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Agile Trends 2020: Part 2 – Organizations

  • Publish Date: Posted 5 months ago
  • Author: Joshua Jack

Agile Trends 2020: Part 2 – Organizations

Picking up from last time where we talked about Agile Trends for individuals, this week we are going to talk about organizations. Organizations are companies, groups, governmental agencies, or even internal business units that make decisions about 1) what we call our products, 2) what we work on, and 3) hiring and terming of team members. Organizations themselves are going through a change with decisions around centralization/decentralization of decisions, taking on large initiatives, and as we talk about below, how we work on the “things” that bring value and ultimately, profit.

Agile Trends 2020: Part 2 – Organizations

More focus on extending agility to the portfolio. “Yeah, right Josh. You’ve been saying this, but I still work in a world of projects and portfolios,” you might say. I completely get that, but I also know that this tough nut is about to crack. Lean portfolio practices, the productization of our organization's work, and a greater focus on getting to done rather than having work in process are all key indicators that massive changes are coming to the portfolio in 2020. I do have to say that I don’t see some of the more mature aspects taking hold quite yet – rolling wave planning, agile financial models, and whole organization (not just IT) portfolios – but I do see some of our product friends pushing the portfolios to reflect the value that organizations deliver and the products that fund them. For you portfolio manager folks – get some additional skills. You haven’t had to change much in this agile world, but it is coming. Trust me when I say that only three things are constant – death, taxes, and constant change. Learn from Deming and PDCA yourself! Dive into books like Project to Product: How to Survive and Thrive in the Age of Digital Disruption with the Flow Framework by Mik Kersten and The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses by Eric Ries. And don’t be fooled by that last title; that book sets the stage for successful portfolios as well.

Growing Ops, Networks, Systems adoption of agility. Back when I started in agility, if you were a serious network/system group, your go-to model was that of ITIL/ITSM and scrum was for those “light-footed, change-your-mind-all-the-time developers.” Over the past 10 years, we have watched an increasing number of organizations move to models or adjust their existing strategies to align more to the demands of a digital world – cloud, virtualization-on-demand, IaC (infrastructure as Code) and more. Along with this digital strategy comes a need to change the practices that once helped us get stable (but slowed us down) and embrace practices that both bring stability and allow for the responsiveness of the modern organization. More and more ops groups are looking to agility in the form of DevOps, kanban, variants of iterative models (scrum falls in here), and even individual agile practices (think timeboxes, collaborative concepts, and even planning) to help them stay ahead of the pace of digital delivery. Look for more of this in 2020 as we have a new group of leaders and the “old school” directors of IT are starting to move to Florida to enjoy their retirement.

Bye-Bye Agile PMOs. One of my favorite predictions for 2020 is that the Agile PMO or Agile COE or Agile Office in its current form is slated for sunsetting. For years, I have watched consulting companies go into large and small organizations and try to do a 1:1 mapping of legacy ways to agile. I’ve seen this with practices and processes, roles and responsibilities, and even the way people are organized within these very large companies. Two words: “Bad form!” The very reason why the PMO was successful for traditional project management organizations is the very reason why it isn’t successful for agile organizations. The idea that all governance around how work gets done was centralized within a quasi-separate suborganization and that all decisions were made by those who reported up to this structure is completely against agile practices. Decisions around what and why are business decisions and decisions around what and how are delivery decisions! To take on this model and then call it an agile PMO or agile office remains a mystery to me. 

The very reason why the PMO was successful for traditional project management organizations is the very reason why it isn’t successful for agile organizations.

This year, I see that we are going to be moving more toward a service-oriented culture with empowered local decisions being made by highly collaborative teams.  That all sounded gooey, but let’s look at it this way – install change agents (call them agile coaches if you must) into the structure of a product line or value stream or business unit and empower that team to make coordinated decisions with the whole of the organization in mind.  These change agents/agile coaches can remain tethered to each other, but we shift the mindset of “rolling up to a central governance center” to team members who have each other’s best interest and the best interest of the organization at heart.  This is a fundamental way of thinking change that we will see more in forward-looking companies and will trickle down into late adopters soon.

I do believe there are more changes coming to our organizations this year in agility – change leadership through agility, better alignment of teams in the hiring and planning, and the impacts of the individual (as in my last blog) to what will happen in our companies.  Stay tuned for next week’s final blog in this series where I talk about trends in agile communities in 2020.