Why CAS-Scaling 1 Is Not a Framework

What exactly is "framework agnostic" and why does it matter?
A photo montage showing people's faces on a video conference with the main speaker breaking free from a framework

You may be quite familiar with different scaling frameworks on the market. Scrum Alliance's scaling course is framework-agnostic, meaning the course material explores various aspects of scaling without prescribing a certain framework. Certified Agile Skills - Scaling 1 (CAS-S1) provides relevant and practical skills and knowledge for agilists and changemakers in all industries, working in companies of all sizes, who want to achieve agility that is right for their organization's context.

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CAS-S1 Is a Principle-Informed, Framework-Agnostic Course: Here's Why

In the world of business transformation, buzzwords like "agility" often sweep through organizations, promising swift adaptability and improved outcomes. Organizations often turn to frameworks like SAFe, Spotify, Scrum@Scale, etc., as a structured solution to scale these agile practices across different departments. These frameworks provide a set of steps and guidelines, aiming to systematically implement agility at a larger scale. 

Yet, as we delve into the art of becoming agile, we must remember that a one-size-fits-all model rarely yields the desired results. Why? Let’s explore using principles and patterns to guide our approach to scaling agility within our specific organizational context.

Context Is King: The Limitations of Set Frameworks

Every organization is a unique tapestry woven from its history, values, culture, and market positioning. However, off-the-shelf frameworks tend to generalize these intricacies, which can inadvertently create misalignment and foster anti-patterns. Principles and practices are, believe it or not, profoundly contextual. While a framework might lead to some improvement for a tech giant, it might stagnate or even hinder a small-to-midsize enterprise with different dynamics.

Moreover, adopting a rigid framework might clash with an organization’s inherent values and culture. Instead of promoting agility, this incongruence can lead to resistance, misunderstandings, and a perceived threat to the organization’s identity. Principles and agile patterns, on the other hand, are typically flexible enough to work with the unique values and context of your organization.

The Danger of Scaling Without Context

Jumping straight into scaling without taking into account the unique nuances of your organization is akin to building a house on unstable ground. Without a solid foundation, even the most well-intended transformations can crumble. It’s paramount to caution against scaling without the appropriate context. Instead, the journey towards agility should be crafted, not copied.

In Certified Agile Skills - Scaling 1, instructors will explore the importance of taking an evolving approach to scaling, and also how to identify principle-informed patterns that are coherent for the organization's context. Not only will this equip the learner with the skillset to identify appropriate patterns, but the course also defines what is and is not scaling, when scaling may not be the right solution for an organization, and introduces the concept of "scaffolding" structures to aid in supporting the organization further through their journey.

The Power of Principle-Informed, Patterns-Based Scaling

Agile principles and patterns can inform how you grow your business. Cutting out wasteful steps in a process, for example, is an agile principle that can be adapted to your organization at any point in the journey to grow, innovate, and be first to market.

When one prominent tech leader aimed to innovate faster, they didn’t just increase processes; they eliminated those that didn’t add value. By doing so, they achieved a leaner, more efficient organization. You don’t want to automate or add rocket fuel to broken processes. The emphasis here is to stay lightweight, so you don’t add baggage that makes the organization less flexible.

Consider Toyota, as explored in the book “The Toyota Way” by Jeffrey K. Liker. Toyota’s legendary lean manufacturing is not just a set framework but a continuous evolution of patterns and principles, tailored to the organization’s changing needs. The company focuses on eliminating waste and optimizing efficiency, emphasizing the importance of understanding problems thoroughly before implementing solutions. This principle-based approach fosters a culture of continuous improvement and adaptability, contributing significantly to Toyota’s success.

Or consider the story of Zara, the fashion retailer, from “The Power of Resilience” by Yossi Sheffi. Rather than following set patterns, Zara has an adaptive supply chain model that is responsive to real-time data. Their agile approach to manufacturing allows them to introduce new designs to the market within weeks, defying the conventional wisdom of the fashion industry.

Now, understandably, you’re not Toyota or Zara or “insert brand name here”—which is the point. You must custom-tailor your scaling needs to fit your context, not apply a framework like a copy/paste job.

Embracing New Techniques: A Principles-First Approach

Rather than diving headfirst into a specific framework, it’s worth considering some increasingly popular scaling techniques that offer flexibility:

  • Principle-Informed: This approach focuses on understanding the underlying principles that drive agile approaches. By focusing on these principles, organizations can shape practices that align closely with their values and business context.
  • Patterns-Based: Rather than strictly adhering to a single framework, organizations can observe patterns within successful agile structures and adapt them to fit their specific needs.
  • Scaffolding: Think of this as building support for your organization’s transformation. It’s about constructing a temporary structure that aids the evolution, which will be modified or removed as the organization matures in its agile journey.
  • Using Agile to Become Agile: Meta, isn’t it? Instead of enforcing agility, use agile principles like iteration, feedback, and adaptation to guide your transformation. This means starting small, gathering feedback, and then iterating on your processes, just as you would with any agile team.

Crafting Your Own Agile Odyssey

While the allure of established frameworks can be tempting, remember that every organization’s journey to agility is personal. By focusing on first principles, understanding your unique context, and exploring patterns in context, you can ensure that your path to agility is both genuine and effective. After all, agility is about adaptability, and what better way to showcase that than by crafting an approach tailored specifically to your organization?

Why This Agile Scaling Course May Be Right for You

Led by experienced instructors, the Certified Agile Skills-Scaling 1 course is designed for managers, leads, and anyone at any organization who is involved in or considering an approach to scaling. In the course, you'll unlock the principles and patterns to sustainably and successfully scale in your context. Search for a CAS-S1 class and get started on the path to right-sized agility for your organization.

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