Saturday, March 5, 2016

How to Build a Real Agile Organization

An agile organization is one that is open to change and can adapt readily when change is needed.

Many organizations are doing Agile - applying Agile methodologies and practices to develop software, but very few organizations are being agile - following Agile principles and philosophy to run an agile organization. An agile organization is one that is open to change and can adapt readily when change is needed. Agile is a mindset which drives strategic and tactical decisions to achieve goals with a set of agile guidelines. But what characteristics determine whether organizations are truly agile or just calling themselves agile? is there any way to measure “agility” of an organization, and how to build a real Agile organization?

Spot some indicators to assess whether the organization is on the journey of agileness or not: For example: Are teams free to choose how they want to organize themselves? Are sponsors are open to failures at team/project/program/strategy levels? Do middle-level managers act as process police or guidelines provider? These indicators depend upon an organization’s business domain, organizational structure, existing culture, organizational vision, and a lot more factors. Most of them are practicing Agile but very few are actually Agile. To assess an organization’s agility, specifically looking for aspects of collaboration, knowledge sharing, and trust amongst other things, that relate to, but would not be a complete sampling of, organizational health and culture attributes.

An agile organization is one that is open to change and can adapt readily when change is needed: The defining characteristic of being agile is that it can adapt readily when change is needed. There are key properties of an adequate "Safety Net" - 1) you need to know what it means to be on course. 2) you need to be able to detect when you have gone off course (or the course has changed or needs to be changed). 3) You need to be able to get back on course, in a timely manner. Agility is the ability to respond to changes, to change direction. It is not a goal in itself but needed for navigating impediments and moving targets.

Agility is a function of organizational culture, more than organizational practices: "Rituals and routines" (practices) are just one part of the cultural web. Different interpretations (quite a few may be to suit some selfish motives) are laying the path for evolution. If the customer is involved as a partner, team spirit exists as the best way for people to work, success is measured by delivering a working product, and change is accepted, the organization is on the right path to agility. To quantify how much agile the organization is involved, analysis of their attitudes and level of adoption about changes and innovation. An organization which can give up command and control to adapt a culture of learning and innovation via flatter structure and removing barriers of communication is on the right track to be an agile organization. Respect to people, creating an open and transparent environment for teams to work, nurture, grow and mature are also key.

A well-crafted strategy is important to shift from doing agile to being agile: Strategy must be there either you adopt some best practices or make one for you, and also strategy must be evolving with the team experience. If you don't have any strategy at all then there will be “chaotic,” or get stagnate when you shift from doing agile to being agile. Because traditional industries that have started their Agile journey in last few years are the pragmatist. Early adopters of Moore's model who expects quick solutions and easy transition. And they generally fall into the pitfall of ‘entrained thinking.’ Because of that, they take Agile based framework such as Scrum, use that as a ‘process’ rather as a ‘culture; and get satisfy for ‘doing’ Agile, without a thought out strategy, it is hard to jump to the next level of being truly agile.

Measure the outcome or delivered business value to decide how agile the business is: First organizations need to transform into an agile mindset which leads to Agile behaviors, and such as much as you can measure behaviors then attempts, to do so, it may provide you with some type of metric that presents insight into the desired outcome when moving to Agile. Organizational leadership is responsible for deciding whether an agile approach is suitable and organizational leadership is accountable when the results fall short. The business capability gap analysis will lead to initiatives to buy, build, enhance, sunset, or retire systems and processes. Those initiatives will be prioritized and made into projects that are road mapped for project execution, and then the organizational leaders/managers can scale up agile practices to the organizational scope.  In this endeavor, you would want to inject certain Agile principles in some systematic way.

Agile success can improve the entire business competencies because they can do things quicker and better, and encourage improvement and innovation. The challenge and direction now are to bring agility holistically to the entire business. It is the mind shift and culture evolution. It's a journey for any company looking to digital transformation radically.


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