Many folks in leadership positions mistakenly buy in to “Doing” Agile with only their IT/Engineering departments, looking to increase velocity, to ship features faster, and have their organization behave in a predictable way.
I’m afraid they have it all wrong….
The intention, the purpose, the potential of Agile is to learn faster thru frequent and rapid feedback. To truly benefit from this, Agile values, principles and practices should not be limited to IT/Engineering. In fact, I’d argue that the “Technical” teams cannot truly be Agile if the rest of the organizational body is not.
HR, Customer Service, Marketing Finance, heck, maybe even the kitchen. (Even at home with the family….) The values and principles need to be propagated, understood, and shared. Otherwise there will be instability, a lack of balance.
Agility outside of IT/software development is not all that difficult in concept. Here’s a sample of how Salesforce took the principles from the Agile Manifesto, and applied them to their HR/Recruitment team:
- Our highest priority is to satisfy the business through early and continuous delivery of great candidates.
- Welcome changing requirements, even late in the recruitment process. Agile processes harness change for the business’s competitive advantage.
- Deliver working recruitment strategies with tangible results frequently, with a preference to a shorter timescale.
(You can read the balance of Salesforce’s HR Agile Principles here.)
Vision, Trust, and Ownership
Agile combines clarity of vision with equal portions of top-down trust and cross-functional, self-managing team ownership (accountability with decision-making authority) to create powerful feedback loops. To anything being “built.”
This in turn allows the organization to deliver value sooner. Teams will choose their own useful metrics to tell them when they are “Done.” And the teams can then effectively decide what to work on next. They will choose to work on the right things at the right time. (Not what was planned/budgeted a year ago at the annual retreat.)
This is true Agility.
Yes, it brings with it a great deal of ambiguity. And it might verge on chaos – which scares the shit out of most managers.
As a leader to nurture organizational agility, you really only need to do three things:
- Assemble a great team. Folks that are:
- Disciplined, and
- Insatiable learners
- Explain clearly what you need them to do. Share the Vision via a simple playbook.
- Make them coffee. (Get them what they need to succeed – be it tools, technology, and/or funding)
… Ok, there’s a fourth: relax – truly amazing things will happen.
- Bruce Feiler’s TED talk on Agile Programming for Your Family
- Agile techniques work for more than software development
- Building Agile Teams: Part 1 and Part 2
- The High Professional Cost of Your Inability to Trust