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How could Agile Manifesto benefit non-IT organisations

The study aims to explore the potential of the Agile Manifesto and how its principles could assist the business to become more flexible and resilient. In the first part, the paper introduces the Agile principles and elaborates on the methodology. The author concludes that the Agile principles represented by the Manifesto are transferable across a variety of industries and could help organisations improve their ability to adapt.

Introduction

Today's businesses are being exposed to disruptive technologies, rapid changes and other external forces that create an extremely volatile environment. Those organisations focused on developing and maintaining competitive advantages are required to regularly screen the market to identify risks and opportunities successfully. Some industries might operate in more unpredictable environments than others. For instance, organisations focused on software development have been forced to re-structure their operations and culture in order to become more flexible and resilient. Hence, seeking innovative methodologies and frameworks to adapt to changes quickly has resulted in a new paradigm shift. However, while organisations focused on software development have started a new generation of agile age, other industries following linear processes could find themselves trapped in rigid systems.

The article will attempt to explore how Agile Manifestothat was initially established for software developing companies could benefit various types of non-IT businesses. Rather than elaborating on how to implement agile methodologies, the paper will focus on how individual principles could be transferred to different industries, such as construction, manufacturing, and so forth. The objective of the paper is to provide suggestions that could improve organisations' strategy and operations and become more flexible and resilient. The paper builds on academic journals, case studies and widely accepted methodologies

Agile Manifesto

The Agile Manifesto was officially established in 2001 by a group of independent practitioners (Agile, 2011). The objectives of the concept are simple yet powerful, to deliver higher value faster, improve productivity and achieve sustainability. Since 2011 Agile has evolved into a variety of methodologies that have been embedded in or combined with well-established frameworks, for instance, Agile with Lean or Lean with Kanban. The Agile Manifesto is a set of four simple rules that have been further explained by the Canadian engineer and author focused on disciplined agile delivery, Scott Ambler (Ambler, 2012).

  • "Tools and processes are important, but it is more important to have competent people working together effectively.
  • Good documentation is useful in helping people to understand how the software is built and how to use it, but the main point of development is to create software, not documentation.
  • A contract is important but is no substitute for working closely with customers to discover what they need.
  • A project plan is important, but it must not be too rigid to accommodate changes in technology or the environment, stakeholders' priorities, and people's understanding of the problem and its solution."

 

Agile principles in organisations

This chapter will discuss how specific business functions could learn from the agile approach. The content will focus on internal and external factors such as leadership, business environment, customers, structure, and so forth. The goal of the chapter is to explore key business activities and define recommendations utilising agile practices that could be beneficial to otherwise rigid methodologies.

Leadership and culture

Creating the right environment that supports creativity and collaboration in organisations is the first step in building strong foundations. Hence, identifying and promoting the right values and principles that embrace shifting companies' mindset is often a great challenge for leadership teams. For instance, transforming teams to become self-managed units is one of the key attributes that Agile organisations aim to achieve. For incumbents and mature businesses, such transformation would require a deep intervention into leadership styles to promote collaborations and a new model of collectivism through individual uniqueness. Organisations could consider the following:

  • Firstly, organisations should focus on developing principles and values that would set organisations direction and nourish collaboration, team capability assessment and team building to establish trust through an open dialogue (Britt and Kreyer, 2011).
  • Secondly, the values and principles need to be embraced and protected by the appropriate leadership style. This might include a new pattern of behaviour, such as coaching and promoting one to one dialogue (Conley, 2015). The new leadership style might require shifting the focus from the leaders and their personal benefits to achieving team objectives and customer satisfaction – servant leadership style (Lensges, Kloppenborg and Forte, 2018).
  • Thirdly, organisational structure should allow for adaptation to rapid changes and focus on priority over permanency. This could require internal hierarchy transformation and lean towards a flat structure with decentralised power (Rick, 2015).

Nimble organisations should focus on delegating the authority from "back" to the "front" office, which could be extremely valuable, especially in client-facing roles, to improve customer satisfaction. The flexibility should also be nurtured through operations and systems where pre-defined procedures might require more room for creativity and rather than imposing a single method; activities could be bounded by a generic framework.

