Flight Levels and Business Agility

Many organizations are struggling to tackle Agile transformation in search of Business Agility. We were good to go: The plan was clear, well designed, and endorsed by management. Teams are now called Squads. Better yet, the IT Squad actually managed to implement the  Agile framework or method somewhat successfully.

However, as the months go by, results are not showing as expected, creating pressure and discomfort among teams and management. 

This scenario is unfortunately commonplace across organizations worldwide. It reveals a series of problems and mistakes that are often misunderstood by organizations, which end up blaming the method.

It gets worse: Failure trauma may even lead those companies to revert to their previous working ways, giving up on transformation altogether. In other cases, organizations choose to ignore all the problems. They state that “we have agile teams” and take it as the final step of the transformation process. Of course, the results for the organization’s business are nothing but marginal.

This type of problem is frequently caused by focusing too much on local optimization. In other words, this means seeing a team as if it were an island or promoting team improvement in isolation from the rest of the organization, often unintentionally.

Teams promote their local optimizations without looking at the organizational system as a whole. In such cases, organizational systems arise, that is, the relationship and dependence between the parts of this organization.

Consider a scenario in which one team builds, a second team validates, a third team documents, and a fourth team delivers. Even if all of these teams are agile, system improvement will not necessarily occur if the teams look only at their own internal processes, ignoring the flow of the value chain as a whole and the dependencies and relationships between them.

Here’s where the Flight Levels come in. It is a model for thinking about the organization’s communication and alignment. Its goal is to get the right team to develop the right product at the right time, promoting improvements at different levels of the organization, and generating real optimization in the value stream. 

Flight Levels and Business Agility

The Flight Levels model is comprised of three flight levels, as described below:

The Flight Levels model is comprised of three flight levels

Flight Level 1

The lowest Flight Level, focusing on operation and highlighting product and/or services development teams. Squads at level 1 carry out four fundamental activities: visualize their work, limit WIP, seek and integrate feedback routinely, and promote identified local improvements.

Flight Level 2

It is a higher flight level that contemplates coordination among parts of the organization. The focus at this level is collaboration, communication, and coordination between different steps of the value chain, end to end. The same four activities performed in level 1 carry on into level 2, maintaining communication between the two levels. At this level, portfolio management appears. Also, this is where we identify and address dependencies between teams, thus generating visibility and drawing attention to bottlenecks and synchrony.

Flight Level 3

The highest flight level focuses on the alignment between prioritizing different initiatives (projects and products) and steering the organization’s strategy. Here, strategic management connects to the operation. At this Flight Level, the C-Level also becomes Agile. Monitoring of the strategic objectives’ progress also takes place.

Takeaway

The Flight Levels model focuses on continued optimization of the value chain instead of local team improvements. For this purpose, it is vital to understand the organizational context and design a proper Flight Levels architecture. This will allow better end-to-end flow visualization and management, thus enabling a better understanding of the metrics and cadences of follow-up meetings at each Flight Level.

Despite the simplicity, there are many elements to take into account. Although the involvement and commitment of management is a challenge, the use of this model of thought leads to an essential and profound cultural change. Such an achievement yields incredible medium and long-term results, which leads the company to genuinely applying the much desired Business Agility.

Check out some content on Flight Levels Activity: Visualize the situation.

Authors

Foto de Marcos Garrido
Marcos Garrido

Marcos Garrido, co-founder at Knowledge21, has more than two decades of experience in software development and product management, working full time with Agile Teams since 2008. As a guest MBA professor at the Business School of the Catholic University, he has been teaching the Agile minds...

Foto de Luiz Rodrigues
Luiz Rodrigues

Foto de Jose JR
Jose JR

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