Large organizations that transition to agile practices often get trapped between two competing principles:
- The agile principle of empowering self-organizing teams to solve problems on their own and to manage the collaboration in the team.
- The need for organizations to develop governance, standards, reporting, and key performance indicators that can be applied across multiple agile teams.
The two seemingly conflict. If you put too much governance or standards in place, you constrict the freedom of the team to make tactical decisions that enable its success. But providing too little guidance can make it difficult for new teams to adopt best practices or make it easy for a team to inadvertently put the organization out of compliance. Organizations without standards in place also don’t know where and how to manage agile teams that are going off course or may be underperforming.
Finding the right balance requires agile leaders to define where and how to apply consistent standards while still empowering teams to self-organize.
To do this, some organizations adopt standard frameworks to scale agile such as the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe), Large-Scale Scrum (LeSS), or the Squad framework popularized by Spotify. Many organizations develop their own practices around their objectives, culture, and logistics by adopting a hybrid of best practices and often using agile coaches to steer them.
In my experience being the “agile sponsor” in several organizations and then leading their agile transformation programs, I have found that one place to find aligned interest is in configuring the agile project management and collaboration tool. Teams would rather not have to invest a lot of their time configuring these tools, and they are usually open to standardized configurations if they are simple to learn and use. Organizations can then create standards and governance baked into the implementation as long as teams don’t find the implementation overbearing.