A lot of businesses structure their agile teams around systems, brands or products. This is fine. Especially once you start following the basic rules of agile teams you can be sure of making good progress in efficiency and delivery.

However, you won’t be realising your full potential just yet. This is because you will be limited by what that system can do or what market potential that individual brand or product has. Your teams will be inadvertently limiting the potential of your business.

Don’t you want to react to changing market conditions faster? Meet your strategic goals more quickly? Be more efficient so you get maximum value for the investment you make?

You can do this and unlock maximum success by focusing your teams around your value chain.

Creating value with Agile

How does your organisation create value? What is the end to end process for this value? What is your business model? Retail? Subscription? Manufacturing?

“Agile can help you optimise your business to make it to grow”


There are probably 2 or 3 key threads through your value chain that need optimising in order for your business to grow. Agile can help you do this.

When you plan projects for the year against your budget, you are aiming to achieve a positive cumulative impact on the overall business. However by following a projects approach you are strafing across the value chain, not really providing enough of a focus in any one area to make a significant overall change. If all your projects are delivered, then you will see a positive change but it won’t be as great as it could be. And how many businesses see 100% of their projects delivered every year?

“Decide what measurable change do you want to see and set an agile team this target”


Instead, look at one of your key threads through the value chain – decide how you want this to look at the end of the year (what measurable change do you want to see) and set an agile team this target. This target has to be a simple, measurable number – i.e. an increase in conversions of 3% for xx; a reduction in headcount spent on yy menial task of 1 FTE so that that team can focus on more useful things; an increase in revenue of £zz

How big is your business? How much do you want to invest in improving this end to end? That will tell you how big your agile team is and whether you need more than one agile team focused in each area.

Then let them get on with it. They might decide to take on some work that you would normally have called a project (and leave you wondering what the point of this seemingly arbitrary change is) or they might do something completely different.

“Sit back and watch your strategic objectives materialise in front of your eyes”


Either way, it doesn’t matter – if you have the right people in place (the best people) and a good framework which means you receive regular communication on plans and progress – then you can sit back and watch your strategic objectives materialise in front of your eyes.

Planning and prioritisation

shutterstock_137910920Because your teams will always be thinking about how to achieve that strategic goal – every piece of work they decide to take on will be focused on achieving it. This makes the planning and prioritisation really easy on a macro and micro level.

Is this thing going to move us towards achieving our annual goal? It’s a fairly simple yes or no answer. If the answer is no it doesn’t get done. If the answer is yes then it goes on the backlog. If it’s a YES! then it goes to the top of the backlog.

Breaking down annual goals

This approach breaks down simply from an annual goal to quarterly objectives. What can we do now to give us the biggest step towards achieving that annual goal? Let’s do that first.

There’s no point planning more than 3 months ahead because things might change. As you get to the midpoint of the current quarter, start looking at the next quarter – what’s the next biggest step we can take? Let’s do that next.

There is less conflict in prioritisation where you end up with someone from the Apples department fighting for resource against someone from the Pears department. Instead each agile team is only looking at apples or pears and the prioritisation is much clearer.

Allowing for changes in objectives

As the year goes on, the quarterly objectives might change from what you thought they would be at the start of the year. That is fine, that is agile. As long as everyone is focused on that end goal then it’s all gravy and your business will be working towards unlocking its greatest potential.

“You can stop worrying about undelivered projects because there are no long term forward planned projects”


You can also stop worrying about undelivered projects because there are no long term forward planned projects. You can stop worrying about having to readjust alignment of your projects against your strategy – alignment is a given.

Will there be times when you just need to get on with a project like implementing a new central service that goes across the value chain? Yes. And that’s fine – but this is a decision you make as a business. Are you willing to invest in a project that doesn’t directly achieve your strategic business goals? It must have a benefit big enough to warrant it, in which case crack on and do it. But at least this is transparent from a management perspective and if you follow the rules and fix your teams, then you will continue to optimise your business model which is the most important activity.

Congratulations! You have reached agile at a strategic level and you are now reaping the rewards.


What are the benefits of working like this?

  • Prioritisation at all levels becomes much easier – is this piece of work going to go towards achieving our strategic goal?
  • Financial planning is really easy: cost of your team per annum + capital expenditure should be less than the annual goal you set the team. If so, there’s a business case! If not, back to the drawing board.
  • Financial tracking is even easier: you work in lego blocks of cost rather than % of people and recharging here there and everywhere.
  • Your whole business is aligned to your strategic goals – this alignment from top to bottom is super efficient, minimising wasteful activities and gaining you biggest bang for your bucks.
  • Culturally everyone is moving in the same direction.

See more from Storm Fagan on Agile working: