Systems Approach to Scaling Agility | Jesse Fewell

Systems Approach to Scaling Agility

By June 7, 2016Blog

In this episode of Morning Fewell, Jesse sits down with Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) expert Martin Olson. Martin shares

“Systems Coaching” in a Nutshell

Martin explains the notion of systems coaching is that when you have a group of people that are working together, they’re dependent on each other for whatever that delivery is. A baseball team is a system. Your Scrum team is a system. An organization is a system. That system has its own intelligence, its own energy, its own needs, so that when you’re bringing SAFe into an organization, you’re altering the system.

It’s not just the application of a bunch of practices and principles. It’s the application of a bunch of practices and principles in an existing system that will impact the system and you have to understand what that impact is, and you also have to make sure that that impact sustains the system because if it doesn’t, the system’s smart, it’s going to reject it. Therefore, we have some things to consider…

1. Change the Organization Where It Is

First, identify how big the change is. If the gap’s too far, the organization can’t do it. You have to meet the system where it’s at, and you have to say, “Hey, at the end of the day, this is really good stuff. We’ve got teams and we’ve got this program guidance and everything.” We can do teams, and we can do program guidance, and that’s not going to be the full implementation of SAFe. That might be to the point of we can’t maybe do budgeting yet.

2. It’s More Than Training

During our chat, Martin gets animated saying, “There’s a couple of things here I want to be very clear about..”

  • One, doing the class is awesome. I enjoy it, and again, I would say that over the last four days, you’ve gotten a pretty good understanding.  I do think the model’s good.
  • Secondly, you can’t just go do this training. If you don’t understand facilitation, if you don’t understand the challenges of change management, and you still try to implement this, then you’re going to have a long day. Because in its essence, you’re changing the system, and inherently in that, you’re changing the way people behave. You’re changing something that’s very near and dear to people, their work, their environment. We’re wired that way. Our satisfaction, our identity is often tied to work.

3. Visible Leadership is NOT Optional

Martin’s top tip is simple: Leadership. Organizationally, we’re structured the way that we are through mergers and acquisitions and happenstance and tradition. We have these silos because they’re easy ways to organize and manage, but they’re terrible ways for work to flow.

Instead, you have to have a leadership that understands what they want, at an executive level. If your leaders can’t generate buy-in with any change initiative, it’s going to get to some level and die out. If I ask people to change, but they don’t understand WHAT I’m asking for, or the value, the reason WHY, then it’s going to be a challenge.

4. Customize Fit For Purpose

Martin’s next scaling secret is having an understanding of where you are and where you want to go.

Everybody wants to set themselves up for success, so you have to know where the system’s at, you have to meet the system where it’s at, and then you move towards where you want it to be eventually.

One of the critiques of SAFe is that people see this placemat and say, “Everyone needs to go to that solution,” but what Martin is saying, “No. Design the end state that fits your specific context.”

That principle is visualized best in this new 4.0 model where you collapse an entire an entire organizational layer-If you don’t need it, you don’t need it. You have to know where you’re going. You have to then support that.

Shameless Endorsement

In case it’s not obvious from the video, or the insights listed above, the class was a blast…thanks entirely in part to Martin’s energy and his holistic organizational perspective.

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