Suits The C-Suite

With the emergence of threats or opportunities brought about by disruption in business, many organizations are being forced to not only reshape their business model and priorities, but also their operating model and business practices.

The Agile way of working is a collection of practices that is driven by principles of customer centricity, interaction, collaboration, transparency, and adaptability. It was originally adopted by software development companies to cope with changing business requirements, but later gained popularity beyond software development as these principles can also be adapted in responding to business disruption and uncertainty.

Organizations normally create a three-year or five-year plan that enables them to realize their strategies. Initiatives are then prioritized to establish a road map and milestones.

In the past, milestones were delivered in waves; each taking about six months to three years to complete. However, present-day situations require smaller but more frequent delivery of milestones, typically every two or four weeks.

While organizations continue to focus on planned priorities, management must also be aware of, and be adaptable to, any change in the business landscape that could render such priorities outdated and irrelevant. A business that adopts the Agile way of working can re-prioritize and respond to the developing opportunities and threats in the market through innovations and faster time-to-value of products and/or services.

It’s no longer just about the idea. With easy access to the internet and other technologies, competitors can now quickly come up with a similar or a more innovative version of an idea that is announced too early. Nowadays, market leadership is dictated by the ability to quickly convert ideas into products and/or services through the Agile way.

Scaling looks at how to adopt Agile ways of working horizontally (across multiple teams), or vertically (from teams to program, portfolio, and organization levels) within the organization. This means that all relevant teams or layers within the value chain (decision makers, business users, project delivery teams, subject matter experts, including support teams such as procurement, finance, human resources, etc.) also need to adapt to the Agile ways of working.

As it impacts more resources, scaling Agility across an entire organization becomes a major challenge. Thus, some organizations typically adopt a pilot approach to minimize business disruption, while gradually preparing for a mindset shift.

While organizations understand the importance of agility, they also need to realize some of the challenges that come alongside this initiative. For instance:

• Agility requires a mindset/cultural shift. Successful Agile adoption addresses more than tools, process, and metrics, but focuses on cultural change and embedding new ways of working across the organization.

• Not everything can shift to Agile. There are often constraints to orchestrating a large-scale agility adoption, such as an ecosystem of vendors, pre-committed long-term contracts, and ongoing complex initiatives or programs. In such cases, co-existence of multiple methods of delivery, aside from Agile processes, becomes a reality. Yet, this can still get the organization to a higher throughput while recognizing the reality of co-existence.

There is no single formula in successful Agile adoption as organizations need to take a pragmatic approach that is dependent on the organizations’ present level of readiness and maturity, and external factors limiting the organizations’ ability to shift to Agile e.g., procurement laws, among others. However, here are a few items for consideration by organizations that wish to adopt the Agile ways of working.

* Executive buy-in and Agile Transformation Office: Like any major initiative of an organization, support and vision from the leadership can accelerate an organization’s journey towards Agile transformation. Top management can also create an Agile Transformation Office which translates leadership’s vision into a road map, and provides direction as well as oversight, to ascertain a successful Agile transformation.

* Behavioral adoption measurement: Define a framework for measuring behavioral adoption. As an initiative that focuses on culture shift, success is measured primarily by the ability of the organization to adopt to behavioral changes.

* Methods, tools, and automation: Define the governing principles, guidelines, standard processes, roles and responsibilities, governance routines, and metrics to be adopted in the Agile way of working. Moreover, as a catalyst of agility, organizations also need to define the tools that can support effective delivery and measurement. Tools serve as platform to support cross-team comparison, team collaboration, metrics reporting, or test automation.

* People and change: Identify early adopters who will become the change champions within the organization. Engage Agile coaches and consultants who can help the organization in transforming these early adopters, both from a technical and behavioral standpoint.

In response to changing priorities and business uncertainties, organizations need to assess their current ways of working, and come up with new ways to promote a more flexible working environment, whether in terms of refreshed principles, new behaviors, or leaner processes.

In an era where competition is centered on obsessing about the customer, being ahead of the game is as crucial as being on top of the game; and to get ahead and respond to competition, organizations need to adopt an Agile mindset across the organization.

This article is for general information only and is not a substitute for professional advice where the facts and circumstances warrant. The views and opinion expressed above are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of SGV & Co.

April Anne M. Corpuz is an Advisory Senior Director of SGV & Co.