Integrating an Enterprise Strategy and “The Agile PMO”


Blue Heron Bridge - Singer Island, Florida

The Agile PMO Role

So how do you integrate enterprise strategy and corporate performance into an agile delivery model? On one hand, the enterprise strategy and corporate performance require stability, predictability, and a high degree of structure, much like the Blue Heron Bridge in Singer Island, Florida. On the other hand, agile techniques are extremely useful with adjusting and reacting to uncertainty by creating highly collaborative environment and pushing decision making into daily scrum meeting / calls between project stakeholders. In my experience and discussions with companies and teams in this space, many view this as a holy grail. The article linked above by Tamara Sulaiman at Gantthead does a fine job of positioning a classic organizational capability, an Enterprise Project Management Office (EPMO) within an agile construct, and offers several ideas on how to make it work.

In particular, what I like most about this article is the clarity around specific activities and capabilities that could be put into place to make an Agile PMO live within a company. The most interesting capability in the Agile PMO is the meta-scrum. The article go on to say “the Meta Scrum is focused on the strategic planning and decisions guiding the program or programs as a whole. Establishing a Meta Scrum with the PMO representative acting as ScrumMaster to plan and facilitate meetings (as well as reporting and tracking decisions and action items) can add significant value in having a program able to rapidly respond to change while staying true to the corporate strategy and objectives.”

If you are leading a business transformation, implementing a corporate strategy, delivering a large program, or managing a project with multiple sprints, I see the following critical success factors for integrating agile within an enterprise strategy:

  • Articulate your strategy in a manner that is culturally acceptable for your company.
  • Decompose the strategy into a series of initiatives / programs / projects / sprints that can be understood by your company with traceability from the top of the company down to the first line employee.
  • Establish enough of a management system that embraces agile concepts at the daily execution level while gathering the basic information that will allow you to answer the hardest strategic level questions from your CEO. Basic elements that I propose include but are not limited to: corporate goals, programs / projects / sprints / tasks, employee hours worked on a weekly basis, & capital vs expense delineations.
  • Define and allocate executive level ownership of the corporate goals, programs, projects, sprints, tasks and associated budgets to move decision making as close to the source as possible.
  • Tooling to implement your management system so that you are not running your business in Excel spreadsheets.

In the end, you want to create a corporate ecosysem, think of this as a culture and management system,  that mimics the structure and stability of the Blue Heron Bridge (aka the enterprise) while allowing the daily variability and agility of the underlying ocean of change to ebb and flow (the people, programs, & projects).

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Defining Agile Change Management


UPDATE – Please be sure to check out the Change Management Manifesto as well.

How much process is too much process? How can you implement enough process so that you get the benefits (e.g. efficiency, repeatability, scale, etc.) but not too much so as to slow down your agility? The Change Management discipline / industry would be wise to reflect on the concept of “agile” from the software development industry to address these questions.

If you are a change leader, I encourage you to learn more about “agile” concepts in software development. You can easily search on the term “agile” and get a plethora of sites with information. In summary, the agile approach embraces

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  • Working software over comprehensive documentation
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  • Responding to change over following a plan

Don’t take my word for it. These bullets originated in “The Agile Manifesto” at http://agilemanifesto.org/

Personally, I find agile principles serve as a helpful guideline when trying to balance the need for process. However, many people incorrectly define agile as “without process”. This is not true, and in some ways, agile techniques require more personal discipline than a classic SDLC approach (e.g. waterfall). Agile processes exist, but they live within the context of the four bullets listed above.

Processes are definitely needed, in particular for companies that have reached a certain scale. I have come to experience that “with complexity comes a need for increased discipline.” Processes are proven and worthy tools to deal with complexity in scale, speed to delivery, geographic distance, business risk (e.g. SOX), language barriers, technical barriers, human resource management (e.g. hiring & firing), financial planning (e.g. establishing and managing budgets), software development, etc.

So, in our current environment of a shrinking economy, is complexity going up or down? I say, up. Companies are forced to deal with challenges that they previously may have avoided due to success. Said another way, “success covers up many ills”. To deal with these new complexities, companies may look to leverage processes for increased productivity, efficiency, and most importantly transparency into their business. It is my assertion that, with process comes the law of diminishing returns. There comes a point where process gets in the way, and inhibits a business if process is not actively managed. How do most large entities (companies, governments, institutions) deal with the complexities listed above? They implement processes to manage risk and maintain a level of homogeneous execution across a diverse operations model. This will work, and many companies are proving their success with large scale process deployments today (e.g. look to the Business Process Outsourcing models of any big consulting firm and the existence of ERP software).

The challenge I want to address here is the need to balance process with innovation, delivery, and growth as a change leader. I am not sure there is an answer to “how much process is enough process?” but I am certain that the agile manifesto and the principles it aspires to are helpful to begin addressing the question.