Embracing an agile culture for business growth: A guide to best practice – and what to avoid

Embracing an agile culture for business growth: A guide to best practice – and what to avoid
Ruben Franzen is president of TOPdesk US.

Professional services company Accenture found itself in a crisis. The company’s growth stunted. When leadership investigated the reasons why, they came to realise that their promotions and rewards system benefited those employees who were more focused on self-promotion, compared with those whose focus was helping the organisation succeed.

So, company leaders decided to embrace change and use a different, more collaborative, performance conversation rather than continuing with the same rewards and promotion system. The change led to a company with employees focused on helping their clients, not how they could help themselves, becoming a company that was more responsive, more agile.  

This is one example of what we talk about when you say a company has adopted an agile mindset. Agility refers to both an organisational philosophy and a specific process. Agility is the ability of an organisation to sense environmental change and respond efficiently and effectively to it.

Benefits of agile

You are probably aware of the agile manifesto, which outlines the agile methodology’s values and principles. There are four values, including the following: 

  1. Individuals and interactions are valued over processes and tools
  2. Working products/services/software are valued more than comprehensive documentation
  3. Customer collaboration is valued more than contract negotiation
  4. Responding to change is valued more than following a plan

There are also 12 principles, including the following:

  1. Customer satisfaction through early and continuous delivery
  2. The flexibility to accommodate changing requirements throughout the development process
  3. The frequent delivery
  4. Collaboration between the business stakeholders and developers throughout the project
  5. Those involved should be supported, trusted, and motivated
  6. Face-to-face interactions should be enabled
  7. A working product (say software) is the primary measure of progress
  8. Support a consistent development pace
  9. Attention to technical detail and design enhances agility
  10. Simplicity
  11. Self-organising teams encourage great architectures, requirements, and designs
  12. Regular reflections on how to become more effective are necessary

Examples from companies, such as Accenture, General Electric, and many more, show the incredible benefits gained by adopting an agile mindset beyond its origins in software development. 

Specific activities

A new project can seem overwhelming, particularly one that did not originate within the company or division. This is where a company can turn to the agile process and thoughtfully divide bigger projects into smaller sections.

Doing so shifts the team’s focus onto one specific activity rather than on a global project. This “division of labor” also makes it easier to review and assess each aspect of the particular process and fix any issues that arise.  

This shortens the activity cycle, increasing the opportunity for more timely feedback, decreasing the likelihood of solution misalignment, and increasing risk mitigation. This process highlights another benefit: when a proposed solution falls short, it’s all part of the learning curve. This process also allows the organisation to tackle one obstacle at a time.

As you’ve no doubt noted, the underlying factor in any agile process is communication. Communication must be open and transparent. This includes the timely transfer of information between relevant parties. Communication inspires collaboration, another of the central tenants of agility.

This suggests the following criterion, customer participation. An agile organisation should regularly get feedback from clients and quickly incorporate changes to address evolving customer needs.

When agile processes are not appropriate

While agile can be successfully applied to many projects and even organisations, it is essential to remember that it is not appropriate for all situations. Routine tasks, for example, aren’t suitable. Agile methods are less impactful in situations where change is predictable and incremental. If strict guidelines and plans are in place and should be adhered to, agile isn’t always a good fit. But if your organisation is seeking to innovate in a changing market context and find new products and solutions, it’s ripe for applying the agile process.

When customising practices, make sure the customisation caters to the unique environment of your business. Challenges will arise, but with communication, collaboration, and a commitment to the agile process, your clients and your company will see the benefits of sticking with the process.

Photo by Stanislav Kondratiev on Unsplash

Interested in hearing industry leaders discuss subjects like this and sharing their use-cases? Attend the co-located IoT Tech ExpoBlockchain ExpoAI & Big Data ExpoCyber Security & Cloud Expo and 5G Expo World Series with upcoming events in Silicon Valley, London and Amsterdam and explore the future of enterprise technology.

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