Agility requires stability.
Far from the stereotype of changing our minds every day, being agile requires sticking to important decisions in multiple parts of the organization. And for sure, it’s more than implementing a few rituals within a cross-functional team.
Organizational stability is a known requirement of stability for agile teams. But the digital transformation increases the pressure to deliver Quality at Speed software, requiring to extend stability to other parts of the software value chain.
Quality Engineering is the paradigm constraining the software lifecycle to Quality and Speed on a continuous basis. This article shares the required elements of stability to combine for building a lasting business agility in your organization.
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Methods stability streamline activities
The software delivery lifecycle is a composition of multiple processes, commonly bundled inside methodologies. Their successful repetitive execution enables organizations to increase their capability to meet the high-standard.
But changing the activities involves stopping what people are doing to implement changes.The switching costs have direct impacts on the Quality at Speed team capability as they need time to reach their previous performance levels.
The stability of methods creates an environment for repeatability and scalability built upon known processes that become habits. A team sticking to sprint planning, Kanban, and systematic peer reviews with a standard development lifecycle will accelerate.
But methods alone are not enough to build valuable software with speed that depends on a complex assemblage of technologies.
Architecture stability enables flexible composition
Crafting software requires the composition of different layers of technology that are more or less easy to integrate together. This effort of integration directly impacts the time available to deliver Quality at Speed software; minimal changes are required.
While buzzwords like microservices can let us think that we can change everything with ease as we go, without much planning. That’s not true. Business agility requires the stability of the less popular word of IT Urbanization.
Urbanization is about architecturing a set of coherent, stable and modular components aligned on timed business goals. The exercise requires making decisions about stable elements that defines the strong or weak coupling between technology layers.
For example, a company developing omnichannel customer interactions can only add channels with ease leveraging stable back-end services. If each new channel requires multiple changes across the systems, you will be slower than the competition.
The stability requirement adds up to the domain of methods. For instance, the practice of Domain-Driven Design draws stable platform boundaries in which technological components can be changed with limited impacts on the other platforms.
Management stability fosters an evolving ecosystem
As human beings and besides cultural differences, stable points give confidence to take risks in our life. Organizations are equally systems in which stability supports its development. When changes happen, the ecosystem reacts impacting its flows.
A change of CEO can reshape an entire company. At our individual level, a change of management can also disrupt our flow of work: we need time to know each other, the direction may change, etc.
The managers of Quality Engineering are leaders sharing the vision, aligning on purpose and animating the actors towards continuous value creation. The stability of leadership roles is essential to foster a supporting ecosystem in which actors feel confident to take risks.
Additionally, managers need time to develop the network of relationships to deliver Quality at Speed software within the organization. The feeling of being valued as an individual is a complex mix of interactions requiring time to materialize.
Established leaders are also accountable for the organizational stability necessary to business agility.
Organizational stability brings focus and speed
Agile teams need time to understand the customer problem they are trying to solve through iterations. The actors cannot meet the expected level of quality or speed if they are constantly under context switching.
Organizational choices have to be made for business agility:
- Which overall company structure to adopt?
- How to organize governance, reviews and decision-making?
- Which teams should be with dedicated or shared resources?
- What processes should be centralized or decentralized?
- Which teams should be stable or rapidly recomposed?
The options taken will directly impact the capability of an organization to deliver Quality at Speed software.
The alignment of the stables organizational design elements with the rest of the system is also essential to Quality Engineering. For example, organizational models like feature-team work inside a structured environment of methods, architecture and management.
And finally, the actors require relatively stable skills to develop a true expertise to rapidly deliver value with a high degree of quality.
Skills stability support continuous value delivery
The critical skills required by an organization must be continuously present to deliver Quality at Speed software.
A disruption of competencies along the software lifecycle is the same as a shortage of workers on a manufacturing chain: the flow is broken. Stable skills are a challenge with an increasing talent competition and accelerated cycles of innovation.
The stability of the previous elements—from methods to organization—is essential to limit the skills needed per context. Additionally, the scarcity of available skills requires making clear choices about the skills to keep in-house, versus the ones to externalize.
In this overall context, business agility will come from Quality Engineering stability.
Business agility depends on your decisions
Business agility depends on the stability of the different areas to effectively react to an accelerated changing environment. When it’s not your requirements, it’s the competition or an evolving technique you will need to adopt.
Methods, Architecture, Management, Organization & Skills are the 5 domains of MAMOS, the Quality Engineering framework. Applying the Quality Engineering paradigm, the stability of each of these domains must be continuously constrained for Quality at Speed software.
Your role is to make decisions of the minimal stable elements that will maximize the capability to capture value creation opportunities. Business agility depends on your structuring decisions to make Quality Engineering a reality—not only on the next daily.
Find your way to bulletproof decisions.
Tim Wise (2016), Stable Teams – Predictability Edition. Leading Agile.
Elaine Pulakos, Robert B. (Rob) Kaiser (2020), To Build an Agile Team, Commit to Organizational Stability. Harvard Business Review.
Wouter Aghina, Aaron De Smet, Kirsten Weerda (2015), Agility: It rhymes with stability, McKinsey Quarterly.
Pulakos, E. D., Kantrowitz, T., & Schneider, B. (2019). What leads to organizational agility: It’s not what you think. Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, 71(4), 305-320. doi:10.1037/cpb0000150
Gunther Verheyen (2020), Minimal Measures for Minimal Stability in a Complex Environment, Scrum.org.