the Gene: understanding the Context

Organisations are either born or unborn into the Agile culture

Some companies are born Agile, but as they grow over the years, they might not completely enjoy the benefits of it, due to the size or complexity of the dependencies. They would need to scale and transition to a new nimble inorder to get to the right business outcomes. The culture they were born with will most certainly help them shape the structure and practices needed to attain this.

This is how Spotify most likely grew and still remained Agile. According to the blogs they have at some point struggled to stay nimble, so they defined their culture and rebuilt their organisation around it. I recently stumbled upon Conway‘s Law, when I was reading the book „Team Topologies“, after which. my whole understanding of the Spotify-model has changed.

Conway‘s Law states that

Any organization that designs a system (defined more broadly here than just information systems) will inevitably produce a design whose structure is a copy of the organization’s communication structure

Most content available on the so called Spotify-Model is outdated probably years ago. According to me inorder to retain their culture and have a fast paced flow of change, they have redesigned their product, created the necessary team structures and by making sure they are lean, agility just became a by product.

Immense traditional institutions unborn Agile would need to transform foundationally because they were fundamentally built and optimised to perform for a different purpose or market. The transformations in such organisations are to be primarily approached from a „structure first” approach. So if we look at what Conway‘s law is saying, this definition of structure should also consider the definition of their System / Business / Enterprise Architecture. How we structure and operate our businesses within the organisation will hugely impact the software design.

Context

The key to any large scale transformation is to understand the context and establish the right „System of Transformation“ that will create a learning institution which would enable any over-layed agile reference model to thrive in. Agile methodologies like Scrum, SAFe, DAD, etc. were designed around a specific context. By definition, they were models working within specific organisations which were then copied into other organisations and later generalised for the market. It is as much important to dive deep into the context as the model itself. If your ecosystem is incongruent for a model like Spotify-Agile or SAFe or any other framework, you might still manage to implement it, but would be hard to realise the envisioned benefits of agility.

Conclusion

Based on my experience as a Scrum Master / Agile Coach designing custom scaled agile frameworks that do fit a specific context, although it absolutely matters if an organisation is „born or unborn”, it is not the only variable at play.

As the institutions start on their growth journey the rate at which they grow and the dependencies they are building from technical, functional and organisational stand point will inform the approach to the transformation. The key create a continuously learning, self-organised and customer focused organisation which would be nimble enough to survive and thrive in the VUCA world.

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Sasi K Bejjavarapu

Sasi K Bejjavarapu

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Sasi is a non-linear thinker and expert in strategic and operational execution of IT Projects. He loves sharing and engaging about Agile Transformations