An Agile Enterprise

An Agile Enterprise. What is this? Just your new mission. Whatever your role and position, your company should become agile and you must contribute. Especially when you already know Agile’s core foundations and principles.

You advocate daily on the wonders and benefits of Agile for software development? Software making is at the hearth of your business? Well you’re a happy man. Wait a minute, your company is a car retailer? In this case have you ever wondered if your corporate IT was bringing more adaptivity and reactiveness outside of its own department? If the answer is no the time has come to embrace your new mission! Your boss wants his firm to be capable of rapid response to unexpected challenges, events, and opportunities. And he’s absolutely right, that’s what it takes to be successful in business nowadays.

It is your duty to broaden your knowledge of Agile to other departments: applied smartly it can revolution your company. Change management will be needed and it will take courage but the rewards will be tremendous.

I strongly think Agile should be a top to bottom approach in its first stages and quickly be in the hands of everybody. The top management should be at the origin of this heavy and impacting change which should not be brought by IT in the first place: a clear momentum is needed. I claimed already that Scrum should evolve in coming years to deal with its limitations but the agile manifesto comes with valuable principles, more interesting than methodologies in themselves. They could be applied to the entire business and corporation; it should become your motto. The Agile manifesto stated:

  1. Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  2. Working software over comprehensive documentation
  3. Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  4. Responding to change over following a plan

Allow me to rephrase in a corporate-wise context what could be an Agile Manifesto for Entreprises:

  1. Your key assets are your employees, not your procedures
  2. Put uppermost the delivery of value to your customers
  3. People in your company are a big family
  4. Be adaptive and innovative

 Your key assets are your employees, not your procedures

Procedures and guidelines help defining a working environment and not reinventing the wheel. But they should not become obstacles and impact negatively the efficiency. The true value of your business is your workforce: they are the ones to be motivated and committed. You should put all means to have them focusing on their job and let them express their true capacities and added values, get rid of the syndrome “talented people do their jobs and little more“.  Remove all impediments from your employees day to day.

Favor remote working and collaboration by deploying video conferencing, online task management solutions and all these amazing new digital tools and technologies helping us to manage our lives more easily (I recommend reading the books from Douglas Merrill). Overall, limit the reporting and all cumbersome tasks by implementing lightweight processes (when possible even try to automate some of them so that your employees’ interventions are limited).

Put uppermost the delivery of value to your customers

You should aim delivering high-quality products and services to your customers. Transparency and honesty prevail over marketing campaigns. You best products are your best ads. In a world where all is known and communicated in a matter of seconds on social networks the strategies to control everything are useless and irrelevant. You will be caught sooner or later…

Your company should be customer-centric to earn and keep their trust. Instead of leaving in fear of bad critics be positive and optimistic on how consumers will perceive your products: your competitive advantage will be your faith in what you’re doing.

 People in your company are a big family

Families fight. But long-lasting wars do not belong among family members. Why would you have to deal with politics and organizational issues in your own business? What a loss of time and energy! When dealing internally, the collaboration is a must have and all forms of contracts to be avoided. You already have way enough with your competitors or suppliers…

Built on policies and processes that facilitate speed and change your Agile enterprise will use diffused authority and flat organizational structure to speed up information flows among different departments. People in your company should share the same core values, be sincerely open-minded and always willing to examine their strongest convictions with humility. By developing close, trust-based relationships between employees you’ll create a working environment where people can truly contribute, freely evolve and enjoy their work more.

Be adaptive and innovative

To quote one of the Amazon core values (and I think they should be listened): “Speed matters in business. Many decisions and actions are reversible and do not need extensive study“. As explained earlier, your processes should be revised to cope with this new reality. Innovation has been discussed in a previous post, when it comes to adaptivity, I suggest two principles acronyms which, mixed with a mnemonic, will help you to retain better this key idea: KISS your BB (“Kiss your Baby“).

KISS, for Keep It Smart and Simple, and BB for Beyond Budgeting. KISS emphasizes the fact that simplicity should be a key goal in design and unnecessary complexity should be avoided. BB principles provide a framework enabling front teams to respond quickly to emerging events and making them accountable for continuously improving customer outcomes and relative performance. BB provides guidance in reducing complexity in the management process, avoiding the burden of bureaucracy and eradicating the mentality surrounding traditional budgets.

In Beyond Budgeting / Agile organizations, people work within an open and self-managed environment. By giving managers the scope to act immediately and decisively within clear values and strategic boundaries, it enables the firm to react to emerging threats and opportunities as they arise rather than being constrained by a fixed and outdated plan.

These four pillars should allow you to put your enterprise on the Agile path (aka. the right direction).

About the Author

Donald Havas

French technical evangelist and blogger with extensive working experience in the technology industry field (corporate IT, professional services and product development). Passionate about software development processes, innovation, new technology & industry trends and the gaming industry. And promoting simplicity and pragmatism on top of everything.

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