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Achieving Agile at scale: being not doing


In a rapidly evolving digital environment, many leaders have embarked on an enterprise-level implementation of agile. However, ‘doing’ agile by adopting agile roles and ceremonies is often seen as a quick fix. It pales in comparison to implementing agile values and principles through everything you do, otherwise known as ‘being’ agile.

The challenge

The key to a successful agile transformation is to start with “why”, experiment and to scale progressively. This is most effectively implemented when the transformation itself uses agile methods. The new report from the Capgemini Research Institute “Agile @ Scale: Four ways to gain enterprise-wide agility” builds on this, highlighting four fundamental building blocks to agile transformation:

  • Experiment: Start with customer-focused initiatives; scale gradually
  • Orient: Develop T-shaped-skills and change the culture by changing behaviours
  • Govern: Link agile portfolio planning and operations with business strategy
  • Accelerate: Modernise IT with DevOps and microservices

These building blocks will enable organisations to begin scaling agile. However, organisations and specifically the C-suite must understand that agile is not a silver bullet and many myths persist. Agile cannot solve all problems. It does not remove the requirement for leadership but does instead insist upon less centralised control. Lack of planning and project management is seen as another issue. However, providing clarity on the purpose and outcomes of work, whilst being able to adjust course, will better equip teams and organisations in their pursuit of delivering value. There will be some failures, but these are learning opportunities and should be approached with continuous improvement in mind.

Agile Transformation requires a paradigm shift

Having completed agile pilots with full commitment to delivering customer value faster and more efficiently, leaders and employees alike need to embrace a new operating model. Digital adoption is often polarised into being ‘bottom-up’ or ‘top-down’ led. However, scaling agile requires an organisation-wide adoption and acceptance of a significant step change. Leaders need to fully commit to championing agile throughout their organisation. Ensuring that the agile transformation moves gradually from experimentation to agile teams, programs, portfolios and eventually the enterprise level. Employees themselves must ensure that they develop commitment, trust and joint accountability.

Change Management: It all starts with behaviour

Insufficient executive sponsorship and an inability to embed core principles within the company culture are often impediments to agile transformation. To combat this, organisations seeking to scale agile must change their ways of working by adapting their culture, values and behaviours. The traditional ‘chain of command’ hierarchy of escalated decisions presents a bureaucratic swamp. This bogs down the team velocity and prevents any organisation from being truly agile. As such, a clear understanding of the existing culture and how behaviours can be changed to align with the transformation is required. This will empower employees to be open to agile, to self-organise in their teams and to encourage a culture of transparency to ensure that the transformation does not fall flat.

Managing the transition

Whilst frameworks alone cannot be relied upon as a ‘one size fits all’ approach to Agile@Scale, they nevertheless offer a proven structure, with tools and practices to help scale agile. SAFe is the leading framework for scaling agile. It uses a combination of Agile, Lean and DevOps, built on a set of principles with an implementation roadmap. SAFe can be split into three levels; team, programme and portfolio – culminating in the promotion of alignment and collaboration of multi-dimensional teams. One driver for change, enablement and adoption is to introduce an Agile Centre of Excellence, a cross-functional team to guide and inform leaders in establishing behaviours and providing a forum with which to resolve disputes and tension between teams. This governance and oversight during a transition will help foster an environment based on trust; empowering teams by removing static internal decision hierarchies and facilitating continuous improvement and experimentation.


Agile transformation is hard, but agility is not an option. The benefits are clear: decreased costs, increased quality and the accelerated delivery of new products and services. Organisations need to embrace it with a clear, well-thought-through strategy and roadmap for transformation. It is important to reiterate that a solid foundation of building blocks will enable a gradual transition to fully-scaled agile. However, to achieve a full cultural shift, organisations must transform themselves into a state of ‘being’ agile and not fall short in accepting ‘doing’ agile.

For more information on how Capgemini Invent can help your organisation scale agile click here, or read our latest Agile @Scale research report here.


Daniel Garvie, Associate Consultant

Daniel joined Capgemini Invent in February 2019 and is aligned to the Digital New Services and Platforms capability of the Future of Technology practice. Having graduated from the University of Warwick with a degree in French and History, he is now working on the IT transformation of a global aerospace and defence client.