Thursday, January 16, 2014

Can Agile Thrive in the Large Enterprise

There’s no one size fits all, or one management recipe for every company

Large organizations are usually more complex, with variety of culture or sub-cultural elements, therefore, it is more like to be managed via rigid processes, so can Agile succeed in such a large company environment, or to rephrase it, can Agile values and philosophies succeed in a big company?'

Agile can work in a big organization, but it may require some adjustments and flexibility on the part of the practitioner. It requires an understanding of the values and principles, with both top-down & bottom-up agreement, appreciation and acceptance as in living of those values and principles. How many big companies are prepared to do that? Probably not many, especially long-established, mature, big companies - some things are too ingrained and some people will feel they have too much to lose to ever truly embrace an agile approach to their business.

Practicing Agile needs top management commitment both from business & IT in order to support the organizational change. Agile will work in any company/market but might need some specific adjustments/ tuning without compromising the Agile-Core Values.The success of Agile hinges on its acceptance by teams who may not be directly emerged in it but are dependent on its output. If management, executives, planning, etc are not fully on-board with Agile, then more likely than not, you'll face challenges that could limit if not completely derail the level of success you're going to achieve.

There is a huge gap between having agile teams (succeeding in agile on team level) and being agile as a company. Agile and Scrum are tools which enable a product manager to be successful in managing the development of products. Using an agile approach, the PM can focus on iteratively and empirically working towards products that fulfill the needs of the customers. Agile teams are usually the focus, but getting an entire company to be agiler is still a work in progress. Adopting Agile values and principles can be very helpful in the volatile and changing digital dynamic, not only in projects but business and life itself, however, in big companies with a large tradition of doing things in a certain way, adopting a different and innovative approach is not an easy task and it will take time until it really gets the benefits expected, and sometimes companies cannot afford the time needed or the cost that may require to change abruptly. 

Is 'Common Sense' not so common?  Certain principles and values that are now marketed as "agile,"  have always been part of the "soft" skills any successful PM must have to succeed, but which have always been so hard to put a finger on - trust in colleagues, open communication, facilitation, relationship building, and understanding people. Therefore, in today’s environment, the first thing any PM must do is to get an understanding from his / her team and stakeholders on when they say ‘we are agile’ is what does being agile actually mean to them. It is important to get everyone on the same page before getting into the challenges of the project.

Basically, success depends on management, leadership, culture or in another word: PEOPLE; not processes or frameworks, where those are the means and tools to help you get there. The key should be selecting the right tool at the right time and situation to try to take the best decisions, without blaming Agile or Waterfall for one’s own mistakes. So you may find the successful implementation of Agile in a company, not that successful and the other way around too. There are lots of organizations that have adopted Agile in various areas in their organization getting high benefits from it over a traditional management approach, without forgetting some of the traditional management tools and techniques that help complement the approach. 

There’s no one size fits all, one recipe for every company, since we not only need to take into consideration the size of the company but also the organizational culture, values, vision and administrative processes and context. In the field of project management, project management practices and tools will continue to evolve and develop because every project is different and there is not and NEVER will be any perfect way to manage a project. PMs will continue to strive to do things smarter and be better and wiser in their work. A company, especially the large ones should encourage and support a portfolio of methodologies and provide guidelines for what project types each is suited for. 

Hence, Agile can definitely thrive in large companies; however, to think that Agile or any approach will make an organization successful is not fair at the least, or even more likely an illusion. Organizations are social groups of different sizes full of people, and people’s decisions at any given time can make the organization, in a certain period of time, successful or not. Still, agile is a right philosophy, principle, and methodology to catalyze business’s digital transformation via adapting to the change with speed.








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