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What is an Agile Company?

What is an Agile Company?

2016 11 01 head

Lately people often ask me what is an agile company. They have an understanding of agile software development techniques such as Scrum, Lean, Kanban, eXtreme Programming but no clue how a company could be agile.

One way to approach this theme is to implement concepts of the above mentioned agile approaches. These are the pillars for iterative incremental improvements.

Scrum Pillars

Transparency
you trust all collaborators to provide their best when working on the product. They need full access to all relevant information: quality, progress, budget, people and financial data. They use the data to select the best alternatives to reach the company’s goals
Inspection
you cherish a failure culture because inspections will find weak points. You need a culture where people are never blamed. One consequence is that you eliminate management by objectives, and bonuses in your company
Adaptation
you are ready to learn better approaches and truly believe there is a better solution. Processes change regularly bottom-up, company’s budget can only be a rolling indicative budget, and planning has to be continuously updated

You can also pursue desirable attitudes or values of agile persons

Scrum Values

Commitment
as an employee you want to win, you are engaged. Every manager truly believes you work best to achieve the goals. If not, this manager made a mistake by hiring or keeping you
Courage
you are ready to say “I am wrong” because being wrong opens the door for improvement
Focus
you daily optimise the customers’ value and thrive for excellence. As a developer you do not work on projects, you work on excellent products. You provide value to your customers
Openness
you seek better ideas and ways of doing. Openness requires transparency and respect.
Respect
you truly respect customers, team members, collaborators, persons. In your team I will not hear any disrespectful comments about people

Modern Agile

The modern agile movement defines guiding principles

Make people awesome
Dedicated collaborators want to give their best. Give them a purpose, a goal, empower them and let them climb the mountain. Thriving persons need purpose, excellence and autonomy. They are happier, healthier and more productive.
Deliver value continuously
Maintain sustainable pace and stability, all divisions of the organisation should focus on customer value. At the end of the day successful products are the only reason you get your paycheck.
Make safety a prerequisite
People do their best in their daily work, you believe in McGregor Y theory. Trust them and support them to become excellent. You shall develop self-awareness to increase safety.
Experiment and learn rapidly
you make mistakes, you learn and increase continuously the delivered value. You have a learning culture, you inspect and adapt. You can react to new opportunities faster than competitors.

Self Assessment

The above concepts are comprehensible. How do you know if you are moving in the right direction. A few concrete tests help you find out if you are an agile department or company.

  • Be agile instead of do agile. Practice the above attitudes and do not just follow a checklist
  • Nobody micro-manages in your company
  • Feel accountable instead of be accountable. You want to improve, and your company as a natural part of the daily work.
  • Compliment every collaborator you are working with at least once a week instead of evaluating weaknesses and criticising people. o you lead by example?
  • No management by objectives - MBO - or bonuses are established in your company
  • Every collaborator has access to all company data, every collaborator can request process and tool changes. We favour Individuals and interactions over tools and processes
  • You want to be excellent in your work. You have a purpose and autonomy in your daily work
  • Team members take the decision to hire or to fire collaborators, not the department responsible or the human resources group. Think about collaborators selecting their leaders, about managers being servants, about information available to all collaborators
  • Can you say the most important one word Sorry, the most important two words Thank you, the most important three words I was wrong and the most important four words Can I help you? at least three times a week?

I truly believe that we all want a fulfilling job which improves our world. I cannot understand other reasons to spend 40 hours and more per week for something less valuable. Take the above principles and apply them to your daily work. There are universal values to establish a working atmosphere you are proud of.

I agree with all of you to desire a fulfilling job is only true if you earn enough money to pay your monthly bills.

Food for Thoughts

These ideas are not new. You can delve in empirical evidence and discussions in books written by business management professors, CEO, and passionate agile advocates. Below a list of mind openers (available as Amazon ebooks):

  • Reinventing organisations: A guide to creating organisations inspired by the next stage of human consciousness by Frederic Laloux,
  • Accelerate: Building strategy agility for a fast moving world by John P. Kotter,
  • Beyond budgeting: How managers can break free from the annual performance trap;
  • The Leader’s Dilemma: How to build an empowered and adaptive organisation without losing control; both books by Jeremy Hope,
  • Holacracy: the new management system for a rapidly changing world by Brian J. Robertson,
  • Deliver Happiness: A path to profits, passion and purpose by Tony Hsieh,
  • The Lean Startup: How today’s entrepreneurs use continuous innovation to create radically successful businesses by Eric Ries,
  • Lean Novels
    • The Lean Manager: A novel of lean transformation;
    • Lead with Respect: A novel of lean practice;
    • The Gold Mine: A novel of lean turnaround; all three books by Freddy Balle,
  • The Lean Mindset: Ask the right questions by Mary Poppendieck,
  • Social Intelligence: The new science of human relationships, by Daniel Goleman
  • Management 3.0: Leading agile developers, developing agile leaders by Jurgen Appelo,
  • The Fifth Discipline: The art and practice of the learning organisation by Peter M. Senge,
  • Fearless Change: Patterns for introducing new ideas; More Fearless Change: Strategies for making your ideas happen; both books by Linda Rising,
  • Excellence Novels
    • Build to Last: Successful habits of visionary companies;
    • Good to Great: Why some companies make the leap… and others don’t;
    • How the Mighty Fall: And why some companies never give in; all three books by Jim Collins,
  • Google re:work blog.

(this post was also published on LinkedIn)