Why Should a Company “Go Agile”?
A CMO I worked with wanted his company to quickly respond to a competitive threat it discovered. Thanks to the agile workflow established at that company, the threat was blunted with a response that took just six weeks to deliver. The immediate response resulted from a focused, collaborative effort from senior management, business groups, and other cross-functional contributors at the company.
Without an agile workflow, the response would have taken much longer. Under its former “paralysis by analysis” culture, expediency didn’t exist. And though the company achieved positive results, the real value of agile comes from internal changes it introduced that produced the quick response.
More and more companies around the world are realizing positive outcomes with the agile workflow model. Agile advocates driving incremental value through coordinated effort instead of hurriedly lunging at all-or-nothing end goals. Whenever I hear about an organization’s agile transformation failing in mid-stream, I wonder if conflict over an emphasis on final results versus incremental gains derailed the effort.
Why I Wrote This
According to the McKinsey and Company global management consulting firm, 70 percent of agile transformation efforts are unsuccessful. Though throughout my career, I have guided a number of companies to successfully adopt the agile workflow model.
I understand why this transition is difficult for many organizations. New ideas the agile transformation process introduces are considered obstacles at some companies. Many organizations work through these issues. While others struggle with these new ideas unaware that change indicates the agile process is progressing.
I have seen many companies successfully move to agile and embrace the increased effectiveness it creates. This includes witnessing a large enterprise organization makes four attempts before successfully transitioning to agile.
At a conference recently I asked a number of executives about their company’s agile transformation process. I received a mixed response. Some affirmed it while others made lukewarm comments. It surprised me to learn that many of these execs were unaware of the positives incremental change is bringing to their companies.
The Value of Transformation
In a differentiation between the end goal and the transformation process, the transformation process itself provides the following values:
- Identification of issues
- Consistent awareness of these issues due to quick and constant end-to-end releases
- Incremental improvement by addressing these issues
For example, I had a large enterprise client that frequently encountered poor customer experience incidents resulting from the organization’s digital platform. To completely fix its ill-performing platform, the company would have to review a raft of defects, wade through a growing collection of customer complaints, and endure a long repair cycle.
When the company switched to a two-week agile release schedule, it soon became apparent why so many defects cropped up during production. We made incremental changes to processes, responsibilities, and expectations. And through this focus on consistently making incremental improvements, the organization went from an average of eight defects per release to two or fewer.
If the company halted its transformation midway through its cycle of incremental improvements, the company would have realized value from the effort, yet it could make greater gains by completing the process.
The process of becoming a flexible organization brings value and, for some organizations, that effort may be its greatest benefit. An enterprise shouldn’t interpret bumps in the agile road as issues to repair. Instead, organizations must realize that agile transformation is effective by exposing productivity/flexibility issues for review. Even if its long-term goals are not yet in sight, the incremental changes agile produces make the transformation for organizations worthwhile.