Designing Adaptive Organizations: A Manager's Guide


You’re probably a senior manager that wants to skillfully “scale” adaptive (“agile”) development to many teams, and do a widespread adoption. Why? To increase adaptiveness to easily change direction based on learning, focus more on high-value delivery, and reduce lead time.

Key point: This is not a change in practices, methods, or operating models; it’s a change in organizational design.

And since changing the org design–such as new group structures, positions, roles, incentives, and policies–is the remit of senior management, this is the group that needs to learn and lead such change. It can’t be delegated to middle management, as only senior management is empowered to make deep organizational design changes.

But there's a change problem that you are part of... If I had to boil down about 40 years of this work to a key successful change idea, it is this:

People must own — not rent — change and org design ideas.

And to really own the change implications with insight — versus following fads or the advice of a consulting company — senior managers benefit from doing the reasoning and learning themselves, to be able to lead from insight.


In this intensive 4-hour workshop you will work through multiple org design problems in small teams of 5, with guidance and feedback from the coach, Craig Larman, who has decades of experience in this field, and is the co-creator of LeSS, a framework for simplifying large product development organizations to be adaptive.

What will you Learn?

  • organizational design implications of changing to large-scale adaptive development
  • adoption implications
  • what it means to descale (simplify and flatten) a large organization and why that’s important before trying to scale Scrum or similar approaches
  • systems thinking

Who Should Participate?

Since org design change for large-scale adaptive development involves broad and deep changes including group structures, positions, career paths, and financial and HR policies, it needs to include senior managers from at least the following areas:

  • Head of Development (Head of R&D, CIO)
  • Head of Product Management and/or the “business side” group that drives product requests, priorities, & vision
    • Note! Adaptive development is a change in the collaboration model between Development & “Business”; senior participants from both groups need to participate in this workshop.
  • Head of Finance (CFO, etc)
  • Head of HR/People
  • Possibly CEO and COO if they are, or want to be, involved in their organization design

Why is this the recommended mix? Because especially at scale, collaborative interaction of people from the above list is critical for a systemic change, representing all major elements in org design, especially involving structure aspects, as indicated in the Galbraith Model:

Maximum 30 people.


Participants need to read/listen to about four hours of preparatory material.

This is important.

  1. HBR: Six Myths of Product Development

  1. The following chapters from the book The Fifth Discipline. This book comes from researchers at the MIT Sloan School of Management, was named one of the seminal management books of the last 75 years by the Harvard Business Review, and has been one of the best-selling (multi-million) and most influential management books of all time, for good reasons. It's available in p-book, e-book, and audio formats.
    1. Give Me a Lever Long Enough
    2. Does Your Organization Have a Learning Disability?
    3. Prisoners of the System, or Prisoners of our own Thinking?
    4. The Laws of the Fifth Discipline
    5. Mental Models