Agile Rising Support for NASA’s Digital Transformation

May 21, 2024 by Marshall Guillory, Scaled Agile SPCT, Chief Transformation Officer (CTO), Enterprise Agility Coach

Agile Rising has been a steadfast partner in NASA’s Digital Transformation journey since May 2020. Our consultant change agents, driven by a deep-rooted passion for change and data-driven progress, have led training, agile coaching, and transformation and change management efforts across the administration. From value stream mapping for export controls in support of the missions to coaching teams within OCIO to training International Space Station software development teams, our staff have poured their hearts and collective experience into NASA, demonstrating a relentless commitment to NASA’s mission and a fervor for driving positive movement towards business agility and better mission and business outcomes.

Our engagement with NASA has been a testament to the power of collaboration. Over the years, we have partnered with NASA suppliers, vendors, and strategic partners, working hand in hand to support NASA’s long-term horizon goal of human exploration of Mars. Our scope of engagement has spanned from IT and software teams within OCIO to NASA Mission teams working on Artemis, Orion, International Space Station, Cyber Security, the Web Modernization initiative, Workplace and Collaboration Services, and other business units and initiatives. During the height of the COVID pandemic, we coached lean-agile practices and behaviors to enable a successful release, in just two months to MVP, of a software product featuring dashboards and a management capability allowing for personnel management and data analysis of critical measurements to maintain safety standards at NASA facilities. Additionally, Agile Rising fostered a new level of collaboration within NASA by introducing NASA OCIO to, a highly collaborative white boarding tool that helped NASA teams “see the big picture” and create a visualization of work enriched through diversity of input.

Here are a few highlights of our engagement:

  • A cybersecurity team who initially were skeptical of the new ways of working took on the spirit of innovation. They iteratively improved their process for scanning systems for vulnerabilities and how they provide those system owners with results and work with them on remediation. Over the course of three PIs, they were able to increase the number of scans they were able to do by over 100% while also improving customer remediation of vulnerabilities through collaboration. Ultimately this resulted in a productivity increase of over 395%! Additionally, customer and employee NPS scores made dramatic turnarounds.
  • The Agility Health Team & Technical Agility Assessments provided a forum for transparent communication on some of the inhibitors to Flow that the Teams were seeing. It provided them a safe venue to discuss improvement opportunities and then include those improvement items into their next PI Plan. For instance, several of the Teams recognized that they were heavily dependent on individuals with specialized skills, and they took proactive action to start spreading those skills to other Team members to mitigate bottlenecks.
  • The Team & Technical Agility Assessments also served as the catalyst for making some changes in their ART organization that were creating larger Flow issues. As a result, the organization undertook a systematic evaluation of how to reorganize around value and improve the flow of value through better-organized Teams and ARTs.

Using the Scaled Agile Framework for Lean Enterprises (SAFe), Technology Business Management (TBM), and IT Service Management (ITSM) as guidance for the organizational design, operating system, and operating models, we have directly impacted positive business outcomes within the OCIO.  Specifically, we focused on change leadership and management, introduced value stream management, lean portfolio management, DevOps, and lean-Agile ways of working to dozens of teams supporting NASA’s ERP solutions, cyber security, and various IT “as-a-service” functions. We look forward to our customers sharing their stories, metrics, data, and details at the 2024 SAFe Summit in Washington, DC, on October 14-17.

If our current focus on leading and orchestrating change succeeds, NASA could achieve a significant milestone of becoming the first US Federal Government administration to systemically modernize by adopting Lean-Agile ways of working across its entire enterprise. This transformation, guided by SAFe, ITSM, and TBM, would encompass missions and business operations as a matter of policy. The momentum for this change is being driven by the Artemis program and future missions to Mars. We are committed to supporting this transformation and look forward to seeing the increased speed, higher quality products and services, enabling of customer centricity, and mission success it will bear in better outcomes.

Over the past four years, our relentless efforts have aimed to establish an Enterprise VMO policy-based pure lean-agile approach—eliminating wasteful and unnecessary phase gates and project mindsets in the complex domain—by integrating lean portfolio management, lean-agile, and Lean QMS practices and compliance via the completely new 7120.x pattern. Despite the significant challenges, we have made substantial progress. We are now closer than ever to achieving an actual systemic government lean-agile transformation by avoiding the pitfalls of local optimization. The next crucial step involves dismantling the EPMO structure and patterns and embracing a VMO mindset, value, and customer-centric patterns.

As a part of the “forever-optimizing struggle and endless, relentless –-the pursuit of perfection—” we are leading culture change by helping customers change how they think, act, and behave. We intend to accomplish this through the painstaking and long-lived work of internal and external change agents and coaches. Our work aligns with NASA OCIO’s Digital Transformation strategy, and we are confident in our ability to lead this change.

You can read about our initiatives and work at NASA here for more information.