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July 19, 2019

Agile Mixology – Creating Success with Agility

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Many look for tried and true recipes to help them succeed as they undertake a transition to Agile approaches. We’ve found that the most successful organizations don’t search for a recipe, they create their own.

With cocktails, everyone’s taste is different. Recipes that inspire some of us fail to appeal to others. Organizations and teams are very similar; their needs, tastes, and desired outcomes vary. Using the same recipe across different groups will be unlikely to give similar results.

Ask any bartender; creating a successful cocktail takes a vision, high-quality ingredients, and experimentation. Identifying the right ingredients and how to combine them is challenging. Do we want sweet or sour? Dry or sugary? Deep or playful? Once the desired characteristics are known, the mixologist can begin selecting ingredients and blending them together, experimenting until they create a tasty cocktail that satisfies their vision.

The same concepts apply to an organization or team adopting Agile approaches. The desired characteristics are the goals and outcomes you are working to achieve. Once we have that vision, different organizational and team ingredients (approaches, techniques, practices, etc.) can be combined in a process of experimentation to help achieve it. This is the mixology.

The prescription for creating an Agile Transformation cocktail is to:

  • Explore the desired outcomes and understand what is needed to achieve them.
  • Train people as necessary and give them an understanding of how they can help.
  • Coach team members to reinforce their learning and help them make adjustments.
  • Evolve with the organization as its needs change.

This will ensure the transformation is suited to the organization’s needs.

Let’s see what a few of these successful cocktails look like. Here’s a summary of what Excella has created in partnership with clients. These will be described in our Agile Mixology Booklet that we’ll be sharing at Agile2019.


The Silverline Sling

Silverline Communications is a commercial public relations and digital marketing firm. They wanted to provide more value to their clients and enhance the effectiveness of their team members by shifting from reactive, client-driven work to a value-driven approach that placed more emphasis on predictably delivering against their clients’ strategic needs.

Ingredients for success:

  • A Kanban board with explicit policies and established work-in-progress limits
  • The daily stand-up
  • Just-in-time delivery
  • Effective flow metrics
  • Retrospectives

How did it taste?

Silverline’s Agile transformation had a surprising mindset shift and outcome: when value drives decision-making, both clients and team members are happier.


HHS Highball

The Health and Human Services Department’s Office of Inspector General (HHS OIG) is responsible for analyzing possible fraud and misuse of Government funds. The organization needed to better understand its investments, respond to congressional inquiries faster, and drive continuous improvement.

Ingredients for success:

  • Disciplined experimentation
  • Rapid prototyping
  • Data governance
  • Scrum framework for cadenced delivery
  • Kanban for flow
  • Disciplined rollout with change management

How did it taste?

HHS OIG can now make sense of available data more rapidly, transforming it into valuable information. This has accelerated decision-making, allowing faster responses to Congress, well-informed strategic planning and investments, and establishing a new standard for data across the Federal government.


Federal Fizz

Another large Federal agency provides an important service to businesses within the United States. Unfortunately, the solution that performed the service was a legacy system 20 years old. This agency started a modernization effort with one Excella team that then organically grew to eight teams as success was repeatedly and consistently demonstrated.

Ingredients for success:

  • Single backlog for each system
  • Shared code ownership with continuous integration and continuous delivery
  • Reduction of dependencies
  • Effective visualization
  • Team self-selection
  • Disciplined experimentation
  • Outcome-based metrics
  • Large Scale Scrum (LeSS) cadences

How did it taste?

When the modernized system became available, the agency realized a reduction in request processing times by 30%. Enrollment times decreased by 45%, making enrollment more likely and improving the end goal of the service. In addition, the agency sees the following increased responsiveness to their business needs:

  • 90-second mean time to acknowledgment (MTTA).
  • 45-minute mean time to resolution (MTTR).
  • Frequent pivots to change priorities as new information emerges from the field or government leaders.


What’s Next?

For each of these three organizations, the successful Agile mixture has been different and unique. We know there are some tried-and-true mixes which many people like, but like the best cocktails, the best mix to help your organization succeed with Agility is the one tailored to your specific needs.


Are you ready to find your perfect Agile mix? Download our Agile Mixology eBook to learn more!

Download eBook Now

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