Scaling by the ruler

Scaling agile frameworks are systematized agility limiters

There are frameworks and models around which are aiming to guide organisations in scaling agile and lean practices. At first glance there's nothing wrong with that. Helping organisations to reach higher levels of agility - that's great! But could it be that such frameworks and models are actually accomplishing quite the opposite result of becoming more agile?


Agile and scaling frameworks tend to systematize agility and hence undermine agility in essence. Systematizing ("to arrange in accord with a definite plan or scheme", or "to arrange in or according to a system; reduce to a system") is in fact quite the opposite of being agile. Scaling frameworks are antagonistic to the agile principles, to true agile characteristics. It's an attempt to control the movement from the outside-in, opposed to let the movement form authentically and originally from the inside-out. And that's a huge difference.

It makes perfect sense though, that agile scaling methods are limiting agility. Agile scaling frameworks or models primarily originate from the software/automation industry, an industry which in essence is about systematization. Agile principles have become more commonly known outside of the automation industry, because of developments in the ICT industry, an industry which is systematizing information and communication into technology using software.

The automation industry has done good for the adaptation of agile principles into the economic world at large (and thanks for that!), but maybe it's time to let go of the attempt to systematize agility. When system-thinking is withdrawn as the big driving force of agile principles, the evolution of the adaptation of true agile principles can really liftoff. Less system, more agility. Maybe it's time to unchain agility to allow agile's essence to surface again. But beware: scary, unexpected, uncontrollable and yes, unsystematic things might happen.

Scaling agile or agile scaling

Scaling agile is not agile. When scaling of agile practices becomes a concern in the organisation, it's a perfect opportunity to reflect upon the agility level of your organisation. It can be viewed as a sign, or a symptom, of the current state of agility of your organisation. When agile scaling becomes a concern, it can be an opportunity to reflect on deeper lying dynamics in the organisation. And that's not a bad thing at all, but an opportunity for growth! When an organisation reaches high maturity levels of agility, scaling won't ever be a problem nor a subject because it will be dealt with seamlessly, without a trace.

The process of adapting to higher levels of agility, qualitatively as well as quantitatively, needs to be agile in essence. This process needs to be agile from its inception. Success is guaranteed when doing so. Else, "agile" is just a cover-up, an image, a marketing term, a keeping-up-appearances - by adapting to models, frameworks and other systems, without ever changing anything essential, which is the foundation of true agility.

True agility

True agility, being agile from inside-out (opposed to outside-in), is not easy. Its in fact quite difficult and a challenge. Courage is needed, along with determination. Being agile in essence of every action performed within the organisation is not about models and frameworks at all. No, being agile takes an inward gaze as starting point. It's tempting to start an agile implementation project or an agile scaling project (outside-in) as quick fix for the occasion, albeit not in your best interest when you aim for true intrinsic agility instead of superficial agility.

Even though its tempting, I encourage you to be wise and to make real change from the inside-out to gain agility!

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