What a Lean-Agile Center of Excellence means exactly, will vary from person to person and company to company. To us, Lean-Agile Center of Excellence is synonymous with a small group of people that
“puts in place what we need to put in place to make lean-agile happen and bring home the benefits of lean-agile ways of working.”
If we double-click on the very general statement, we can simplify this by saying that the job is to ensure the organization has the following structures:
An in-house agile coaching & consultancy unit that can be asked to create Quick-Start teams and trains as well as support them over their first 18 months. Depending on the size of the organization this can be a unit of anything from 5 to 50 or more people working full time
A hands-on and operative lean-agile portfolio management team that drive the vision, direction, Kanban-system and metrics for multiple trains and units. This is the team that coordinates, supports and prepares the way for the actual decision makers. Again, depending on the size of the organization, this is likely a team of 2-9 persons where at least a few are almost full time.
Group 1 with sub-group:
Drive change on a strategic and tactical level. This is the larger group that Kotter refers to as the “Coalition of Change”. This larger group is supported by a smaller sub-group of people that can dedicate a significant part of their time to driving change and supporting the larger group.
Group (unit) 2:
Make change happen on an operative level. At the end of the day, talk and strategies must turn into action. Courses must be held, organizational re-design sessions need to be facilitated, trains need to be started and coached, and there may be up to hundreds of teams to coach and train. All this requires some serious competence and volume time from quite a few people.
Group 3 with stakeholders:
Co-ordinate and drive the portfolio process. This is the small and almost full time team that is the heartbeat of the portfolio process. The team does not make the decisions, but rather drives the visionary and strategic processes, manages the portfolio Kanban system and ensures there are a coherent set of metrics. There is larger group of top-level business executives around this group that make the actual decisions.
When you decide to go lean-agile at scale you will likely start with group 1. Soon group 2 must come into existence, or no change will happen in reality because group 1 will simply have neither the time nor the skills to make it happen. As the size of the organization that has transformed into a lean-agile set-up increases group 3 must come into existence bring home the benefits on an enterprise level.