Enterprise Awareness over Team Awareness

One of the strengths of the Disciplined Agile (DA) toolkit is that it promotes the philosophy that teams must be enterprise aware.  But what does this really mean and why is it important?  Two very good questions that I address in this posting.

For the purpose of our discussion we will focus on five levels of awareness that an IT professional may exhibit:

Enterprise Awareness

  1. Individual awareness.  From this viewpoint it’s all about how someone can change themselves by gaining new skills, insights, experiences, and so on.
  2. Team Awareness.  Here the focus is on the team can learn and improve together.  This has been a primary philosophy of the agile community for quite some time, mostly to our benefit but also to our detriment.  Solutions are developed by teams, so by promoting a greater focus on the team agilists are able to improve their overall productivity a bit.  But, if the efforts of that team aren’t well aligned with the overall goals of the organization then dysfunctions will occur.  For example, agile delivery teams that are merely team  aware may end up introducing new technologies that their operations groups aren’t willing or able to support in production.  Or they may reinvent existing functionality.  Or they may create yet another data source even though the data already exists elsewhere.  Or they may develop to their own conventions that don’t reflect the way other teams work.  Or they may learn that a certain technique or strategy works well for them, but they don’t share this learning outside of the team.
  3. Departmental Awareness.  People consider the needs of their department, not just their team.  In this case developers are focused on improving the overall IT process, perhaps by adopting more of a DevOps mindset instead of simply a development mindset.
  4. Enterprise Awareness.  People are motivated to consider the overall needs of their organization, to ensure that what they’re doing contributes positively to the goals of the organization and not just to the suboptimal goals of their team.  This is an example of the lean principle of optimizing the whole, in this case the organization, over local optimization at within just the team.
  5. Community Awareness.  People consider the needs of their community, doing what they can to give back by sharing knowledge, by striving to learn themselves, and by striving to help others who might not necessarily be in their organization or even known to them.  While this is beyond the scope of DAD it is a key aspect of the Disciplined Agile Black Belt and ostensibly the Disciplined Agile Green Belt certifications.

Of course, a given individual is very likely operating from several viewpoints at once.

Agile has done a great job of helping the IT profession refocus from individual to team awareness.  But if we want to be effective as professionals we at least need to promote the philosophy of enterprise awareness, so that we’re optimizing the work that we do for our organization.  Agile teams that are enterprise aware will work closely with enterprise professionals, such as enterprise architects and operations staff, to ensure that they are leveraging and better yet enhancing the existing infrastructure.  Their architectures will their organization’s technical roadmap and similarly the scope of their effort will reflect their organization’s business roadmap.  They will follow existing development guidelines and enhance them where appropriate.

By working in an enterprise aware manner DAD teams enjoy:

  • Higher levels of productivity because they are less likely to reinvent the wheel
  • Quicker times to deployment/market because they have less work to do
  • Higher return on investment (ROI) because they have less work to do
  • Higher levels of quality through following common conventions and reuse

Have any Question or Comment?

8 comments on “Enterprise Awareness over Team Awareness


To recast:
Individual Awareness: How can I be the best me I can be?
Team Awareness: How can I help my team improve its process, collaboration, and skills?
Enterprise Awareness: What can I give to my organization? What should I expect from it?
Professional Awareness: Not interesting
Community Awareness: How can I be a good citizen (you capture that one well, but then say it is beyond your scope. Sad.)

Turns out it /is/ all about the individual. It is about the individual learning to be other-aware. It is about learning to be a good citizen within all the communities one is part of. Suboptimization is a derogatory term. Try local optimization, personal improvement, acts of kindness, listening. All I can change is me. Why not embrace that, as a starting point?

PS I don’t need a belt to be a good citizen. I need an open heart.


Tobias, thanks for the feedback. As you can see I’ve acted on several of your suggestions.


[…] When a disciplined agile project or product team starts, one of the process goals which they will likely need to address is Identify Initial Technical Strategy. This is sometimes referred to as initial architecture envisioning or simply initial architecture modeling. This is an important process goal for several reasons. First, the team should think through, at least at a high level, their architecture so as to identify a viable strategy for moving forward into construction.  A little bit of up-front thinking can increase your effectiveness as a team by getting you going in a good direction early in the lifecycle.  Second, the team should strive to identify the existing organizational assets, such as web services, frameworks, or legacy data sources, that they can potentially leverage while producing the new solution desired by their stakeholders.  By doing this you increase the chance of reuse, thereby avoiding adding technical debt into your organizational ecosystem, and more importantly you reduce the time and cost of delivering a new solution as the result of reuse.  You will do this by working with your organization’s enterprise architects, if you have any.  This is an aspect of DAD’s philosophy of working in an enterprise aware manner. […]

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