XSCALE Business Agility (XBA) Practitioner

Are shrinking margins crippling your organization’s ability to innovate?

Have new entrants into your core market(s) begun eating into your market share?

XBA generates self-managing value streams that continuously prioritise bottlenecks to dramatically accelerate top-line business throughput for their portfolio as a whole. It integrates Product, Feature and Systems teams and forms one of XSCALE’s four interlocking practice-pattern languages.

De-scale your bureaucratic hierarchy into an exponential business culture of self-organising teams in self-managing streams. Embrace, leverage and generate change!

The XSCALE Business Agility workshop

This two-day course teaches you how to accelerate top-line business throughput by generating self-directing portfolios of self-managing streams of self-organizing teams that pragmatically inter-operate with traditional PMOs and both distributed and hierarchical business cultures. You’ll learn how to continuously prioritise bottlenecks in value-flow, work-flow, and the flow of learning across your organization, how to optimise the contribution of each value stream to throughput rather than blindly minimising operating expense, and how to coordinate decentralised responsibility for business objectives with authority to solve them and metrics to optimise their solution.

You will gain deep understanding of change strategies that bootstrap self-propagating business-agile capability, and how to grow it by splitting and doubling to pull your organisation into agility rather pushing change onto existing teams and streams, so minimising risks of business disruption, low ROI, and compromised change outcome. You will learn how to cut through portfolio game-theoretics by representing cross-cutting chapters rather than streams, gamifying benefits-realisation, and rewarding participants proportionately to improved throughput to motivate focused collaboration on mutual benefit across teams and streams.

This learning will culminate in a “Game Without Thrones”, a hands-on simulation of an agile organisation with no command and control, no hierarchy, no managers, masters or owners.
But chapter meetings, governance treaties, prioritization councils, Leadership as a Service, and “the wit and wisdom of the Wildlings”.

You will develop an in-depth understanding of all the essential XSCALE principles of Agile Organization including exponential return by stacking growth curves, simple design to the elegance of minimum, continuous optimisation of business throughput, autonomous teams in self-managing streams, triple loop learning and ecosystems-thinking.

XSCALE Business Agility is about the five questions …

  • How do you de-scale your organisation to self-managing streams of self-organising teams?
  • How do you align the streams without big meetings, long loops, and tangled dependencies?
  • How do you focus your business on continuously opening bottlenecks to exponential ROI?
  • How do you motivate teams and streams through metrics that maximise throughput?
  • How do you change your culture without disruption, muddle, compromise or politics? 

… that make the difference between bureaucratic dysfunction and a flourishing business  ecosystem.

XBA transforms management into leadership as a service among peers. It integrates Design Thinking, Agile Delivery and 3-way DevOps hand-in-glove. It accelerates the flow of learning to align stream functions to each other, and to individual competencies and responsibilities. As one of the four XSCALE pattern languages, it drives your organization to continuously embrace, leverage and generate change.

The XBA course is purely pragmatic, delivering hands-on experience in direct application of numbers-based practices to your specific teams, streams and portfolios.

Why learn about XSCALE Business Agility?

The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a team is face-to-face conversation.

Big meetings, long loops, slow learning, tight coupling, and rigid hierarchies represent organization bottlenecks no matter how Agile your individual teams may be. The XPM patterns enable self-organising teams to coordinate their value stream, and then XBA aligns stream missions to each other, and to individual competencies and responsibilities. And to the whole portfolio’s mission and constraints.

Self-organizing teams in self-managing streams in self-directing portfolios.


Without a command and control hierarchy, value streams can only coordinate by direct representation of teams per stream and streams per portfolio. Cross-cutting chapter meetings, rather than teams, nominate representatives to participate in a council meeting. The council of a stream is a function of its “Product Squad” and cross-stream concerns are coordinated by a “Portfolio Squad”. Such a structure of chapters and councils is made efficient by small numeric limits on three key de-scaling metrics.


XBA combines the Spotify model with practice patterns drawn from the Iroquois Confederacy, the most successful and longest-lived holarchy in history. In particular, Leadership as a Service minimises politics and speeds the flow of learnings across teams and streams. Coordination stories proposed by chapters are ratified as treaties between squads at their retros without control by a centralised authority. And representation by leaders of chapters, rather than teams, eliminates hierarchy by using the fractal Iroquois longhouse pattern to resolve cross-cutting concerns.


Throughput Accounting is the TOC alternative to cost accounting that optimises the contribution of each business function to top line throughput rather than blindly attempting to minimise operating expense. While commonplace, cost accounting makes an irrational basis for value stream management because it fails to account for the stream’s market and system constraints, and also for the interdependencies of value streams across a portfolio. Throughput accounting continuously identifies and prioritises the bottleneck that dominates throughput per stream and per portfolio.

Mission-Command is a leadership style initially developed by the Prussian Field Marshall Von Moltke as aufragstaktik, later known as blitzkrieg. Google embeds it in their “OKRs” – Objectives & Key Results – and Apple in “DRIs” – Directly Responsible Individuals. Instead of tasking people with steps of a solution, Mission Command distributes responsibility for problems along with the authority to solve them. XBA represents these responsibilities as BDD acceptance criteria per feature to ensure responsibilities are clearly coordinated across capabilities, systems, and streams even in decentralised, distributed or hybrid portfolios.

Self-Organizing Transformation uses Gandhi’s practice patterns to apply Agile as a form of change management that rolls out Agile as a business capability. These patterns generate uncompromised Agility by iteratively converting change recipients into change agents. It avoids pushing change into pre-existing teams, programs or silos, but instead grafts the kernel of the new culture onto the trunk of the old. Steadily doubling capability by splitting and back-filling, this emphasises learning by immersion and eliminates risks of value stream disruption.

Open Book Management gamifies benefits-realisation, rewarding value stream participants proportionately to the stream’s achievement of benefits to the business top line. Instead of individual KPIs, incentive pools and targets are defined by the Portfolio Squad per stream and per release. All teams and streams openly share business information and their composition is likewise gamified using NPS cliques and the Iroquois “Condolence Council” practice pattern.

De-Scaling Metrics establish structural limits that assure efficient flow of value to markets, work to production, and learnings across the organization. XBA applies three simple structural metrics by which any team, stream, portfolio or organization may be measured: maximum ceremony size, feedback frequency, and collaboration loop length.

Hybrid Models recognise that while the best performing value streams apply uncompromised Agile principles to Design, Delivery and DevOps, the world is far from perfect. XBA supports friction-free interoperation with traditional PMOs and distributed, waterfall, hierarchical or “flaccid Agile” cultures. The key to making these hybrids work is clear delineation of methods, responsibilities and acceptance criteria per value stream; streams that attempt hybrid models internally are notoriously inefficient and risk- and error-prone.

Throughput Diagrams chart financials to prioritise work on ecosystem growth. Throughput diagrams combine analytic “Pirate Metric” curves with Lean’s Cumulative Flow diagrams, lifting the XPM Stream Kanbans to generate an unambiguous Business-Agile dashboard that makes it easy to identify bottlenecks and vary stream priorities to open them, enabling all stakeholders to read their portfolio’s current state and business priorities at a glance.

Holarchy is a repeating cycle of ceremonies – chapter meetings, squad retrospectives, and representative councils – that aligns teams and streams peer to peer without intermediary managers. Nor is there need for an alignment to be ratified by all teams – only those that participate in it. In the Iroquois Confederacy this decentralised form of governance maintained several hundred thousand participants in a peaceful society for over five centuries.


© 2019 John Ferguson Smart