“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.” – Charles Darwin

In many organizations, agile methodologies are being used to help teams deliver software much faster and with much higher quality than ever before. Given their success at the development team level, many managers are exploring the possibility of more broadly implementing these methodologies with the intent of achieving the quality, productivity, and ROI benefits across the entire product-delivery organization. These managers, however, often launch their adoption efforts only to uncover a multitude of common myths, misperceptions, and obstacles that can derail their efforts before they really get started. These obstacles can continue despite investment into training, the hiring of experienced practitioners, and support from management.

These initiatives often struggle because they attempt to bring in a method and practices from a guru or from research into what worked somewhere else. We call this “How Trap” thinking. “How Trap” thinking occurs when we focus on how to implement something instead of what the most important outcomes should be for the business. “How Trap” thinking manifests in methodology wars and conflict. The results don’t achieve the needs of the business.

For instance, teams need to focus on outcomes such as prioritizing business value, reducing risk, raising code quality, and reducing coordination and transaction costs. Teams also need to ensure collaboration between traditional and agile project management approaches. Each organization is unique in its needs. Practices and methods must be implemented with very specific outcomes in mind. Further, managers must develop a situation-specific strategy to achieve the promise of agile enterprise software delivery. Merely adopting practices is not sufficient.

We view the product delivery organization through a capability-based lens. Capabilities describe the outcomes and purposes necessary to achieve the results for the business. By raising the perspective above methods and practices to focus on the outcomes and purposes in the organization we are able to overcome the “How Trap”. We identify the current constraints in the development organization, focus on raising the business’s understanding of the best ways to overcome these constraints, and then guide the adoption of appropriate practices.

Our capability-based approach results in a method of incremental scaling of agility from small teams, through coordinating teams, coordinating across the portfolio, and delivering across the enterprise. We bring an approach that combines an assessment of the product development value stream and a deep understanding of the purposes and outcomes required to achieve business agility.

Our consultants have helped scale Agile in mid-sized companies up to Fortune 100 Enterprises. Typical results include dramatic reduction in time to value, significantly higher quality, improved revenue through increased satisfaction, competitive advantage, and increasing the sales focus from managing unhappy customers to selling to new customers.