Agile Lean Leadership in 60 seconds

Agile Lean Leadership (ALL) is a framework for building organizations directly on principles from Agile and Lean. It is a complete pattern for scaling ideas from Agile, Lean, and Scrum out into the whole organization and building what we call The Constitutional Organization, where there is the rule of law and not the law of the ruler. It is a place where people can engage, grow and deliver value.

Such organizations consist of networks of Teams (Circles) that replace the traditional hierarchical command and control structure. It is an organic way of organizing a business with a focus on the Value Stream, one of the cornerstones of Lean. 

The Value Stream starts with the Customers. Their needs should be understood as well as possible and they should be grouped or categorized in the way that makes most sense in order to serve them. Next are the Circles that are directly in contact with the customers. These are sometimes referred to as the Agile Customer Circles. These Circles function largely as Scrum Teams and their feedback loop include close working relationships with customers. They operate on the edge of the organization, where it meets the customer.

Typically there are more Circles involved in the Value Stream. These Circles in the center are the teams that are not directly in contact with the customers, instead they serve other Circles within the organisation. They supply components of deliveries or services like accounting, product development, marketing and maintenance. Often it also makes sense to map Supplier Circles in the Value Stream. All these Circles have Manifests that describe who they are and what they do. Between them there are Relationships that document how they can Delegate work to each other. The flow in the Value Stream is managed through Delegations.

From time to time there may be issues or discussions that cannot be handled adequately in the separate Primary Circles or bilaterally between them. In order to resolve such issues they can be escalated to a set of Resolution Circles, which consist of people from the Primary Circles who carry responsibility for different aspects of the operation. In the Tactical Resolution Circle Team Members meet to resolve inter-circle tactical issues such as dependencies and impediments. In the Operational Resolution Circle Operations Owners (Scrum Masters in Scrum) meet to resolve issues related to process and in the Strategic Resolution Circle Strategy Owners from the Primary Circles resolve prioritization issues and take care of long term planning, investments, allocation of funds etc. 

In order to handle cross-cutting concerns Secondary Circles are introduced. Such Circles are a type of “Communities of Interest” or “Guilds”. These Circles  meet periodically  to discuss and decide upon areas of expertise such as marketing, QA or product architecture.

The final type of Circle that is sometimes created is a Transient Circle. Such circles are deployed when extraordinary things have to be handled; this can be crisis handling or specific projects.

An Agile Lean Leadership Circle

An ALL Circle is largely modelled on the Classic Scrum Team. There is a Strategy Owner who prioritizes the work and has the responsibility for the return on investment. There is a Team which has the skills and responsibility to deliver the Circle’s products and services. There is an Operations Owner who has the responsibility for the operations, collaboration and constant improvement.

There is a fundamental cadence to the work, whether the Circle works strictly Scrum based or more Kanban like, iterations that are reviewed in terms of deliverables and include Retrospectives that focus on the operational need for improvements. Finally, there is a set of Artifacts that act as collaborative tools and create transparency: Circle Manifest, Main Backlog, Tactical Backlog and Improvement Backlog.


All of Agile Lean Leadership rests on a few values

  • Purpose, clear and worthwhile
  • Sustainability in all things
  • Resilience in all things
  • Respect for people