Enterprise Agility without the Overheads 4

Diamonds in the Agile Debris-Deliver Enterprise Scale Agility 


Agile Backlash of Indiscriminate Cuts 

It is inevitable that when the axe falls on Agile initiatives, the cuts are indiscriminate. There simply is no time to look at each individual, examine their knowledge and experience, and ask whether they might contribute better in another role. Some good people are inevitably finding themselves unemployed as one large corporation after another brings their Agile excess to an end. However, hidden amongst the waste is a lot of value. One Kanban Coaching Professional (KCP) can replace 12 team-level Agile coaches. Here are some thoughts on how to find these diamonds hidden in the debris of your Agile initiative. 

Agile Teams – A Solution No One Needed Focused on Solving The Wrong Problem 

I was on a short trip to Barcelona recently when I heard the news that a Catalonian bank axed all of its Agile coaches and, on the same day, an oil company had chosen to cut about half of their Agile coaches (those working at team level). This latter example shows some thought went into the decision. Coaching teams to be ¨more Agile¨ wasn´t adding value or producing results. As my friend, Klaus Leopold has said many times on stage, ¨Agile teams have nothing to do with business agility¨.

The truth is that most organizations we encounter have a flow efficiency of less than 2%. If something takes one day to complete, it can be 100 days from when the customer requested it until they take delivery. Coaching an Agile team might make the 1% a little faster. However, from the customer’s perspective, there is no observable improvement. The decision to retain Agile coaches at a workflow, value-stream level, and portfolio or business initiative level makes a lot of sense. In a workflow that is 1% flow efficient, 99% of the delivery time is delayed. Potential improvements lie in the gaps between functions and between teams. Coaches who can work at this level, those who can work with managers to instrument for, measure, report, and act on the flow of work, can make an impact. 

Don’t Throw Out the Baby With the Bath Water

Many Kanban coaches (the 2,000 or so people holding the Kanban University KCP credential) are employed as Agile coaches – their Kanban skills are undervalued in organizations trying to be Agile and doing so through the installation of an Agile framework such as Scrum or Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe). The pragmatism of needing a paycheck, making a living, and paying the bills meant that many Kanban coaches swallowed their pride, followed directions, and got on with the job of coaching Agile teams to put food on the table back home. No judgment here. It is what it is. Inevitably, and completely understandably, these people have often been axed as part of the indiscriminate cuts when large firms abandon their Agile transition initiatives. However, the baby has been thrown out with the bath water. 

Kanban Coaches Can Take You So Much Further 

The pity is that these Kanban coaches could have done so much more. A KCP can coach a product unit (of around 150 people), and in some cases a larger business unit of up to 600 people, and take them to maturity level 3 on our organizational maturity model. Level 3 defines an organization that is “fit for purpose”, an organization that delivers consistently, reliably, with quality, and regularly meets customer expectations. Such an organization will have seen productivity rise by around 4 times (500% increase), customer lead times drop by 50-90%, and customer satisfaction rise dramatically, as customer expectations are met regularly.

The return on investment from employing a KCP, properly utilized, is huge. KCPs can work with your managers to give them the confidence to make decisions that enable agility at scale. They focus on leadership, leading with values, and driving cultural change before introducing practices that manage flow and implement feedback, learning, and evolutionary change. This drives meaningful improvement.
KCPs focus on institutionalizing these changes and transferring their skills to incumbent managers, gradually working themselves out of a job.

KCPs Have the Skills, Experience, Tools, and Playbook

The vast body of knowledge accumulated and codified over a 15–20-year period underpins the credibility of individuals achieving the KCP credential. This knowledge is based on experience from businesses across 6 continents in a wide range of industries. KCPs have the playbook, available digitally on kanban+, to produce consistent results, make a significant impact, and deliver enterprise agility. 

If you are willing to take the time to discriminate when swinging the axe on your bloated Agile initiative, take the time to filter out those with the KCP credential amongst your Agile coaches. Ask them to step up and take responsibility for delivering real improvements at the service delivery workflow/value stream level and expect them to take on multiple workflows, a whole product unit or larger.

KCPs have the skills, experience, tools, and playbook to help you close the gaps. They know how to flow work quickly and manage dependencies. They can encourage cooperation across organizational units, teams, departments, functions, and shared services. They have the knowledge to work with managers, to coach them, and to transfer their skills. They can work themselves out of a job leaving behind confident, competent managers and an empowered workforce acting with autonomy. This enables aligned, congruent decisions that enable agility, shrinking lead times, and boosting productivity. This delights customers by delivering within their expectations consistently and frequently. 

Achieve Agility at Scale Without Excessive Overheads 

Axe your Agile coaches, retain your KCPs, promote them, and give them greater responsibility. KCPs scale. One KCP should be capable of replacing between 12 to 20 Agile team-level Agile coaches. Agile has been costing you too much. Agile has failed to deliver enterprise Agility. With a qualified Kanban Coaching Professional, you can go much further at a fraction of the cost. Embrace the alternative path to agility and move forward with a Kanban Coaching Professional!

Is now the time for you to start your Kanban journey to true enterprise agility?

Contact us to receive tailored training recommendations for you and your organization. Discover our complete schedule of training courses designed to equip you with the tools needed to see similar results. Learn more about becoming a Kanban Coaching Professional by downloading our brochure.

Enterprise Agility Without the Overheads

This is article four of our series Enterprise Agility Without the Overheads. Visit our blog to catch up on article onearticle two, and article three.


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