What Keeps You Up At Night?
Vol.4 Issue 2
Guy in bed with insomnia and clock reading 2:50am.

If you’re a leader in the Enterprise Services Center (ESC), maybe the late-night nagging questions are, “What risks and challenges are my teams not telling me? Will the latest federal financial system changes be delivered to our customer, on time and correctly? How are we innovating as a service and technology organization? How do my managers and I find the time to engage as many employees as possible, in authentic, consistent and meaningful ways that ultimately produce value to customers?”

Now that ESC is well into its second year of implementing the Scaled Agile Framework® for the Enterprise (SAFe®), these troubling and stressful questions are being resolved. Everyone is rethinking how ESC delivers value to customers, while planning and working together as a team. Through the Agile transformation, staff are changing their mindset, changing the organization and ultimately, changing the culture.

The new mindset is: create an environment where facts are always friendly and all planned work is transparent. The most efficient and effective method of conveying information is face-to-face conversations. Scaled Agile takes face-to-face conversation to the next level via Program Increment (PI) planning. The cadence for PI planning is every 12 weeks.

PI Planning session with trains (teams) in the basement of the Multipurpose Building (MPB)

Key to making this Agile transformation is training and education. Nearly 1000 staff members (85% of personnel) have participated in, at least, initial training. The desire for a robust transformation prompted ESC to employ an Enterprise Learner Subscription (ELS) agreement to deliver role-based training to staff at lower costs, and in a just-in-time fashion. Team members’ roles may change over time, and therefore new role-specific training is necessary. Each staff member may test at the completion of a course for an industry-recognized credential. Course updates and credential renewals are included in the ELS; this helps drive a culture of continuous learning. ESC has 36 classes slated for 2018, with courses designed for Agile leaders, managers, and practitioners. Both PI planning sessions and training are facilitated by a team of Federal and contract Agile coaches, credentialed at the highest level in Scaled Agile, SAFe® Program Consultant (SPC4).

ESC senior leaders review team work. (L-R) Brian Hampton, IT Operations, Rodney Sloan, IT Division Deputy Manager, Heather Scott, Accounting, and Donna Wallace, IT Software Engineering and Solutions

The Agile office space in the basement of the Multipurpose Building (MPB) is the one-stop-shop for all PI planning activities which enable cross-team and cross-train collaboration of planning and reporting. Twice-weekly during the 12 weeks, the team of teams, or Agile Release Train (ART), meet in short focused conversations with a specific agenda to answer the questions: what was accomplished, what’s in work, what’s planned, what are the challenges or risks? These meetings are stand-up, timeboxed and facilitated – they rarely exceed 30 minutes. ESC senior leadership and managers routinely attend these ART Sync-up meetings.

ESC now has 100% participation in the Agile transformation. The kick-off of the planning sessions are held in the Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center (MMAC) Headquarters Auditorium with live streaming to all ESC locations and the entire PI planning session is broadcast in real time via webcam for stakeholders who are not able to participate on location. The MMAC kick-off is archived on YouTube https://youtu.be/rplylIlaGMc for staff who were unavailable for duty on that day. In January 2018, three ARTs, with 24 teams and over 250 team members, wrapped up a 12-week Program Increment by conducting an Inspect and Adapt (I&A) workshop. The I&A is an innovation event held at the end of each Program Increment. It consists of system demonstrations, business value assessments, problem solving workshops, and retrospective to review lessons learned and best practices. This team engagement is key to driving relentless organizational improvement.

Full transparency of work posted on the Big Visible Information Radiator (BVIR) board for 24 teams on three ARTs

As of February 2018, the sixth PI planning session was conducted by launching four ARTs. This included forty-four (44) teams, over 750 team members, which included the entire Enterprise Business Office shared services, Media Solutions, and the FAA National Wireless Program, as well as information technology (IT) infrastructure shared services - making all the teams’ work visible, as a contribution to an overall stream of value for the customer.

At the heart of the transformation is what is called the Lean-Agile Mindset – the combination of beliefs, assumptions, and actions which the scaled agile leaders and team members use to create the value for customers.

The Lean-Agile Mindset is straightforward: the ultimate responsibility for the adoption, success, and ongoing improvement lies with an organization’s managers, leaders, and executives. Only they can change and continuously improve the systems in which everyone operates. Therefore, leaders must be trained in—and become trainers of—these leaner ways of thinking and operating. As Ed Deming was often quoted, “such a responsibility cannot be delegated.” Many need to offer a new style of leadership, one that genuinely teaches, empowers, and engages individuals and teams to reach their highest potential.

Enterprise Services Center
Federal Aviation Aministration (FAA) seal