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The Quest for an Agile Company: Five Years tangly llc

The Quest for an Agile Company: Five Years tangly llc

2020 11 02 head

Agile Motivation

An agile company is a business with the ability to quickly adapt to market changes [1]. Agile organizations must be fast-moving and flexible, have rapid response to unexpected obstacles, lead change, be in touch with customers. They have a continuous competitive advantage, and a flat organizational structure for quick communication [2].

In other words, an agile organization is optimized for a VUCA - Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous - environment. The organization should provide vision, understanding, courage and adaptability.

There is simply no way to build tomorrow’s essential organizational capabilities - resilience, innovation and employee engagement - atop the scaffolding of 20th century management principles.

Gary Hamel, 2007

Agile Culture

The LeSS movement states the main approach clearly:

Culture follows Structure.

Craig Larman

The successful steps are always:

Change the structure
One approach is value streams organization and product development with cross-functional teams advocated in LeSS.
Change the processes
Work using agile approaches such as Scrum, Kanban, eXtreme Programming. Study the advices of the LeSS guys.
Culture will follow
The organization must nurture the change process and eliminate barriers. The servant-leader approach is ideal.
2020 11 02 waisfisz levels of culture

To Waisfisz, an organization’s culture is defined by how its parts relate to each other. Moreover, it refutes the the way we do things here model by reinforcing that your internal culture is defined by its differences from other organizations. This model lends from group dynamics where groups are not only defined by their internal identity but also by their differences to other groups.

Clearly recognize not changing the structure and just renaming roles and processes will not trigger any change. See the Larman laws:

  1. Organizations are implicitly optimized to avoid changing the status quo middle- and first-level manager and specialist positions and power structures.
  2. As a corollary to (1), any change initiative will be reduced to redefining or overloading the new terminology to mean basically the same as status quo.
  3. As a corollary to (1), any change initiative will be derided as purist, theoretical, revolutionary, religion, and needing pragmatic customization for local concerns — which deflects from addressing weaknesses and manager/specialist status quo.
  4. As a corollary to (1), if after changing the change some managers and single-specialists are still displaced, they become coaches/trainers for the change, frequently reinforcing (2) and (3).
  5. Culture follows structure.
Craig Larman

In the language of social psychology [3] we can state:

It turns out that if we engage in a behavior, and particularly one we had not expected that we would have, our thoughts and feelings toward that behavior are likely to change.

This might not seem intuitive, but it represents another example of how the principles of social psychology, in this case the principle of attitude consistency lead us to make predictions that would not otherwise be that obvious.

Principles of Social Psychology, 1st Internation Edition

Agile Anti-Patterns

You have to acknowledge you must change the structure of your company. The current approach is to remove functional silos and reorganize along value streams. A stream is in charge of s set of related products and directly communicates with the users of these products.

Attempting to change an organization’s culture is a folly, it always fails. Peoples’ behavior the culture is a product of the system; when you change the system, peoples’ behavior changes."

John Seddon
  • The major anti-pattern is the refusal to change structure of your organization. Without changing structure you will fail.
  • Your organization is unique but not esoteric. The actual approaches will work. You need to tailor them.
  • Agile is around for a quarter of a century. Accept that if you changing now, you are late. You will find thousands of experience reports.
  • Accept it will take time. The Agile Fluency Model provides a potential roadmap.
  • Agile transformation works only if your organization thrives to satisfy customer’s needs and achieve technical excellence.

Please compare your change process against these anti-patterns. Correct if needed.

Lessons Learnt

2020 11 02 agile digital architecture

Agile is now mainstream. More than 80% of all software development initiatives claim to be agile. Digital and agile enterprise are two sides of the same coin. Almost all research and development departments are implementing agile processes to achieve faster and better results. The organizations moving now to agile approaches are laggards.

Beware that laggards will fight against any change. I still hear upper management statements such as:

  • I do not like and do not want to hear the word agile
  • We are a different industry. Agile cannot work in our environment.
  • We have our processes, we cannot change them. And, agile is anyway chaos.

Find a champion and get rid of the most vocal laggards. If no champion can be found either move to another company or renounce agile approaches. Be realistic, you will fail to have any lasting success in such an environment.

Embrace reality. At least eighty percent of all software and research activities claim to follow agile approaches. This war is won. We are moping the last islands of resistance.

For me, it is similar to the introduction of object-oriented approaches in analysis, design, and realisation of software projects. In the late nineties of last century the war was won. It took more than ten years to take care of the last luddites.

Our company tangly llc works steadily and continuously to advance agile and lean values. Our structure and processes actively support agile values. We are very happy with the current results.

Literature

  • [1] Reinventing Organizations: A Guide to Creating Organizations Inspired by the Next Stage of Human Consciousness, Frédéric Laloux, 2014
  • [2] The Future of Management, Gerry Hamel, Harvard Business School Press, 2007
  • [3] An Organizational Cultural Perspective, Waisfisz Bob, 2015, Hofstede Culture Center Strategy, ITIM International