Charting an Agile Transformation



This is an adaptation of a model that I came across recently on  My model is slightly different from theirs, but it serves a similar purpose – to chart the Agile Transformation of an organization.

The Dimensions

BUDGET & SCHEDULE:  Organizations that have predictability value planning, and keeping to schedules.  Planning the work, and working the plan, is important.  Organizations that consider plans to be forecasts based on the current available information, on the other hand, do not cling on to the plan, but are constantly replanning.

REQUIREMENTS: Organizations that need to be sure about what they are delivering to the market value analyzing and designing.  For example, regulatory, contractual obligations and other commitments would make an organization value an analysis and designing requirements approach.  Where requirements are emerging from an uncertain market, the organization values experimentation and adaptation.

The Transformation Stages

In Stage One, the organization is following a Waterfall methodology.  It values the predictability of plans, and so ‘plans the work, and works the plan’.  The requirements are analyzed and planned up-front, and explicit contracts, whether these be internal project plans, or external contracts, are drawn up.  Organizations in this mode often find that software development is too uncertain to live for long in this quadrant, and hence Waterfall often fails to deliver its objectives.

In Stage Two, the organization moves to Agile.  The requirements are still mostly planned up-front.  Organizations rarely change the way the medium/long-term Product Roadmap is planned.  However, the actual predictability of the project itself is relaxed.  Instead of milestones, the organization moves to cadences.  Because the requirements in terms of the Roadmap are relatively inflexible, tensions often arise between the competing goals of the need for adaptability at the planning level, and the more fixed nature of the requirements.

In Stage Three, the organization realizes that Agile practices need to be expanded out of the software development department, and into product marketing and product management.  A/B testing and other emergent market practices are introduced, making the organization much less requirements-driven.  This is the mode that Lean Startups operate in, but it is not very scalable.

Stage Four occurs when Lean principles are added to Governance.   The Agile, emergent process is rendered more predictable because principles such as flow and decision-making on cadence are introduced.  The power of this stage is explored in more detail in my book “The Agile PMO: Succeeding with Agile Governance


Paul Osborn

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