What is Agile Management, and can it apply outside of the software engineering world? Part 2 of a 3 part opinion series.
Digital transformation means the world of business is changing at an exponential rate, but traditional organisational change is still incremental at best and glacial at worst. I am seeing more and more clients struggle with this new reality and without question I believe Agile Management is essential for bridging this gap between technology change and people change, closing the agility gap and building successful companies in the digital age.
In the era of open-source, cloud services and computing on demand, access to modern technology is not the defining factor between success and failure in this new world, in fact companies looking to simply adopt a new technology solution as a way to compete are missing a fundamental component: it is the new management approaches of these digital leaders that generates breakthrough results. Embracing Agile Management sets the foundation for digital transformation and the gap between the companies that “get it” and those that don’t is widening day by day. It will soon be too late for the laggards.
But what is Agile Management, and can it apply outside of the software engineering world?
To answer this question we need a good definition of Agile Management. I am often met with the refrain that Agile is only relevant to software development; we don’t do Scrum; our business needs longer timeframes; we are regulated so we need command and control; it only works for start-ups and so on. Agile (and its predecessors Lean and TQM) did develop out of specific business problems in a specific industry, but so did every other management technique. Gannt charts, for example had their first successful adoption in measuring progress for munitions manufacture during the first world war but I have never heard a PMI certified project manager say a Gannt chart is only applicable to weapons manufacture. The size of the company does have an impact, but modern case studies have shown that agile management can scale, in fact scaling at size is now well understood, if not well practised. Dealing with regulation is now too part of Agile Management. The 2016 Agility at Scale survey shows 67% of Agile teams deal with regulatory compliance.
Agile Management is a mindset shift, applicable to ANY and ALL businesses serving customers. It is not just about Scrum or Kanban and it is not limited to software development or digital transformation. At Pathfinder we have a simple definition of Agile Management:
- All work originates from a clear ambition to deliver VALUE for the CUSTOMER
- All work is delivered by SMALL, COMMITTED TEAMS working in SHORT ITERATIONS, in constant CONVERSATION with their CUSTOMER
- Scale is achieved by way of NETWORKS of COMMITTED TEAMS, CO-ORDINATING effort to achieve VALUE for the CUSTOMER
- CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT through ASSESSMENTS of progress, COACHING and an environment that fosters TRUST and OPENNESS
These fundamental Agile techniques are slowly evolving from their origins in the world of software development and auto manufacturing to other product-based businesses, the service industry and even government functions. It is an evolution driven from the coalface, from practical experience, based on a revolution in thinking about how value is delivered. Business success in the 21st century depends on the combination of these Agile Management techniques with digital technology. If it hasn’t reached your business sector yet, hang on, you won’t have long to wait!
Paul Fegan is a certified Scaled Agile Practitioner and Head of Pathfinder’s Programme Execution Practice. If you want to learn more about how an Agile Management mindset can deliver greater value for your customers contact Paul directly on firstname.lastname@example.org
Part 1 of the opinion series, Agile Management – Flash in the pan or paradigm shift, is available here.