A Quick Look into Agile

Whether you are a little company, or a Fortune 500, if you want to compete in the dynamic modern market, you should learn about Agile. There is often a misconception about this methodology, which drives the managers to think that Agile is equal to autarchy, but they couldn’t be more wrong. Quoting McKinsey, an Agile organization is “a network of teams within a people-centred culture that operates in rapid learning and fast decision cycles”. This method is in contrast with the classic hierarchical organization which often can’t survive fast-changing markets.

In today’s world, quickly adapting and structuring a customer centered approach is no longer a source of competitive advantage, but a requisite to keep your business afloat. This is why many companies are starting to evolve into Agile organizations, among others Google, Spotify and even the ING’s group.

Agile was born in 2001 when the “Agile manifesto” was created by a group of developers to overcome the classic waterfall methods, already inadequate to face the dynamic requests of the customers. In the beginning, only software companies were adopting this innovative organizational approach, but the great success in this field made companies from other businesses think about the fact that the need to be fast and flexible is a need in every business. After years, the success of this methodology gave companies the idea that maybe this could work transversally in many different fields.

What makes this methodology the right one to scale the business and survive?

First of all, there are over 70s different methodologies that are considered Agile. This gives companies the chance to choose the one that can better fit their existing business model and to change it gradually to optimize the work. As defined by McKinsey, an Agile organization is a network of teams. Where the main objective is to satisfy customers flexibly and quickly. This is achieved by dividing the workforce into autonomous teams, that work on specific projects, without any particular constraint. This results in great empowerment, thus generating high employee satisfaction. However, this also implies that teams have to all be aligned for a main purpose: the more they are aligned, the better the results. 

Another fundamental factor that makes Agile great for customer centered companies, is that all the decisions are taken on data and not on opinions. For example, if two developers have different points of view regarding a specific part of the software, they will both create an MVP, and it will be tested on a small number of customers. The one that creates better feedback will be the one that will be implemented in the final product.

In order to have a creative environment, Agile companies have a fail friendly culture. In Spotify for example, failure is considered a great opportunity to learn and do better. If you fail fast, you can learn fast and consequently improve faster. This doesn’t mean that Agile companies only have a short-term view, on the contrary, these companies have clear long-term goals, which are adjusted based on the information that they collect on a daily basis.

Although this all sounds great, it is not easy to achieve. Becoming Agile can require years, and even when the company has a solid structure, there is always the need to improve and change. This is the reason why many companies that decided to become Agile are using Agile coaches, even after years that the transformation is completed.

Gianluca Scibilia

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