Our Agility Journey

Call To Agility — Apr 2023

From a client need into a culture 


Agility – The Cambridge Dictionary has 3 definitions for it, among them “the ability to move your body quickly and easily” or “the ability to think quickly and clearly”. The third definition is more modern, “ways of planning and doing work in which it is understood that making changes as they are needed is an important part of the job”.

How it started - Our response to our clients

Does that last definition sound familiar? Nowadays we might be familiar with Agile and its implementation in our Delivery teams, with Scrum, SAFe, Kanban, or our own Celfocus Agility Flow (CAF), but it wasn’t always like this.

Celfocus has been committed to meeting the needs of its clients since its inception. Up until a point, it was exclusively projects using Waterfall, but as our clients started looking for new ways of working, so did we.

Our first experience in this subject was a project for Vodafone Ireland, seven years ago, where they asked Celfocus for a team working in a more Agile[PA1] [LRdO2] way – even if at this stage the contract was still turn-key. Since it was something new to us, we rolled our sleeves and rose to the challenge of learning and mastering the subject. How? By trying.

First things first - Creating a common language

And by trying we defined our ways of working. Heavily inspired by the Scrum Framework we coined our own Celfocus Agility Flow, our system of learning for working in an Agile way. It has since then been used by a great number [PA3] [LRdO4] of squads throughout the years, proving that working in Agile gives our customers value on the projects that they are looking for.

But CAF is but a small part of what working in Agile is. As with any knowledge domain, there is much to learn – and to share, stories and experiences makes us all grow.  We started giving training on Agile topics, creating Learning Paths for our new roles, Scrum Masters, Product Owners, and Value Specialists.

All this common language has not been static – if Agile is based on Inspect & Adapt, all of us Agile Practitioners should be the first to evolve our procedures and ways of working, both inside the team and as an organization. And in that regard, CAF has grown and been rewritten, Learning Paths gained new trainings, and other practices were tried and made standard.

Creating Routines

1. Liftoff

One practice we now do with our new Agile teams is the Liftoff. All projects go through a Setup phase where all the last details and alignments are made before the team starts working. It is in this moment we get everyone that works on the project together, from both the client and Celfocus, and create a shared understanding of how they are going to work.

Each project, each client, and each team has their own particular conditions and context. Based on that, we’ve created a set of workshop exercises meant to get the team on the same page regarding how they want to work together – things like common Definitions of Ready and Done,  Team Values and Agreements, a knowledge and vision of the Product Roadmap, or of their flow of work. All of these little pieces will make their first iteration (and all those after) go more fluidly and with fewer bumps on the road.

2. 1:1 Coaching

We need however to sustain this first step, to make sure the teams don’t lose their way and focus on working collaboratively in continuous value delivery. For that, we also implemented some practices to sustain a continuous support of these teams.

For example, Coaching. 1:1 Coaching with our Agile Practitioners (Scrum Masters, Product Owners, and Value Specialists) is something we do with all of the teams that get launched with the forementioned Liftoff. In these sessions, our Practitioner have a chance to validate their biased and seek guidance on how they support their teams.

This guidance is sometimes manifested in more practices, tools, and knowledge bases – with more CAF content or more trainings. Other times some personalized Workshops are built to work with a team on a specific topic.

3. Community

Different perspectives, different contexts, but sometimes the same solutions – so why not share this knowledge? When a lot of people in an organization share the same passion and interest in a topic, the best way to encourage it is by creating a Community of Practice. And so, we did a Community on all things, Agile, DevOps, Facilitation and Coaching, open to all independently of the role, where experiences can be shared and knowledge can be transferred.

And on this same thread, another practice we always like to foster is to create Mentor relationships – have our more senior Practitioners take on their wing the new people who could use some on-the-field guidance, like having people attending each other Agile Events and learning by other teams' experience.

An agile organization

On all of these topics and practices, our focus has been on the teams. What about the whole organization? Can we expand Agile to other levels?

We asked ourselves that question, and so we did – we started working with areas of the organization that were not client-focused, like Leverages, and helping them use Agile values and principles in their daily work.

Eventually, we also got to the company Strategy, helping our leaders use these same values and principles, through some practices like OKRs and our own playbook of Strategic Agile Routines – CAF’s “sibling”, focused on routines toward thinking and executing strategy.

The team

But who are we in all this story? Who has been supporting and guiding this journey?

Many people have contributed to the evolution of Agility in Celfocus. The team has had a couple of names from Agile & DevOps Enablement to Agility Lab.

In our current organization, this stewardship will carry on, on two sides of the same Agility coin: the Agility Guild will support our Agile Practitioners and squads in delivering better value to our customers, while the Enterprise Agility Hub will take ownership of supporting the organization in our internal Agility evolution in all levels.

This is but another step in a never-ending journey of going further, being better, and establishing ourselves as a reference of Agile project delivery.