The 7 Principles

The 7 Principles provide a consistent set of rules for achieving the goal.  The continued adherence synergises the understanding and mindset across the three Enablers and provides governance for the agile value streams. When applied consistently they form the foundation of a resilient and agile culture.

The 7 Principles of Business Agility
The 7 Principles of Business Agility

The 7 Agile Value Streams

The 7 Agile Value Streams provide end-to-end actions that enable the Goal to be realised.  Each agile value stream has specific actions that align with the responsibilities of the three Enablers.

Agile Value Streams vs Product/Service Value Streams

The 7 Agile Value Streams are designed to align the actions of the three Enablers in achieving the Goal.  They are generic and can be applied in all cases.

Product, or Service Value Streams are specific, and their creation will be entirely dependent upon the nature of the product or service.  For example, a pre-school education service may contain value streams for providing information to parents and ensuring this was received and understood.

Examples of common Product, or Service Value Streams include:

  1. Signing up / On-Boarding
  2. Getting Support
  3. Getting New Features
  4. Cancelling / Off-Boarding

To ensure our actions are always customer-centric.  It is important to define value streams from the Customer, to the Customer.

The 7 Principles of Business Agility
The 7 Principles of Business Agility

P1 – Realise a Shared Vision

In most large organisations a comprehensive governance framework has been created that aligns direction set at the top, to those at the bottom required to execute. This takes the form of a waterfall of governance documented in the vision, mission, values, policies, business goals, business unit goals, objectives, tactical plans, processes, key performance indicators and RACI charts.

This governance framework represents significant organisational complexity which hinders an organisation’s attempts to ‘be agile’.

Principle 1 refocusses the organisation upon what matters most. The realisation of the vision.

Business Agility recommends two levels of vision: Organisation and Product. Each vision should be co-created with the relevant stakeholders and the alignment between the two used as the primary form of governance.

Co-creation increases stakeholder motivation and buy-in, which in turn reduces resistance to change – the most common reason that large transformations fail. In addition, by relying upon vision alignment as the primary form of governance organisational complexity and costs are reduced.

Benefits

  • Motivating and inspiring everyone to make the vison a reality
  • Enabling progress to be measured
  • Helping us validate and align investments and actions

Critical Success Factors

  • The amount of centralised governance needs to be reduced i.e. less centralised controls

Governance

Principle 1 - Realise a shared vision - Governance
Principle 1 – Realise a shared vision – Governance

Value Stream

Principle 1 - Realise a shared vision - Value Stream
Principle 1 – Realise a shared vision – Value Stream

P2 – Maximise Autonomy

By default, all decision-making power lies with the Business Leaders. Which means every decision a Agile Team needs to make in order the satisfy the needs and wants of the Customer, must go through a pre-defined approval channel. In large organisations, these approval channels are characterised by excessive paperwork, lengthy processes, internal politics and a comparatively high number of “no” responses. All activities which do not add value to the team’s product, and which are likely to limit the Agile Team’s ability to be agile.

By maximising team autonomy, Business Leaders can reduce non-value adding activities, increasing team empowerment, product agility and reduce organisational complexity.

Business Leaders must still be cautious when granting autonomy, and it’s not an all or nothing approach. There are characteristics that you must look for when creating and empowering self-managing teams. The team members should be:

  1. Happy to be in an autonomous team
  2. Highly competent experts
  3. Willing to share the gains and the pains of the team
  4. Excited to cross-train and complete non-core tasks with other teammates
  5. Have a great understanding of the needs of the Customer and the Business
  6. Highly trustworthy

How well these characteristics are displayed should directly impact the level of autonomy granted.

Benefits

  • Motivating and inspiring everyone to make the vison a reality
  • Enabling progress to be measured
  • Helping us validate and align investments and actions

Critical Success Factors

  • Reduction in the number of decisions made centrally i.e. teams are empowered

Governance

Principle 2 - Maximise Autonomy - Governance
Principle 2 – Maximise Autonomy – Governance

Value Stream

Principle 2 - Maximise Autonomy - Value Stream
Principle 2 – Maximise Autonomy – Value Stream

P3 – Realise Value Quickly

When outcomes are certain, planned-projects can help to optimise costs and risk exposure. However, they are not well-suited in circumstances where the full requirements are either unknown or are likely to evolve significantly over time. In addition, time-to-value is slow, and can typically only be measured in months, or even years.

How frequently should a product team delivery new value?

If the team delivers new functions, features of capabilities 4 times a year, they can only learn what the customer likes/dislikes 4 times a year. If they can breakdown their work into monthly releases, they can learn 12 times a year. How often a team needs to learn should be based upon the predictability of the customer and the market.

What is stopping the Agile Team from delivering value faster?

Common disablers of team agility include:

  1. Legacy IT services that do not perform efficiently and are slow to change
  2. Inadequate physical facilities to support co-location and,
  3. Centralised processes that slow value delivery and realisation

To support Agile Teams, the business should utilise flexible cloud, automation and subscription-based services to build elastic platforms that enable Agile Teams to deliver value faster.

Benefits

  • Faster value realisation for the customer and business
  • Increased ability to adapt products and services to rapidly evolving customer needs
  • Reduced capital costs and risk exposure

Critical Success Factors

  • Reduction in the number of projects – replaced with incremental and iterative delivery
  • Reduction in manual shared services – replaced with automation and self-service

Governance

Principle 3 - Realise Value Quickly - Governance
Principle 3 – Realise Value Quickly – Governance

Value Stream

Principle 3 - Realise Value Quickly - Value Stream
Principle 3 – Realise Value Quickly – Value Stream

P4 – Minimise Waste

Originally developed in manufacturing, Lean practices promise to increase customer and business value through the identification of bottlenecks and non-value adding activities.

One common mistake is to mandate that everyone should drive continuous improvement in their role, team or function. Such actions rarely lead to measurable system-wide improvements in flow (throughput). In any system, there is a weakest link, or bottleneck in Lean terms. Examples include a slow system, an over utilised team, overseas or outsourced dependencies, or a single person who cannot process requests as fast as the system needs.

When improvements are made upstream of the bottleneck, strain and congestion are increased. When improvements are made downstream of the bottleneck, we’re left with idle capacity. Only when improvements are made at the bottleneck will overall flow increase. But where are the bottlenecks in your organisations?

At the Agile Team level, one common form of waste that is clearly visible is in the amount of work started each week. Agile Team’s juggling demands like a circus’s main attraction might look good on the surface, but underneath corners will be cut, workarounds will be accepted, and the team will release work that is not their best, just to reach a deadline that was unrealistic from the outset. Lean practices focus upon limiting the amount of work in progress to increase quality, increase customer value and finish more work each week.

Benefits

  • Faster and easier identification of bottlenecks to flow
  • Decrease operational costs through the reduction of non-value adding activities
  • Increase in the amount of work completed

Critical Success Factors

  • A reduction in the amount of work started – offset by higher completion rates over time
  • Waste removal means changing the status quo

Governance

Principle 4 - Minimise Waste - Governance
Principle 4 – Minimise Waste – Governance

Value Stream

Principle 4 - Minimise Waste - Value Stream
Principle 4 – Minimise Waste – Value Stream

P5 – Use Data to Drive Decisions

If you asked any Business Leader ‘is discovering new ways of increasing customer and business value a good idea?’ and you’d get a resounding “yes!” every time. So why don’t we do it frequently enough?

Common barriers to generating new ideas include:

  1. we don’t know what a business experiment is, or how to conduct one
  2. we have no time to experiment
  3. we have no, or a low customer relationship which makes generating ideas difficult
  4. ideas are generated individually which leaves them subject to personal bias
  5. we’re stuck in functional silo, and cannot think of any big ideas

Generating ideas can be hard enough, but how about having the time, or ability to validate them?

