Agile is a great way to encourage innovation. Instead of receiving orders from the top which you’ve got to follow to the letter, it is an iterative process. The focus is on outcomes, such as increased customer satisfaction, instead of outputs, a new product. As an Agile manager, your role is to make it possible for your team members to use all their talents and capabilities to generate value. The manager is the hurdle clearer for the team. Instead of building from a blueprint, you use a method in which you add elements progressively. New ideas are tried out rapidly and improved upon with closed feedback loops.
This makes Agile very flexible to respond to changes in a client’s wishes or to take advantage of new opportunities. Clearly, in our fast moving world full of changes, technological breakthroughs, and disruptions, this Agile approach makes sense for your company as a whole. So how do you go big on Agile for your whole organization?
Agile is excellent in an environment with complex issues, where solutions are not always straightforward, and circumstances will change. Where it’s possible for the Agile team to work together with the end users. As such, Agile is very popular in IT and software development. However, it’s spreading, and even HR is using it more. On the other hand, every company has certain routine operations, like accounting or maintenance. In this case, Agile might not always be the best approach.
As you make functions part of Agile teams, it will initially create an Agile part of your company and its traditional counterpart with its bureaucracy. The challenge is to have them work together.
Your Agile team is mostly autonomous. Your senior managers tell the Agile team members where to innovate, not how. Your team members interact with your internal and external customers, so innovation is answering to your customers’ real needs. Your senior manager can thus focus on the long-term vision and strategy, instead of the nitty gritty stuff. It’s a significant departure from the more common top-down models of business.
You don’t want your bureaucracy to start impeding these non-traditionally structured Agile teams and processes. It will lead to tensions, frustrations and general unhappiness on both sides. Moreover, it will undermine your whole effort to become an Agile organization.
To avoid as much tension as possible, you need to educate people on Agile and really get them on board with it. Start organizing orientation sessions of what Agile is, how it works and what the benefits are. Select people who are influencers within their departments and who are more open to changes.
Involve people from both departments; those who will use Agile and also the ones that won’t. By informing the latter of what Agile is and why you’re going to use it, it will ease the transition and smooth out the inherent tensions between the traditional and the Agile approach.
Once you start forming Agile teams, make sure the team members receive training on how Agile works. Give them time to experiment with Agile by working on a project that doesn’t have a tight deadline. Your Agile team can then learn and familiarize itself with this new way of working. You can identify issues that arise and find solutions for them.
Agile is not something you want to impose with directives. That goes against the spirit and idea of Agile. Get a group of leaders together. People who believe in the concept of Agile for the organization as a whole. They’ll be your Agile leadership team and need to work together and trust each other.
As a leader and Agile champion, you want to tell your Agile story with passion, energy and to inspire your co-workers on all levels to get excited about Agile. Your leadership team seeks to inspire other people, who in turn will become champions of Agile also, and will pay it forward so to speak. This way Agile will spreads organically.
This leadership team works with the Agile method themselves. They look for ways to innovate your organization and are there to fix possible problems, like the fundamental tensions between a new Agile team and your corporate bureaucracy. Just like any good Agile team, they will look at progress, assess it and make changes based on what they’re learning. They’ll use closed feedback loops and check if you’re actually adding real value to your organization by converting to Agile.
Don’t implement Agile as a top-down directive, but do make sure your CEO and management team are on board and fully supportive of it. Especially when Agile is starting to grow, this is essential. It’s a significant change, and there will always be hiccups on the way. That’s why your Agile leadership team needs the backup of upper management; to keep it going at critical moments.
Agile requires a lot of interaction with customers, prototyping of new products and services, processing and analyzing data and using rapid feedback loops. Check if you currently have the right toolset to achieve this. Don’t be afraid to change your toolset when switching to Agile to get the most bang for your buck.
If your business wants to survive in our fast-moving world of ever-changing customer needs and new technologies, you need to change your mindset. Agile dramatically improves your organization’s ability to steer the waves of change. Don’t get stuck in the past, but move forward and become Agile. Take your first step by contacting us.