DANCING ON A CLOUD: A Framework for Increasing Business Agility


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But for those organizations that wish to drive the pace of change in their market, an investment in Optimizing fluency is worth consideration. Where Optimizing teams have the ability to understand and fulfill the needs of their market, Strengthening teams also play a larger role in their organization.

Strengthening: The team understands its role in the larger organizational system and actively works to make that system more successful. Strengthening teams contribute to their organization in three ways. First, they understand how they are part of a larger system. They actively work to make that strategy more successful. Second, they intentionally spread expertise in the organization.

They look for opportunities to contribute their skills to other teams, and they seek opportunities to learn from other teams. Third, the organization distributes directional decisions amongst teams. We see glimmers of Strengthening approaches in organizations around the world.

We also see cutting-edge techniques such as team self-selection and Open Space strategy meetings gaining traction in leading agile teams. That said, this zone is speculative. This zone is most appropriate for organizations whose leaders want to be on the cutting edge of management theory and practice. It requires working at the leading edge of organizational theory and inventing new ways of applying it to agile teams. If this zone is for you, research complexity theories, such as Cynefin and Human Systems Dynamics, and new ideas in organization design, including alternative governance structures such as Open Space Agility, Sociocracy, and Holocracy.

Just as a fluent Delivering team will have some proficiency in Optimizing techniques, you can benefit from Strengthening techniques. Both are well worth piloting. For most organizations, Strengthening fluency is probably best left as an idea to watch from afar, at least until Optimizing fluency is within reach. However, for smaller organizations that already emphasize Lean principles and systems thinking, who are predisposed to distribute decision-making to teams, and who value visionary approaches and innovative processes, the Strengthening zone offers a bold challenge and an intriguing puzzle.

You can apply the model in three ways: First, use it to see what kind of agile investments your organization needs to make. Insufficient investment not only leads to slow progress, it creates lasting cynicism and resentment. Use the model to make sure your expectations and investments are aligned. Conduct a diagnostic to discover which proficiencies teams are having difficulty with, then provide training and support.

If multiple teams are having trouble with the same proficiencies, the problem is probably systemic, so look into organizational changes. Finally, the model is a useful way to align conversations about agile approaches. Discussions about agile ideas can easily get bogged down with arguments about specific methods, tools, and practices. The Agile Fluency Model diagram is available for you to adapt for your presentations. You can also share this article to create conversations about team proficiencies and organizational needs. For derivative works, such as republishing the lists of proficiencies, contact us for permission.

If you need help applying the model or diagnosing fluency challenges, the Agile Fluency Project has contacts and additional resources. Visit agilefluency.

The State of Cloud Adoption

Each zone is characterized by unique benefits and distinct challenges to adoption. The first zone, Focusing , requires a team to learn to work together to focus on creating business value rather than merely finishing technical tasks. This zone reflects agile fundamentals. The second zone, Delivering , requires a team to invest in learning a wide array of software development skills.


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This zone reflects agile sustainability. The third zone, Optimizing , represents the promise of agile: a team that dances and turns in response to changing market conditions, and collectively takes responsibility for building the best product your investment can buy. Strengthening teams collaborate with other teams to improve their whole organization. Reaching this zone requires innovative thinking and a willingness to experiment.

All of these zones provide benefits, and every one is the right zone for some teams.

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Use the model to inspire conversations about which zones your organization wishes to support. Teams need time to develop their proficiencies. Practice as many proficiencies as you can from the beginning. Be aware that organizational context can prevent fluency. Keep an eye out for systemic issues impacting multiple teams in the same way. This is usually a sign that an organizational change needs to be made.


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May you and your teams achieve ever greater fluency, and ever greater success. ThoughtWorks Insights Careers Products. James Shore James Shore teaches, writes, and consults on Agile development processes. Diana Larsen Diana Larsen partners with clients to design work systems, improve team performance, and support more effective leader behaviors.

Each zone brings specific benefits: Focusing teams produce business value. Delivering teams deliver on the market cadence. Optimizing teams lead their market. Strengthening teams make their organizations stronger. Achievement Increase Productivity: The team regularly reflects upon, tunes, and adjusts its work habits to provide more value. Increase ROI: The team focuses their work on the priority that they are told is most important to the business. Increase ROI: The team makes incremental progress on business priorities every month.

Alignment Increase Productivity: Collaborative communication reduces misunderstandings and hand-off delays among team members. Zone Proficiencies Respond to Business Needs The team works with a business representative who provides the team with the business's perspective and expectations. The team plans its work, and shows progress, in chunks that their business representative understands and values. Management enables the team to work at a pace that allows them to respond to business needs indefinitely.

Work Effectively as a Team The team generates their own day-to-day tasks and plan based on their business representative's needs. Team members share accountability for getting their plan done.

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Pursue Team Greatness The team embraces, and continuously improves, a joint approach to their work. The team is aware of how team member relationships affect their ability to succeed and proactively attempts to improve them. The team is aware of how their work environment affects their ability to do work and proactively attempts to improve it. Common Organizational Investments Select team members with appropriate skills, background, and willingness to work together.

Create a productivity-focused shared workspace, strongly preferring a physical team room. If a physical team room is infeasible, provide a richly interactive virtual workspace instead, and accept that this will be less effective. Remove impediments to effective teamwork such as competitive ranking, individual rewards, and distributed teams. Coach and train team members in Focusing proficiencies.

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Train managers to create an environment that supports teamwork and how to manage the work system rather than individual contributions. Expected Benefits Transparency Core Metric: The team can release their latest work, at minimal risk and cost, whenever the business desires. Reduce Risk: Systemic flaws in your production lifecycle are revealed early. Increase Satisfaction: The team provides useful release forecasts for managers and customers as needed.


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  • Achievement Increase Productivity: The team has low defect rates, so less time is wasted fixing bugs and more time is invested in making improvements. Increase ROI: The team ships on the market cadence, capturing value as often as the market will bear.

    Alignment Increase Productivity: Low defect rates and technical debt are beneficial to job satisfaction and morale, improving retention and productivity. The team provides useful release forecast ranges to their business representative upon request.

    DANCING ON A CLOUD: A Framework for Increasing Business Agility DANCING ON A CLOUD: A Framework for Increasing Business Agility
    DANCING ON A CLOUD: A Framework for Increasing Business Agility DANCING ON A CLOUD: A Framework for Increasing Business Agility
    DANCING ON A CLOUD: A Framework for Increasing Business Agility DANCING ON A CLOUD: A Framework for Increasing Business Agility
    DANCING ON A CLOUD: A Framework for Increasing Business Agility DANCING ON A CLOUD: A Framework for Increasing Business Agility
    DANCING ON A CLOUD: A Framework for Increasing Business Agility DANCING ON A CLOUD: A Framework for Increasing Business Agility
    DANCING ON A CLOUD: A Framework for Increasing Business Agility DANCING ON A CLOUD: A Framework for Increasing Business Agility
    DANCING ON A CLOUD: A Framework for Increasing Business Agility DANCING ON A CLOUD: A Framework for Increasing Business Agility
    DANCING ON A CLOUD: A Framework for Increasing Business Agility DANCING ON A CLOUD: A Framework for Increasing Business Agility
    DANCING ON A CLOUD: A Framework for Increasing Business Agility

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