agile principles for successful enterprise agility

How can Lean-Agile principles help guide teams in successfully adopting Agile in the enterprise? Alan Shalloway, founder and CEO of NetObjectives, is presenting “Scaling Agile with Multiple Teams: Using Lean to Drive Business Value”  at Agile2012 on Aug. 14. He offered a preview of his presentation, which highlights effective principles as well as case studies that demonstrate successful implementations.

He has found through his work that smaller teams using Agile report success, while teams using Agile at the enterprise level rarely report success. Shalloway and his colleagues have found that Lean management and coaching offer many benefits to enterprise agility efforts.

He explained, “We’ve created a framework called the Lean-Agile roadmap that doesn’t tell people what to do per se– nothing is ever prescriptive, or shouldn’t be– but it tells people what they need to accomplish.” It is based on Lean flow principles, and has proven to be a successful approach.

The presentation focuses on the goals teams need to accomplish in order to achieve enterprise agility, which center around optimizing the time spent from the conception of the idea to project completion. When there are multiple teams, the general approach has been that they will work on their respective projects and then communicate with each other through Scrum of Scrums.

Shalloway noted, however, that as teams tend to be “tribal” and focus on their own objectives, this approach is not always effective. He recommends creating a bigger context for all involved, which he says begins with identifying the business value of the project.

Implementing Lean flow ideas requires that teams in very large organizations introduce a new role, the business product owner, or project manager, who liaises between the stakeholders and the teams. This individual can help manage projects with the big picture in mind. They help the teams take a holistic view.

“Most practitioners have a holistic mindset,” he commented. “Most people who are trying to adopt Agile understand that the need for this holistic view is important, but it’s not a command and control thing; it’s just a way to create a bigger picture.”

Shalloway advocates that teams self-organize and experience the effectiveness of these principles themselves. He doesn’t believe in telling people how they should go about their projects. He explained that teams can take advantage of the experience and knowledge they already have: “They can validate it on their own past experience if it will work or not.”

He continued, “They don’t have to abandon their old roles. They can actually start where they are and make changes based on these new insights that have been provided to them.”

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