Businesses worldwide are increasingly seeking to adopt a way of working used by some of the world’s most successful organisations. Google, Apple and Amazon all follow an agile approach to running their businesses. This underpins the flexible, adaptive and iterative way they operate – helping them to create a more responsive, effective organisation, which improves business performance and increases customer satisfaction.
Hallmarks of agile working are such factors as empowering employees, working in short cycles, continually reviewing and improving processes and practices and being receptive and ready to capitalise on change. Below Paul O’Shea, CEO of Kumoco, the management consultancy that specialises in agile working and cloud consulting, outlines some straightforward tips on how businesses can successfully adopt an agile philosophy.
Create a vision
This is the starting point when implementing agile transformation. Create a singular vision that is communicated clearly and widely within the business. It should be as understandable to the CEO as it is to the most junior employee. This will help secure support and buy-in across the workforce. This new vision should express the key commercial objectives in order to align everyone behind the strategy and the agile way of collaborating to deliver it.
Ensure senior management support
Critical for a business to successfully adopt agile is having a strong executive team that drives both the agile culture and transformation of the organisation. In many organisations, enthusiastic agile teams find that, where senior management have not bought into the ethos, the result is delays, disconnects and ultimately disappointment.
Empower your teams
Give teams autonomy by ensuring that they are cross functional and have all of the skills needed to get the job done. Ideally the individuals in the team will be dedicated to ensure that everyone is focused on one goal without distraction. Equally important is flexibility within prescribed boundaries. In practice this means allowing your teams to take all the necessary decisions required to deliver their product. It is important to have boundaries to help keep the team on the right track: for example, they may not need to seek approval for an overspend up to 10% of budget but they must consult HR before hiring any new staff. Remove the typical corporate bureaucracy and leave your teams empowered with everything they need to focus on delivering your product.
Invest in your people
If companies want their teams to become agile, they need to invest in the necessary skills, dedicated resources and training. A good starting point is to give the entire staff an introduction to agile. This gives everybody an understanding of its ethos and helps integrate the agile thinking into product teams. Follow up should include training in key agile disciplines. Good examples are Scrum, a very flexible framework for delivering products, and Kanban, which puts an emphasis on continual and efficient delivery. As well as investing in specific training, companies should also support their staff with the right technology, office environment and health and wellbeing programmes. This promotes the right positive, holistic and collaborative company culture to foster agile practices.
Define a common outcome
Agile working demands that products are created in short increments, with tangible results met at each delivery phase. The team is then able to adjust their next steps based on feedback and results from previous iterations, through constant learning and adaptation.
Like any new initiative, teams should be able to provide a return on investment. At Kumoco, we use the term Measurable Outcomes to describe business value that can be determined. Teams should agree in advance what value they are trying to achieve and how they are going to measure it. Each part of the business should define their own Measurable Outcomes with these cascading throughout the organisation and allowing each team to show the value they are creating as contributing to the wider company vision.