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Agile | An Introduction to the What and the Why
Jeremy Bower, VP, Engineering
Thursday, December 14, 2017

Depending on whose survey you read today, basically everyone responds that they are at least experimenting with agile methods, but when asked what that means or why they are doing it, the responses vary. 

Here, I would like to introduce the concept of business agility, the team you need to become more agile, and why agility matters.

 

What is agile?

Many count the beginning of the agility movement to the publishing of the Agile Manifesto, in which a group of software professionals came together to define a framework for better, more incremental product development (though its roots extend much further). Its reach now extends beyond software to encompass total business and enterprise agility. Businesses use agile frameworks to define the processes for adaptive planning, development and delivery, and incremental improvement for their teams and products.

To become agile means having the ability to respond and adapt your strategy, structure, processes to enable quicker business response. This is no easy feat for organizations to achieve, according to a recent McKinsey Global Survey.

Within the same survey, more respondents said client centricity is the major reason their company is changing to become more agile, including improvements in customer experience, sales, servicing and product management.

“Being agile means your battle tank has a tighter turning radius than your competitors.”

 

Being, not doing, and starting from the top

Operating with greater amounts of agility requires deep understanding and strong support from the C-suite. For many executives, this transformation requires retooling of themselves in order to be fit to lead in the new organization.

Old command and control structures and thought processes are in fact anti-patterns to these new models.  It is critical that the serious minded agile leader equip themselves for the transformation.  Thankfully, the market is responding with certifications such as the Certified Agile Leader 1/2 (CAL1/CAL2) which equips leaders to become strong advocates for the agile transformation within their teams.

 

An introduction to Scrum

As you may know, there are three roles on a Scrum team working towards a common goal – Product Owner, Scrum Master, and Team Member.

Many organizations believe they can start doing some of the exercises prescribed in Scrum without actually establishing people with the correct skillsets into these roles.  It is particularly perilous for an organization to venture into a transformation of this type without strong players in the Product Owner position. 

Additionally, transient, highly specialized technical team members versus more versatile permanent players can make it difficult for a team to predictably solve business problems. 

 

The impact of greater agility

Businesses want their value delivered in both an accelerated and efficient manner. With proper organizational support through the C-Suite, the improvements in business agility start to manifest themselves by enabling:

  1. Better definition of the work that needs to be done
  2. Ability to prioritize the work
  3. More accuracy in the estimation of the work/ability to forecast completion
  4. More transparency and visibility throughout the product development lifecycle

As leaders, we have a bit of a paradoxical role in agility – we must be strident and strong champions of its pursuit, but in many ways, we also have to get out of the way to prevent ourselves from becoming a bottleneck for the gains our teams will ultimately showcase. 

Subscribe to be alerted about future agility blog posts as we take a deeper dive into retooling yourself as a leader, what a Scrum team is really made of, and the manifestation of agility into the business.

Let’s chat about what’s in store for your digital transformation.

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