Use the Transformation Framework

short link:

Agile transformation must be measured and managed. At each point of application, the transformational effort ought to be captured as a backlog of changes, each of which is the useful application of one or more agile "patterns", or good practices. These transformation backlogs will need to be ordered and managed by a sponsored and qualified team: change agents who can roll out transformational change until the process is normed, and a self-adapting and self-sustaining innovation network is in place.

Here is a framework, a structured remedy by means of which transformation can be enabled. It is captured as a pattern in itself - a pattern for agile transformation. It consists of 12 components:

  1. Sponsored Vision

  2. Transformation Rollout Team

  3. Delivery Teams

  4. Transformation Backlog

  5. Transformation Heartbeat

  6. Team Cadence

  7. Change Actioning

  8. Daily Cadence

  9. Verification

  10. Actionable Metrics

  11. Validated Learning

  12. Validated Rollout Strategy

Applying this framework helps an organization to become a "startup at scale". Clicking on any of the above components will show further detail.

In identifying each backlog item, this transformational Rollout Team will select the right patterns at the right time for application in the right organizational areas. As the organization becomes more focused on delivery, the respective teams become more agile, and more able to inspect and adapt their own process. Each team will be able to populate its own backlog of planned improvements, to identify new opportunities and innovative solutions, to highlight impediments, and to provide transparency to the wider organization over quality and progress. The success of each change will be evaluated empirically by means of clear acceptance criteria and iterative inspection. These validated lessons help to reorganize and reprioritize each transformation backlog. A measured and managed enterprise transformation, like the agile delivery of a product, is sustainable, transparent, and incremental in nature.

The need for ongoing delivery must be recognized and supported. Organizations do not typically come to a halt in order to change; instead, transformation happens while those organizations are in flight. A well structured transformation backlog is instrumental to managing this. Change must be ordered so that risk is controlled, and the ongoing viability of the business is not compromised.

Essential Principles

Agile transformation requires deep and pervasive change, and hence must be a strategic goal. In short, to “SOLVE" the innovation problem at scale it is necessary to:

    • Sponsor change. Sponsorship must come from the top, and be sufficient to overcome organizational gravity at the point of change. Having an empowered transformation rollout team can help.

    • Order a transformation backlog. A large organization cannot change all at once. Certain value streams will need to be prioritised over others, and particular areas of weakness or opportunity focused on.

    • Localize action. Change must be focused on delivery teams, where empirical evidence of improved value can be fostered.

    • Validate improvement. The transformation which an organization undergoes must result in a demonstrably improved innovation capability.

    • Enable self-organization. Change is sponsored from the top, but innovative agile teams will inspect-and-adapt their own way-of-working.

Note: a worked example of an agile transformation cycle is also available (PDF). There is also an example RACI matrix for agile transformation (XLS format).

This framework is free...

The startup@scale® Transformation Framework is free, and puts the organization in control of its own agile journey. It is provided in its entirety on this site under the Creative Commons License Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-SA 4.0).

We're always keen to hear about your own experiences with using patterns in agile transformation. If you have anything you'd like to share, or have an idea for a new pattern, you can contact us here.


Should training or consultancy be necessary, you can also contact us here without obligation. We offer in-house accreditation programs for agile transformation change agents, and are training partners authorized to teach Professional Scrum Master courses. The official reference text, "Agile Development in Practice", is available for purchase.

Pattern Description: Agile Transformation

Intent: Harness the agility and innovative potential normally associated with startup companies, but at enterprise scale. Achieve a measured and managed approach to enterprise transformation, and without interrupting the ongoing operational delivery of value.


    • Like teaching an elephant to dance (in the context of enterprise transformation)

    • be careful not to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs (in the context of retaining agility as an organization scales)

Also Known As:

    • Agile Transformation

    • Agile Transitioning

    • Agile Scaling

    • Startup at Scale

Motivation: The incremental delivery of value has been the triumph of small and agile self-organizing teams. These have been able to succeed where larger and more lumbering organizations have failed. Teams of a few people are seen to provide better focus and - if so empowered – can take incisive action as well, unencumbered by the ponderings of bureaucracy. Large organizations can be motivated to emulate this success. For their part, startups may wish to scale effectively without losing their current agile advantage. The fear of falling victim to disruptive innovation may also be a factor.

    • Structure: A Transformation Backlog is ordered and managed by a Rollout Team. This team is the guiding body which coaches and leads the rest of the enterprise in its adoption. The Rollout Team decide which patterns need applying to which areas and how their application should be ordered, what success criteria will apply, and what actionable metrics will be considered. Each item on the Transformation Backlog must apply the benefits of at least one agile pattern. The transformation process is managed with reference to a regular heartbeat of inspection and adaptation. The transformation heartbeat accommodates and informs the cadence of organizational delivery cycles as well as operational day-to-day work. Validated Learning is used to reorganize and reprioritize the Transformation Backlog in accordance with actionable metrics.

    • Applicability: Large organizations are likely to benefit from an agile transformation programme, as are startups entering a growth phase. Organizations tend to grow into bureaucracies and can lose their willingness to genuinely experiment. They may demonstrate the following symptoms: They attempt to adopt agile ways of working by layering it as a veneer over existing practices.

    • They adjust the meaning of new words to fit established organizational norms

    • They favor vanity metrics over actionable ones, and engage in success theater

These are all indications that a strategic and sponsored agile transformation initiative is needed.

Consequences: Reduced batch sizes and cycle times, improved and more consistent quality, improved Return on Investment, reduced waste, better transparency and predictability concerning the flow of value across the enterprise.

Implementation: The Agile Transformation pattern is often implemented by agile coaches and/or by a guild of Scrum Masters. They must have the remit of improving organizational best practice, and have clear executive sponsorship for implementing organizational change.

See Also: Kanban Sandwich