CA champagne blog series (#3): Forming new habits

Creating new organizational habits is key to success in an agile transformation

In the third of our series of blogs about the CA Technologies agile transformation, Sairam Chamarti, Sri Parthasarathy, Skip Angel and Christine Hudson talk about the importance of practicing new habits, new behaviors, and a new culture.

Ever tried to create a new habit by just thinking or talking about it? Nope, us neither. Seems a bit silly, right?

In this blog we delve more deeply into a couple of the critical, specific practices we adopted as a part of our agile transformation. Why? We learn by doing. We create new habits, new behaviors, and ultimately, a new culture through… that’s right. Practice.

To quick recap, our first post was an overview of how we’re investing in our people, practices and technology to move CA toward business agility. In the second post we shared how we’re creating the safety needed for our employees to make the necessary changes. So now it’s time to look at how to develop habits needed in an agile business and that reinforce a agile-lean mindset.

Practices for Developing Agile-Lean Mindsets and Habits

Within each of our lines of business, we’re implementing what we call Big Room Planning: a forward-looking working session where a large group of people comes together to align, focus, and decide on a plan for their shared work. Within Big Room Planning, there are two critical practices:

  1. Quarterly Business Steering to help the leaders in our operational value streams practice new behaviors that give clarity and alignment in our strategy, and help us all focus our work
  2. SAFe PI Planning for each development value stream, to help everyone creating our products, services, and delivering our internal IT projects make sure that risks and dependencies are visible early, and that we deliver rapidly, with high quality, at a pace our people can sustain

 

To help give a better visual of what that means in practice, let’s define what we mean by value streams. An operational value stream for a line of business includes the steps taken to provide solutions, goods or services to customers. It typically includes almost every function in the company or line of business, e.g., marketing, sales, services, legal and procurement.

Within an operational value stream, there are one or more development value streams.  Development value streams include the functions needed to develop and deliver products, systems, IT functionality, or other services. Roles within development value streams typically include product management, development, release management and SaaS or IT operations.

Here’s a simple example: Our Agile Management line of business is an operational value stream. Its goals are to help our customers redefine how work is planned, executed and serviced –to deliver value, more quickly.

Within Agile Management, we have three development value streams – one for Project Portfolio Management-related product development (CA PPM), one for Agile Software Development (CA Agile Central) and services , and one for CA IT Service Management (CA ITSM) related product development.

Now, you have an idea of why we’re adopting these practices, and who is involved in each of these practices, let’s dig a little bit more into the mechanics of the “what and how”:

Practicing the Practices

Quarterly Business Steering: an operational value stream practice

Quarterly Business Steering is a lean-agile strategy deployment practice where leaders at multiple levels from each function within the operational value stream come together in person to participate in a facilitated, 1-2 day working session. The goal? Evaluate our strategy from multiple perspectives. Raise risks. Evaluate dependencies. Improve the strategy.

Attendees include everyone from marketing, development, sales, services, customer support and operations teams – and even customers!

Of course, this sort of large, critical, expensive event doesn’t just happen. Before every quarterly business steering session, operational value stream leaders define and clearly articulate a proposed updated line of business strategy (usually through a facilitated day of their own).

Along with that, line of business strategies are matched up against corporate-level strategic goals that direct the entire company in strategy grids so we know which strategies the lines of business will be able to support and how… along with which strategies that don’t make sense to support right now, either due to other work being more critical, or just a lack of applicability.

What does Quarterly Business Steering feel like?

To get a feel for what it might like to participate in the larger quarterly business steering day, let’s take you through a typical agenda.

First we set context for everyone in the room with in-person updates from the leaders of the marketing, sales, finance etc.  This part is critical because people in the room work in different functional groups. This is the part of the day that is most like quarterly business review sessions that most leaders are familiar with. But then we get to the fun parts.

The majority of the day consists of facilitated working sessions, to collaboratively identify where problems and bright spots exist within current business context and proposed strategies.  Why is this fun? Well, when was the last time your leaders got to come out of their silos and work on root cause analysis, and creating solutions… together?

We close the day by asking the whole room to provide a confidence vote on the plan: With a quick glance, we can tell if there is alignment or not.

Once our operational value stream leaders are aligned and focused on a strategic direction, we can leverage that information to inform our products direction and work.

SAFe PI Planning: development value stream practices

Here at CA Technologies, we leverage the Scaled Agile framework (SAFe) and SAFe PI Planning (another form of Big Room Planning) as the cornerstone practice for our development value streams.

There are a ton of great resources on PI Planning available on the Scaled Agile website and in our blogs. Here are three:

  1. Detailed information and instructions on how to hold PI Planning from Scaled Agile: http://www.scaledagileframework.com/pi-planning/
  2. Especially critical: Getting your shared backlog ready for PI planning: https://www.ca.com/en/blog-highlight/get-backlog-ready-pi-planning.html
  3. CA Big Room Planning Practices in action this video: https://www.ca.com/us/collateral/videos/big-room-planning-in-action-harnessing-the-power-of-agile-at-scale.html

 

Our business units have (almost) all begun practicing these new critical practices, together… to create new organizational habits, a new organizational culture.  We’re proud of our people and our teams for how every day they get up and practice, together. Tune in next time as we talk about the tools, technology and products we use to support our people in these new practices.


Sairam has been with CA Technologies since December 2003. He is currently a Site Coach…

Comments

  • Subbu Venkataraman

    While we have been practicing these for the past 1.5 years, I had not viewed this as a habit. But come to think of it, yes, it is a habit and a good one at that, to help the whole value stream be agile. thanks..

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