We hear the term “Agile” a lot these days, as companies such as Scaled Agile Inc. are making tremendous headway to help large companies deploy Agile practices for complex projects and programs. We are also hearing a lot about organizational agility, which sounds very similar but is actually very different.
“Agile product development” or “Agile engineering”, in its simplest form, is the concept of working on short increments, learning from experimentation and feedback, and delivering value in an incremental fashion. Some may disagree with my simplistic definition, but I believe that its sufficient for this comparison with organizational agility.
“Organizational Agility” in my mind is a combination of a cultural shift as well as a process evolution that allows an organization or business to respond quickly and in a productive way that does not disrupt current operations.
So, assuming you agree with my view, if you are already successfully practicing Agile product development, and would like to transform your organization to an “Agile” company, what can you do to leverage your existing knowledge?
Here are a few tips for your consideration:
Tip #1 – Apply iterative principles and practices
Very few organizations can change overnight, at least not in an effective way that doesn’t scare off half of the employees. This tends to encourage us to think in small iterations. No matter how big or small your organization is, following short cycles will likely improve your ability to take stock of how incremental changes are impacting your teams, and make adjustment as needed.
Tip #2 – Use “Agile” to become “agile”
The two terms here, “Agile” and “agile” mean different things. “Agile” represents the practices and techniques that you can apply, such as short iterations, inspection and adaptation, etc., whereas “agile” is a descriptor for your organization’s ability to react effectively.
Tip #3 – Phone a friend!
Many organizations feel that they are unique and that nobody else can help them with this transition. They may also believe that they can figure out how to become an agile company on their own, and they are probably right. However, quite often, it is much more cost effective to bring in a seasoned expert who has been through the trenches and knows which mistakes to avoid, which should smooth out the learning curve for your teams. Why reinvent the wheel if you don’t need to?
To close out this short article, if becoming an agile organization is not currently on your list of priorities, there’s a good chance that it will soon. We live in an increasingly competitive and unpredictable world, which means it will be more and more important to prepare for change, no matter what that change may be.