This week I have been reflecting on the use of agile practices in my every day work. We’ve come a long way since the Agile Manifesto in the early 2000s with its core audience deeply rooted in the world of software development. We’ve moved to a paradigm where Agile is being adopted as an operating system for running entire businesses. This is a profound leap. For those businesses who haven’t considered the agility of their structures and systems, it represents the need for them to ‘upgrade’ core values, team structure and business processes.
Most of our modern management thinking evolved in the years after World War II and many businesses still cling to hierarchical top-down structures, centralised decision making and siloed teams. It’s these businesses that aren’t changing and thinking about adopting more agile principles and practices - essentially upgrading their business operating systems - that will be left behind by the competition.
Right now its never been easier to start a business. The barriers to entry have been coming down for years thanks to the pace of digital innovation. The speed at which digital-born agile-first startups can move is blistering. Speed is their competitive advantage. Coupled with the right validated business model that scales, competitors can be left by the way side. For those established companies looking to keep up, they need agile capabilities that can constantly discover customer need and build and deliver value continuously in rapid iterations.
Agile is a deep and broad topic and I draw analogy with our computer operating systems. We upgrade them to get the latest features that provide us new value. We should be thinking about our businesses in the same way. What parts of the business do we need to upgrade to get the latest value? First, make sure the system is actually upgradeable. That’s core values. Organisations must be agile first, then do agile. And that needs to be company wide - not just in a Product or DevOps team.
There are plenty of flavours of agile out there. Kanban and Scrum being two of the more popular methodologies. What agile setup that is right for your business is contextual, sometimes businesses have a blend of the two, it depends what is right for the business. Regardless of methodology, at the core you must establish a shared vision and purpose - the most important - and growth mindset. Start to visualise all your work, to help ensure you are building the right thing - and then build the thing right by setting up empowered networked teams.
In true Scrum style, setup a sprint cycle, establish your standups and retrospectives to create a rhythm and cadence that builds a culture of learning allowing for rapid iteration and experimentation. Decide on the best technologies and tools to support the above, but don’t get hung up on it - no one tool will let you ‘be agile out of the box’. Get these in steps in place and you are on the path to establishing a system that you can upgrade internally over time and constantly mature your agile capabilities.
There are plenty of books, resources and agile training programs out there. For background reading, check out Stephen Denning and his book The Age of Agile. For training check out Pragmateam if you are in Sydney, they offer in-person workshops through Zambesi. There of course is no shortage of online training either, check out some of these courses available through Udemy.