Lean-Agile in practice : How to drive innovation at scale

Innovation is hard, scaling innovation is harder still. However, for businesses to compete and win in the age of software and digital, they need to innovate at scale and at speed. They need to bring to market digital products (software products or software enhanced physical products) quickly, learn from them and continually enhance them. Innovation with digital products is never done – the product is continually evolving based on digital feedback.

While delegating innovation to a research lab may have worked in the previous technological age, it won’t work in this modern age of software and digital. In order to deliver innovation at the pace and scale demanded by this age, businesses need to build an enterprise-wide infrastructure to deliver software based innovation.

And the way to build out this infrastructure for innovation is by adopting and adapting Lean and Agile practices.

A sneak peek of how to drive innovation at scale through lean and agile practices was the topic of the September 15 SAFe peer connect online event. I am sure there will be more discussions on this topic at the upcoming SAFe Global Summit. So, watch this space for further updates.

SAFe’s September 15 Peer Connect : Lean — Agile in practice : How to drive innovation at scale

Based on a very informative and interactive panel discussion led by these experts : Phil Alfano, CTO of Apptio, Jennifer Dahl, Agile Portfolio Manager at Clorox, and SAFe® Co-creator Dean Leffingwell ; here are my takeaways from that session on how businesses can drive innovation at scale with lean and agile practices.

1. Agility at scale: Having a few agile teams working in isolation won’t cut it. You need to scale agile so that a team of teams is delivering a release ready product increment on a regular cadence. This really is the table stakes.

2. Transition to product-based value streams: This is one of those evolving meta topics, where the details on how to do it well are still emerging. SAFe provides you the thinking tools and the vocabulary (development value streams, operational value streams, assessment etc) that will help you make this transition.

3. Visualize and limit WIP: This is a critical SAFe principle. Although, it is difficult to implement in practice due to the intangible nature of knowledge work, it is imperative you to do it well. Doing well allows you to align demand with capacity, both human and financial. With the help of tools such as Apptio target process you can make this alignment visible at different layers of the system – teams, products and portfolios – enabling you to drive innovation at scale.

Finally, these field tested nuggets of wisdom on driving innovation at scale based on conversation among peers in the break-out session. Thanks folks for a great conversation.

·      Transparency is critical to successful delivery. (Sean Depkin)

·      The importance of agile management tools and the visibility they provide, when done well (Ann Kahraman)

·       The need to connect operational value streams to development streams to drive business results (Tom McDonnell)

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