Process and Framework

What is the difference between a process and a framework?

Currently we are bombarded with stories about how an organisation has adopted Scrum or Kanban or Safe or DAD or something LESS. The main narrative about scaling agile is about implementing a process or method. Instead I will argue that organisations need a framework instead.

Lets use Feature Injection (Value Mapping) to explore this idea.

We start with a tea bag. Some clueless consultant (i.e. Not you Martin) sells their client on the idea of Safe or Less. Safe and Less are the tea bag. They are part of a method or process that cover the program and team part of the organisation.

The client really needs a cup of tea which means they also need something to cover the portfolio, governance, executive and enabling functions (We decided enabling functions was a much more respectful name for Finance and HR than Supporting Functions).

Given the cup of tea, we can explore the needs of the different segments. The “Control” organisation consisting of leadership, management, executive, governance and risk functions have a need to demonstrate control to those they are accountable to (internal and external/market stakeholders). In a small organisation this is easy peasy. In large complicated and complex organisations, some structure is needed to make sure risks are properly managed.

The “delivery” organisation needs the freedom to choose whichever method or tool that suits their context. They need to be freed from the burden of oppressive SDLC deliverables.

The value for the organisation or business value is much faster and more effective innovation… Disruptive innovation, Sustaining Innovation and Efficiency Innovation. And that innovation should be demonstrated to hit the bottom line (as the organisation defines it).

When we look at the scaling methods, we find that they do not meet these needs. They do not provide effective control for the “controller” and they do not provide freedom for the “builders”

Now we understand the needs and the value to be delivered, we can see that a framework meets those needs. Rather than specify the process that the organisation needs to follow, the framework specifies the risks it needs to manage, and the limits for those risks that a delivery organisation can take on. e.g. We know that the longer the investment, the riskier it gets, so we limit the lead time to XX months. Truly Agile teams do not even perceive these limits. If you have a lead time of two weeks and your reporting infrastructure can demonstrate this to the “control” functions, then you are never going to be a worry to them. You get freedom to deliver as you choose.

So does that mean we do not need Safe and DAD and LESS? Quite the opposite. The framework provides the means for an organisation to implement these methods, processes and tools. It helps the organisation clearly identify those gaps in the process that need to be addressed. For example, Lets use Safe for Team and Program. The framework helps us see the gaps, so we add on Delivery Mapping for Portfolio, Real Options for Governance, Beyond Budgeting for Finance, Cynefin for HR, and Lean, TOC and Cynefin for Executives, with transparency provided by Jira/VersionOne/NameYourPoison. All the teams need to do is demonstrate they have the recipe for a cup of tea, and then just get on with it. The operations department of an organisation might adopted Safe as it fits better with its culture. A front office or customer facing organisation in the same organisation might choose LESS as it suits their culture. A small innovative lab might choose to have no process as long as it operates within the framework. The framework gives different departments in the same organisation the freedom to adopt a process and method that’s appropriate for its context, provided it stays within the limits of the framework.

By all means buy a tea bag, but make sure you buy the milk (or lemon), sugar, cup and hot water as well. The framework is your shopping list, to ensure you make a damn fine cup of tea. “Would someone please pass the honey?”

Next up, I will share how an organisation can implement a framework to free its departments in a controlled way.

About theitriskmanager

Currently an “engineering performance coach” because “transformation” and “Agile” are now toxic. In the past, “Transformation lead”, “Agile Coach”, “Programme Manager”, “Project Manager”, “Business Analyst”, and “Developer”. Did some stuff with the Agile Community. Put the “Given” into “Given-When-Then”. Discovered “Real Options” View all posts by theitriskmanager

3 responses to “Process and Framework

  • (((Erik Schumann))) (@Schumann_Erik)

    Interesting and valuable thoughts. Thank you for sharing them. I know that you know what you are talking about here. A thought and a question that comes to my mind here is: are we not expecting too much from a lot of enterprises? Are they really there with their culture, trust, politics and practice maturity? As I see it most are not, but I would love to stand corrected from you.
    The analogy which comes to my mind is that some years ago companies got interested in agile. Why? Because the teams had started to use agile principles and practices, developed themselves and surrounding organizations and matured. Even though a lot of these implementations do not go the whole way and lead to teams doing agile not being agile, this has improved the daily life for lots of people and the bottom line for their company.
    Now these other organizations around development get interested, are open for change and ready to take a next step.
    In the same way as Scrum did a great work in getting teams started with doing agile, SAFe, DAD etc can enable the companies to do the next step (shu-style). This will improve lives and companies, let them learn, mature and increase the number of teams doing agile.
    That is a good thing but not enough. It is just a start. We need to help and enable these companies to get to the next level. Either they are mature enough to experiment, learn and improve, or they need more help on the way.
    That’s where I would see the framework you mention.
    I am sure that a lot of companies are there already now and they would benefit greatly from what you describe, but I fear most aren’t.

    Or I have completely missed your point. In any case I would love to hear your thoughts and get corrected, confused or taught.

    All the best,

  • vgrgic

    I think I understand what you define as a framework, but don’t understand why that can’t be done within LeSS as a framework.
    – It provides means to implements processes, practices, methods. Many of them are suggested in LeSS books.
    – It creates environment for innovation, fast feedback.
    – It helps manage risk through often dramatically shorter lead time.
    – It creates structure for much more effective filling of “gaps” and through simplification complete removal of gaps. E.g. no need for portfolio and program management.
    – There is freedom for teams to discover / choose their processes, created through high level of empowerment. Teams are at the center of the framework.
    – LeSS books describe 100 guides and 600 experiments. That is a hell of a shopping list. 🙂

  • John Coleman

    I think one needs to be careful about prescribing and ticking boxes. Overall I like the approach as long as it’s flexible per context, with some guide rails I guess. Conway’s law effect is something we should try to be cognizant of.

    I also think the IT Investment Risk Management Framework (try to come up with a cool acronym please 🙂 needs to avoid the mistake of other frameworks, by for once addressing transformation and maybe tapping into trending transformation integrative approaches, approaches that are context dependent also. Otherwise, one is either preserving the current order(SAFe) or acting like a bull in a china shop (latest LeSS book seems to dislike transformation folks like me, maybe that’s a good thing lol! :)). One of the things I like from Craig is (paraphrased) “own your own system, don’t rent it from someone else” or something to that effect.

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