Social Good14

Evolving from Waterfall to Agile Strategic Planning in a Social Services Agency

Dan Montgomery

February 23, 2017


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"Classic" agile implementations have generally been limited to technical product development groups. How much of “agile” can be transplanted into strategic planning and project management in a service environment with little project management expertise?

Five Acres is a 128 year old social services agency in Southern California. Over the past year, we embarked on a 4-year strategy refresh. The 2012 plan, also facilitated by Dan, had used a classic balanced scorecard framework. While the process engaged a number of employees up front, it resulted in too many performance measures, too many initiatives, and lack of ongoing participation by non-executive employees. The 2016 approach was a radical departure. We created only five agency-wide objectives (compared to 9 in the 2012 strategy) using the OKR (Objectives and Key Results) framework widely practiced in Silicon Valley. We then invited each of 16 teams to develop 1-3 of their own, based on a collaborative process within the team - rather than a top down cascade of goals. At the same time, we created an agile project management structure to ensure that project priorities are reviewed and rebalanced once a month in the light of emerging information. Rather than a static, top down plan, we’ve achieved a much higher level of ongoing engagement throughout the organization.

About Dan

Dan MontgomeryDan is Founder and Managing Director of Agile Strategies. He has come to the world of agile with a diverse background in IT management, human resources, strategic planning, executive and team coaching, and performance measurement. His industry experience includes health care, technology, human services, higher education, natural products, utilities, government, financial services, social entrepreneurship, and construction. This diversity of perspective informs a holistic point of view on how culture, leadership, and work process impact customer value and financial performance.

He is an accomplished trainer and facilitator, and has led strategy courses in a number of locations in the U.S., Canada, and in the Middle East, and led the development of strategic plans for dozens of clients.

Prior to founding Agile Strategies, Dan was Vice President of Professional Services for the Balanced Scorecard Institute and led the company’s consulting practice. He is co-author of The Institute Way: Simplify Strategic Planning and Management with the Balanced Scorecard (The Institute Press, Cary, NC, 2013). His previous professional consulting experience includes work with Accenture and Ernst & Young, as well as management positions in financial services, health care, and technology. Dan has an MBA from the University of Colorado, as well as a Masters in Psychology from Naropa University.

Dan and his wife Beth live in Boulder, Colorado, a center of business innovation and healthy lifestyles.

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