It’s no wonder that in a lot of organisations ideation and experimentation is forgone, in favour of the much faster ‘professional opinion.’

Professional opinion can save time in the short term, but if it turns out to be incorrect, the negative impact will most definitely be experienced for much longer. In addition, with modern technology and data science techniques the ability to capture, analyse and react to customer-data is a competitive advantage that you cannot afford to lose.

Benefits

  • Help us validate ideas and assumptions quickly
  • Save the business money (from wasted initiatives / projects)
  • Provide meaningful data for us to learn from

Critical Success Factors

  • Balanced time for delivery/support/experimentation hours (utilisation) – to allow time for experimentation
  • Reduced reliance upon intuition, or opinions – replaced with data where possible

Governance

Principle 5 - Use Data to Drive Decisions - Governance
Principle 5 – Use Data to Drive Decisions – Governance

Value Stream

Principle 5 - Use Data to Drive Decisions - Value Stream
Principle 5 – Use Data to Drive Decisions – Value Stream

P6 – Continually Develop Competencies

There are a few potential problems that can arise when creating self-managing Agile Teams:

  1. Functional siloes replaced with Agile Team siloes
  2. Duplication of effort within each Agile Team (no sharing between teams)
  3. It can take significant time for a new Agile Team to reach high-performance
  4. Risk of losing business continuity (if an entire Agile Team resigns)

To address problems 1&2, it is recommended that the Business implements an organisation model that promotes sharing and supports the development of core competencies. For example, Agile Teams could be aligned by common markets, customers, technologies and/or competencies e.g. financial products, education products, mobile products etc

A typical response for dealing with problems 3&4 is segregation of duties into specialist functions, however this always leads to an increase in organisational complexity and thus a reduction in agility.

A less risky alternative is to:

  • Maintain domain expertise in core competencies and provides coaching in these competencies as a shared service
  • Define the minimum documentation and controls required to ensure continuity

Benefits

  • Team agility increases through just-in-time competency development
  • Organisation resilience increases through continuity planning

Critical Success Factors

  • Reduction in centralised competency development programmes – shifted to the agile teams
  • Transfer of adequate training budget to Agile Teams

Governance

Principle 6 - Continually Develop Competencies - Governance
Principle 6 – Continually Develop Competencies – Governance

Value Stream

Principle 6 - Continually Develop Competencies - Value Stream
Principle 6 – Continually Develop Competencies – Value Stream

P7 – Learn and Have Fun Together

If your organisation operates in the same way this year, as it did last year, you’re not learning fast enough!

There are two key criteria that must exist if we are to be able to learn and have fun together:

  1. We must allocate the time to learn and have fun. This means that the available time for delivery and support activities needs to reduce. We cannot ideate or analyse what is/is not working and apply corrective actions if we are already working at maximum capacity each week.
  2. We must build a culture of psychological safety. Psychological safety is a belief that no one will be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns or mistakes.

When team members feel compelled to share an idea for improving performance, they frequently do not speak up because they fear that they will be harshly judged for ‘rocking the boat’. When psychological safety is present, team members think less about the potential negative consequences of expressing a new or different idea than they would otherwise. As a result, they speak up more and are motivated to improve their team or organisation.

This has been described in other ways such as ‘failing fast’, or ‘failing forward’, all of which identify that it is ok to fail, as long as we openly share why, and learn, so that we cannot fail the same way twice.

Benefits

  • Increase in successful innovations
  • Increase in Net Promoter Score (or Customer Satisfaction)
  • Reduction in attrition rate (Customer, Team, Leader)

Critical Success Factors

  • Reduction in the available hours for delivery and support activities
  • Implementing lessons learned means changing the status quo

Governance

Principle 7 - Learn and Have Fun Together - Governance
Principle 7 – Learn and Have Fun Together – Governance

Value Stream

Principle 7 - Learn and Have Fun Together - Value Stream
Principle 7 – Learn and Have Fun Together – Value Stream