A recent study by McKinsey revealed that organisations and business units that have adopted modern ways of working have been much more likely to succeed through the pandemic against those that have not adopted these.
So why is this? Agile ways of working are certainly more adaptive to rapid and frequently changing considerations of political, economic, cultural, technological and environmental macro factors. Volatile and uncertain market conditions in combination with complex and ambiguous decision scenarios are often the norm today, and to be frank there’s no indicator that this scenario will change, but the speed of this happening is also expected to increase over time.
Agile ways of working make it easier to embrace changes to requirements for existing and new products and services. Achieving this through; clear prioritisation of work items based on assessed business value (what should be done first), the breaking down of delivery cycles into much shorter iterations (agile delivery iterations, called Sprints, are usually between 1 and 4 weeks) and with commitment of work only for the next Sprint (only at the beginning of each delivery iteration are the work items committed by the delivery team). The agile value that stands behind this is that a team, area or organisation values responding to change higher over following a plan – sounds good doesn’t it.
Becoming an agile organisation, that follows these values, must be seen as a journey that usually starts with the implementation of a suitable agile framework. Over time, teams and individuals will start to master the pure mechanics of agile – doing agile – and start solving their business challenges based on the underlying agile principles and values – being agile (see table 2, The Agile Onion). Being agile is a mindset that embraces inter-personal traits, such as being open, adaptable & flexible. This is key for reframing problems as challenges and thinking collaboratively of solutions.
Another benefit that usually comes with such a transformation, is how people are more engaged and motivated through this new way of collaborative working. A general guide for this is to define cross-functional teams of approximately 8 people (pizza rule: not more people on a team than you can feed with two family pizzas) who are self-managing and proactively taking on responsibility for tasks and outcomes, rather than being told what to do. Consequently, this leads to individual team members experiencing higher job satisfaction, and motivation levels, than members of non-agile teams.
Intrinsic motivators have always been important but, over the last decade offerings to workers like flexible working hours, personal fulfilment, job-family fit, time to work from home etc, have become more important in comparison to purely extrinsic motivators like pay, status and job security. This change is part of a trend often described as “future of work” or “new work” and it combines many different aspects of work together that make people jobs and lives more enjoyable and meaningful. In our experience we have found that agile organisations are faster to discover and support these intrinsic motivators relative to non-agile companies.
Over the last 10 years Consistency have supported many Agile transformations with companies in different sectors, developing physical and digital products, in small-to-medium and large organisations. Each of these organisational changes came with its own challenges and hurdles that needed attention but once these have been mastered, the increase in economic benefits and employee satisfaction have by far exceeded the change effort. A further unexpected benefit is that these organisations have all been well prepared for a remote work scenario that we all have gone through in the last 18 months.
In summary, my true belief is that unless organisations change the way they think and operate, and what they offer to their staff, they will struggle to compete with organisations who have already undergone such a transformation. Whilst new ventures and young companies often operate in this way from scratch, and therefore have this kind of flexibility and offer in their DNA, those that haven’t should start now because developing an agile mindset is a journey and will take time that is better not wasted.
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Sven Riedel is a Director of Consistency UK and has 20 years of Agile & Digital Transformation experience. Sven is also passionate about the environment and is committed to solving these challenges for businesses with the help of agile methodologies and practices.