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.