Organizational Agility Program
 

The Agile form of Organizational Assessment

                          Are you tired of methodologies that pretend to know more about your job than you do? Tired of a one-size-fits-all approach to organizational improvement? Are you skeptical of canned methodologies? We believe we have a better way—a proven, human-centered approach to organizational improvement based on over a decade of research and experience.


The Organizational Agility Program is a collection of tools and techniques your organization can use to increase its effectiveness and health. Its techniques come from the people whose work has been acknowledged as one of the major foundations of the Agile movement, of SCRUM, and of Extreme Programming. Based on the critically acclaimed book, Organizational Patterns of Agile Software Development, and designed by the book’s authors, this program gives your teams the tools, encouragement, support and direction they need to understand their day-to-day problems and to find sound solutions for them.

What is the Organizational Agility Program?

The Organizational Agility Program is a path to organizational improvement. It starts with short facilitated activities that provide a core and foundation for you and your people to make your organization more flexible, to heal its problems, and to enhance its growth.

  • We believe that no consultant can come in and fix an organization. An organization with the will to change can and must be in charge of its own improvement program. But it’s hard going it alone. The Organizational Agility Program acts like a mirror in which your organization can see itself in new ways, combined with a kit of proven organizational patterns. You select the patterns that address the problems of your organization—problems that the “mirror” helps you to identify and bring out in the open.
  • We believe that agility must go one step deeper than your development process. That is, the organization itself must be adaptable and responsive to your market and business environment. Methodologies at best can give you an agile process—a necessary but insufficient step to improvement. Organizations need flexible structures that allow their processes to be agile.
  • We believe in being open and productive. The Organizational Agility Program is not a methodology; it is not a mandate; it is not a touchy-feely feel-good session. It is a guide, an inspiration, and a collection of resources that have proven valuable to organizations worldwide. It combines the concerns of business, methodology, and human effectiveness to achieve your business goals.
  • We believe in giving you enough structure to get started and to grow. We do not believe in an out-of-the box method that tells you what to do at every turn. We do not believe in giving you platitudes and principals, leaving you to guess what else to do. We get our hands dirty working with you, but you own the direction and the choice of practices you adopt.
  • We believe in the basics. We believe that very little that is good is new. Often, all an organization needs is the confidence that comes from legitimizing and organizing current good practices—legitimizing them in terms of industry experience. We bring you a wealth of codified experience, written in pattern form, to guide your progress.

Who is it for?

This program is for teams that build things. We specialize in software development teams. The program exists to help your team become more effective. The program can benefit your team members whether they are just starting up, or whether they feel against the wall, or whether they feel they need fine-tuning. It can help teams as small as a half-dozen people, and enterprises as large as hundreds of people and groups. If you’re tired of hype or extreme measures, or if you’re just confused about all the options available for successful team building, this program can help you find your way.

What do you commit to?

Your people must be committed to improving the organization and must be ready to face change. The Organizational Agility Program is a participatory program that focuses on grass-roots involvement. The organization must have management support for our consulting services, for the time commitments of the team members, and for supporting the team in its improvement efforts. Each organization commits to a three-hour role-playing exercise where we gather data to make a model (the “mirror”) of your organization. We need people at this exercise who can represent the interests of all the organization’s roles, and who can represent the interactions with roles outside the organization. We do not ask that you do any advance preparation for this exercise. We strive to collect your team’s collective vision of how they really work (or, if you are starting up, of how they plan to work together). The exercise is based on CRC Cards—a way of using simple index cards to capture the structure of a system. CRC Cards were originally designed to model the structure of an object-oriented program (CRC stands for Classes, Responsibilities, and Collaborators) using responsibility-based design. We use the same technique to explore the “design” of your organization. Later, the organization commits to a debriefing of the models. This facilitated discussion lays the groundwork for concrete steps of improvement.

What do we provide?

 

We start by facilitating the role-playing exercise. We take the CRC Cards from this exercise, together with our notes, and use them to build models of your organization. We also facilitate the debriefing for you. We provide a report that shows the structure of your organization in new ways. We take the CRC Cards from the role-playing exercise and use them to make several models of your organization. The most common model is called a social network diagram. It shows all the roles in your organization in proximity to each other. We also provide you a short summary of organizational metrics that compare your organization to other organizations of similar size and complexity. Though this is an imprecise comparison, it can help you understand how you “stack up.” Last—and perhaps most important—we provide you with an annotated checklist of the patterns in your organization: both those that we find in your organization, and those we find missing. This list is a gold mine for planning your improvement program. We work with you to advise you as you make your choices and plans for organizational improvement, and can provide optional follow-up support as desired.

What can you expect?

We have run parts of this program with over 100 organizations worldwide, and almost all of them have attested to the fidelity of the models we build for them. Paradoxically, the models were full of surprises. The surprises come from the perspectives that the models provide: they help you see your organization in new ways. Some of these surprises come during the CRC exercise itself, but most of the value comes in the reflection of the social network models that the CRC cards yield. You can see the affinity relationships between your organization’s roles. You can see how many “hops” there are between key producers and consumer. You can see which roles must work closely together, and then can ask yourself whether your organizational structure, your office assignments, and role mappings are right for your business.

 


The Organizational Patterns Book, co-authored by Jim Coplien and Neil Harrison, is the definitive work on the state of the art in Agile software development and is the foundation of the Organizational Agility Program.

 


The ScrumHouse crowd, including Scrum co-founder Jeff Sutherland, advocate the Organizational Patterns as a foundation for defining the necessary elements of software Scrum — important, because Scrum itself is software-agnostic. See http://www.scrumorgpatterns.com.

 

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