One Ring to Align the Whole Company With Enterprise Agility

By Walter Shraiber, Agile coach and Enterprise Agility Consultant at Practia Argentina

Over the past few years, I have had the opportunity to guide many teams in adopting agile methodologies, especially in companies that had started their transformation some time ago and had achieved results atn the IT departments. What they were looking for was to take agile beyond the IT boundary.

For some of them, we could say that they had reached “their ceiling” in terms of local improvements and needed a more organic change to achieve the expected results.


The Context of Change

One pattern I noticed in these transformations was that the “pain points” ended at a common point: that the change was “forced.”
I might add that in most cases it was pushed by people who did not really “buy-in” to the change, but that’s the subject of another post.

The model of “pushing” change may be workable for small, limited change. In environments where change is the norm, this model no longer works. No one can push forever, and so employees end up demotivated or overwhelmed by the situation and sometimes even leave the company.

It’s been 20 years since the Agile Manifesto was signed, and while its principles and values are mainstream in most management forums I attend, there is also a reality, which is that the business world is not the same as it was 20 years ago. Needs have changed, digitalization has taken up a lot of space, and the challenges are different.

Walter Shraiber after a training

Against this backdrop, there are initiatives that try to fill the gap that the agile manifesto cannot fill in its current form. These include the Scaled Agility Manifesto(*), the Manifesto Agile People (**), and even the draft Product Manifesto(***).

As long as the change is limited to improving the way we deliver software, the methods and tools made available to us in agile are very powerful allies in managing evolutionary change.

However, if we want to go beyond the boundaries of IT with the culture derived from agile thinking (with its principles and values), it will not meet the demands of change, and this is exactly where most “agile” transformations fail.

"One of the most effective ways I know so far to expand agility outside IT is the Ring model developed by Enterprise Agility University."
Walter Shraiber, Enterprise Agility Contultant at Practia

Since technical agility has its origins in software development, three main axes are proposed that have to do with “building it the right thing“, “building it right” and “building it fast enough“. For example, we can easily identify the 3 Scrum roles in this model, the PO, the SM, and the development Team; with their specific focus. The IT culture is good for IT; it is functional for their needs.

Different Markets, Different Models

On the other hand, evolutionary change is also not enough when it comes to reaching companies that suffer from the constant exponential market disruption that digitalization brings us.
Exponential change causes people high levels of stress and anxiety because they are constantly changing without having the right tools. The fact that we cannot predict the results of the changes we are trying to make creates uncertainty that disrupts our usual and automatic mental processes (our routines), creating conflict in our brains. This causes individuals to experience a state of hypervigilance, prioritizing the emotional response to negative experiences or information. Here you can read a study by Dan W. Grupe and Jack B. Nitschke from the College of Wisconsin in 2013.
Evolutionary change requires a great deal of effort from employees, as they must go through the continuous improvement cycle (PDCA) over and over again with sparse or inaccurate information as they work around the team’s contextual information.

Because of this, the team may make changes in multiple iterations that prove counterproductive at the systemic level, exacerbating local constraints and leading the transformation to a dead end.

Implications for the Digital Context

Does this mean that agile is finished, that its principles and values are now meaningless? Nothing could be further from the truth.
The world has changed, needs have evolved, and I believe that agile must evolve as well. The principles and values are still valid, but they need to be complemented to reach the entire organization.
In my opinion, when we aim for an “Agile Transformation”, we limit our possibilities and try to impose a model of thinking that probably does not fit the needs and/or possibilities of the rest of the organization.

As an Agilist, I try to create awareness among stakeholders, to guide them with tools for change, with options and actionable ideas that bring them closer to this new paradigm.
One of the most effective ones I know of so far is the “Ring model” developed by Enterprise Agility University.

The Ring Model contains in its core what we call “Classic Agility” or “Technical Agility“, and extends its possibilities with 3 new dimensions to manage:

1) Individuals (Not related to the agile concept of “people and their interactions over processes and tools“). This is about behaviors that lead them to be comfortable with exponential change in markets.

2) Strategic Innovation 

3) Exponential markets

The Ring Model contains in its core what we call “Classic Agility” or “Technical Agility“, and extends its possibilities with 3 new dimensions

In this way, we align the entire organization around a vision of agility that goes beyond IT and focuses on organizational health, value creation, and sustainable adaptation to exponential markets. Once the required maturity of agility is achieved within IT, we can start on the path to enterprise agility using this model developed by Enterprise Agility University.

Why the Ring Model?

The Enterprise Agility University draws on scientific evidence, neuroscience and organizational psychology to develop new techniques and tools to achieve organizational realignment in record time. The Ring Model is different because:

A) Assumes all companies are exposed to exponential markets. There is a big difference between evolutionary and exponential change because the latter involves constant rule changes in dispersed areas.

B) Applies insights from neuroscience. This point is fundamental because neuroscience has made great strides in recent years, allowing us to effectively design and model behaviors based on knowledge of how the brain works.

C) Enables fast realignment. With all stakeholders represented in a single collaborative dynamic, discussions, agreements, and consensus emerge that form the basis for the policies that each area will implement, so that there is a unified policy and a concrete and prioritized work plan for a redesign that will begin to be implemented.

By the end, you’ll have a picture of your organization’s culture, an idea of the scale of change, and where to start, and you will have initiated many important conversations that day.

Are you willing to give it a try?

Based on my experience, I can assure you that it will not only transform your business, but it will help you move from classic agility to Enterprise Agility with a solid foundation.

Walter Shraiber is an experienced Agile coach and Enterprise Agility Consultant with experience in different industries and company sizes. Walter is part of Practia Argentina