• Holly Chasan-Young

Cookie-Cutter Agile? Never Again

“If the path ahead is clear, you are on someone else’s path” - Joseph Campbell

Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) has been taking a bit of a beating recently.

I'm not sad to see the reckoning, because having lived through it, I caution clients to think long and hard before going with SAFe.

Why? Because you're literally paying for the notion that massive and prescriptive process will substantively improve organizational outcomes. (It won't.)

We're living in transformative times. Leaders and teams want their organizations to evolve immediately. Like a pup with a bone, some companies grab hold of SAFe and refuse to let go, until, like the Air Force, the day they don't.

During my last experience with SAFe, we were drowning in process. So I checked in with our team leader to get clear on a few simple questions:

  • What is changing?

  • What will be different if this goes as planned?

  • What problem is SAFe solving?

No answer, aside from “the BIG boss wants us to be Agile and roll out SAFe asap."

Sounds bananas, right? You can imagine how things went from there. A lot of boxes checked, processes implemented - a roster of new weekly meetings. SAFe completely drowned out the primary mission, purpose or problems to solve.

So why are so many orgs still implementing it?

Perhaps frameworks - even complicated ones - are reassuring. The complexity may seem like a proxy for competence – “We’re all over it! See, everything we could possibly need to think about or do is right here in the diagram.”

Maybe it's phenomenal marketing.

Or that organizations don’t trust themselves or their teams to transform on their own?

I get that - when the need for change becomes urgent, it's tough to know where to start.

But regardless of the reason for SAFe’s popularity, my experience is typical.

But in today's uncertain environment, a prescriptive formula is only a comforting distraction. More meetings don't make trail blazers. So forgive the bluntness, but we must think bigger and bolder to uncover a transformation approach that's right for us. (Isn't that how "agile" was supposed to work?)

You don't have to do it alone

Katy Foucar-Szocki from Creative Dynamics and I are pairing up to make transformations more awesome. In doing so, we won't prescribe any particular solution before we understand your unique context, challenges and goals.

Once we've earned an understanding, we mix up a custom approach informed by:

Design Thinking, Service Design, Modern Agile, modern product methods, Business Model Canvas, Lean Start-up, Creativity Practices, Change Management, Coaching (and more).

This fosters:

  • Right Mindsets (learning, failure acceptance, bias awareness)

  • Right Skills (experiments, communication, customer research, critical thinking, creativity, decision-making)

  • Right Outcomes (customer love, business value, managed risks)Right Culture (psychological safety, ethics, human-centered incentives)

All the requisite superpowers for transformation.

More good news: We can get you there, in exchange for a team effort:

  • You need to have skin in the game. Are your Vision, Goals & Teams aligned?

  • Transformation will be destabilizing. Can you enroll teams on the journey? Will you relentlessly communicate?

  • Resist the urge to change everything at once. Can you begin with the smallest win possible and iterate?

We call our approach Modern Problem-Solving.

No certifications; diagrams, or roadmaps. It's organized chaos at the start, and it will ask you to make a leap of faith.

But it's a better way to innovate and transform. It starts and ends with people: Your teams. Your Customers. Your colleagues and stakeholders. They're craving inspiration, challenge, and purpose.

So put the cookie cutters away and answer their call. You'll arrive at your dream destination so much faster.

If these challenges resonate, let’s talk! Reach out to Katy or me in February to qualify for a complimentary Org Assessment – a $2,500.00 value that could generate 100K+ of untapped value for your organization.

Katy Foucar-Szocki's firm Creative Dynamics partners with clients who are ready to develop engaging growth strategies, design high quality and scalable solutions, and solve for problems in new and creative ways.

Holly Chasan Young's firm Wonderbolt Labs is a product & service strategy collective that makes teams and customers awesome. The Wonderbolt network of professionals unlock value by addressing clients' so-called unsolvable problems.

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