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Enterprise Agility For Dummies®

To view this book's Cheat Sheet, simply go to and search for “Enterprise Agility For Dummies Cheat Sheet” in the Search box.


To survive and thrive in a fast-moving economy, enterprises must work to improve their agility; they need to be able to pivot quickly to respond to new technologies, emerging opportunities and threats, and ever-evolving customer demands. However, many organizations are built more like cruise ships than jet skis. They’re designed to command and control, making decisions at the top and passing them along the chain of command to the employees who do the work. Even when these organizations manage to change direction, they’re either too late to market or too far off course to stay ahead of the competition.

An agile enterprise is lean and nimble. Product developers collaborate closely with the organization’s leaders and management and with customers to optimize value. Decision-making is distributed throughout the organization, and employees are encouraged to take the initiative, experiment and innovate, and continuously learn and improve. Agile organizations ride the waves of change instead of being tossed and turned by external factors beyond their control.

However, a large-scale agile transformation is no small feat, especially when it develops complex products that traditionally involve a great deal of up-front planning. How do you transform a large organization with deeply entrenched functional areas into a collection of small, closely aligned teams without sinking the ship? In this book, I answer that question.

About This Book

Over the past ten years, I’ve helped a number of large organizations become agile enterprises. Most organizations that succeed follow the same three-step approach:

  1. Review the top enterprise agile frameworks.
  2. Identify the organization’s existing culture.
  3. Create and execute a strategy for making big changes.

Those that fail never do so from a lack of trying. They fail from doing agile instead being agile. They create teams that do everything agile teams are supposed to do, but they continue to function as they always did — making decisions at the top, issuing commands, and expecting employees to follow orders. They just don’t try to change their mindset. As a result, they fall short of creating a culture of mutual trust and respect in which employees and customers collaborate closely to deliver innovative products. These organizations look like agile enterprises, but they never reap the full benefits of agility.

In this book, I take a three-pronged approach to transforming organizations into agile enterprises so they can both be agile and do agile:

Foolish Assumptions

A key component of enterprise agility is empirical process control. As such, its practitioners frown upon making detailed plans. Instead, teams are encouraged to “think, build, release, and tweak,” through empirical, data-driven decisions. However, because I don’t know you personally (although you seem nice), I had to make several assumptions about you when writing this book:

Icons Used in This Book

Throughout this book, icons in the margins highlight different types of information that call out for your attention. Here are the icons you’ll see and a brief description of each.

remember I want you to remember everything you read in this book, but if you can’t quite do that, then remember the important points flagged with this icon.

technicalstuff Throughout this book, I stick to the bare essentials — what you need to know to conduct a successful enterprise agile transformation. If I dig any deeper into a topic, I warn you with this icon. If you’re looking for an in-depth discussion, dig in; otherwise, you can safely skip ahead.

tip Tips provide insider insight. When you’re looking for a better, faster way to do something, check out these tips.

warning “Whoa!” Although enterprise agility encourages learning through experimentation and failure, learning without the failure is always preferred. When you see the warning icon, proceed with caution. I’ve seen many organizations make critical mistakes that have slowed or derailed their attempts at becoming more agile. Learn from their mistakes.

casestudy Throughout this book, you’ll find plenty of real-life case studies that provide valuable insight into enterprise agile transformations (successes and failures), so if you’re the type of person who commonly skips sidebars, I strongly encourage you to break that nasty habit — at least for this book.

Beyond the Book

In addition to the abundance of information and guidance on enterprise agility that I provide in this book, you get access to even more help and information online at There you can find a free, access-anywhere Cheat Sheet that gives you even more pointers on how to embark on an enterprise agile transformation. To get this Cheat Sheet, simply go to and search for “Enterprise Agility For Dummies Cheat Sheet” in the Search box.

Where to Go from Here

You’re certainly welcome to read this book from cover to cover, but I wrote it in a way that facilitates skipping around. If you’re new to agile, I recommend you read Chapters 1 and 2 to get up to speed on the topic. Chapter 3 is also essential reading, but you could hold off on reading Chapter 3 until you review the different enterprise agile frameworks in Part 2. Chapter 3 provides a conceptual understanding of enterprise agility that highlights common themes among all the frameworks.

In Part 2, I cover the top enterprise agile frameworks, so feel free to skip around in that part — the chapters aren’t sequential. I describe each of the frameworks, so you can make a well-informed choice of which framework to start with.

When you’re ready to embark on your enterprise agile transformation, turn to Part 3. In this part, the chapters are sequential, so read Chapters 9, 10, and 11 in that order. Chapter 11 is most important, because it outlines a specific ten-step process for transforming your organization into an agile enterprise.

With enterprise agility, failing is okay, as long as you learn from it and persevere. The danger is that failing often leads to discouragement. When an agile transformation doesn’t meet expectations, organizations often conclude that greater agility isn’t the right solution and they give up. In nearly all cases, improving agility is the right solution — it’s the transformation process that fails. Approach enterprise agility with the conviction that it’s the right solution as long as everyone in your organization adopts an agile mindset. If you’re struggling to overcome obstacles, look for and address issues in the transformation process, which can almost always be traced back to pockets of resistance in the organization — people who haven’t accepted the agile mindset.

Part 1

Getting Started with Enterprise Agility


Get up to speed on what’s involved in making your organization an agile enterprise and begin to appreciate the crucial role that culture plays in any enterprise agile transformation.

Explore the key differences between agile at the team level, enterprise agility, and business agility, and recognize the importance of starting on a smaller scale.

Start to gauge just how receptive or resistant your organization will be to the big changes you’re about to implement.

Take a quick look at the 1-2-3 process of transitioning your organization’s product delivery to enterprise agility, and start thinking about the approach you will take to transform your organization.

Brush up on agile basics at the team level, so you have a fundamental understanding of various agile frameworks, such as Scrum, Extreme Programming, Lean Software Development, and Kanban.

Get to know the principles that drive agile product development and the common practices many agile teams use in the product delivery process.

Understand the challenges you’re likely to face as you scale agile to develop and deliver enterprise-level products, and start thinking about ways to meet these challenges.

Chapter 1

Taking It All In: The Big Picture


check Getting up to speed on the agile mindset

check Defining enterprise agility

check Distinguishing enterprise agility from business agility

check Transforming your organization with the 1-2-3 approach

When you’re getting ready to tackle a complex topic, such as enterprise agility, having a general understanding of the topic and what it entails is a great place to start. In this chapter, I give you that eye-in-the-sky view of enterprise agility. Here you develop a general understanding of agile and enterprise agility and the key distinction between the two. You discover how to build an agile enterprise without making the common mistake of trying merely to scale up agile frameworks to your entire organization. And I introduce you to some commonly used agile frameworks that I cover in greater detail in Part 2.