Recommendations:

  • Create a flat organisational structure with a decentralised autonomy – decision making. Avoiding a bureaucratic approach and escalating requests to the upper management could result in the following:
  1. improving lead time by making the right decision at the right time;
  2. increasing customer satisfaction by delegating authority to customise service, product.
  • Enhancing "servant leadership style" to ensure that obstacles are removed so that the team can focus on the value delivery. The shift of the attention from management to the team could improve effectiveness and strengthen relationships among team members.
  • Moving from employee's annual performance review to regular coaching and mentoring and removing the stigma of 'us versus you". Process of guiding employees could strengthen the relationship between leaders and employees. Regular conversations would allow for working on KPI's and two ways feedback which could minimise the employee's turnover through improved satisfaction.

External Environment

Organisations should evaluate the capacity and ability to screen external environment continuously. For instance, benchmarking – determining their positions in the market, creating an image of the current situation and developing awareness about risk and opportunities could be integrated into day-to-activities. The outcome could help businesses determine strategy and resources required to achieve objectives (e.g. skills, technology, operations, and so forth).

Moreover, businesses need to accept the fact that they co-exist within a complex system (Francisco & Fernndes, 2010), which resulted in creating an extremely volatile environment where time has become a scarcity. With less time and radical changes, companies are required to quickly adapt across all three levels; organisational, operational and individual. For instance, creating a budget for strategic investments for the following financial could consider new opportunities that have not been accounted for initially.

Similarly, assessing organisational or operational risks should be conducted more often to ensure effective risk management (e.g. regulations, technology, competitors, new markets, and so forth). A shorter iterative cycle could also be applied to monitoring risks and opportunities. Incremental improvements based on customers feedback could improve overall customer satisfaction (Kompalla et al., 2016).

Recommendations:

  • Identifying and assessing risks and opportunities could be conducted in shorter cycles where the outcome would be prioritised. This could ensure that appropriate treatment is focused on the most critical areas or opportunities with the highest return on investment are allocated appropriate resources.
  • Allocating emergency resources for rare opportunities (investments) that might arise and have not been accounted for during the initial planning.
  • Developing and reviewing technology strategy (technology trends) on a regular basis. This should be aligned with organisation mission and vision. For instance, deploying artificial intelligence (AI) or business intelligence (BI) tools could improve the organisation's efficiency and understanding data (financial reports, sales reports, customer database, and so forth).
  • Developing a continuous self-assessment by collecting continuous feedback from customers throughout the projects (e.g. feedback obtained from each stage/phase). This could improve project delivery and customer satisfaction, especially in those industries with different phases/milestones (e.g. design, installations, testing, commissioning, and so forth.).

From the recommendations, it is apparent that organisations would need to shorten their iterative cycles (routines) across business functions and focus on prioritising. The organisation-level responsibilities such as planning and forming strategies, allocating resources and evaluating could be integrated into day to day operations. Moreover, creating and maintaining the right culture should become one of the foundations of the business so that the operational and management processes are adequately supported.

Conclusion

The Agile methodology was initially established to assist software developers to deliver higher valuer faster in a rapidly changing environment. The paper proposed that agile principles could be applicable across different industries to improve organisation ability to adapt and operate more efficiently. The author argued that creating agile organisations requires establishing the right mindset because the agile principles are enhanced through the organisation culture and strong leadership.

It was apparent from the context that organisations willing to become agile should focus on the structure, developing mutual trust and empowering team collaboration. Furthermore, there is evidence, that the ability to adapt is strongly correlated with organisations' capabilities to understand markets and external factors that are being continually assessed. This might include, for instance, technology, trends, skills, economic and political aspects.

The author proposed examples in recommendations that could benefit companies facing challenges to adapt quickly. Organisations that heavily rely on linear processes, complex decision-making process and long lead time could utilise the advantage of short iterative cycles and prioritising tasks over committing to static programs. Such routines should be implemented in day-to-day operations and become part of the organisation culture. 

References

ADLER, N., 2012. The Strategically Agile Organisation: Development of a measurement instrument, Alliant International University.

AMBLER, 2012. Disciplined Agile Delivery: A A Practionioner’s Guide to Agile Software Delivery in the Enteprise. BPM Press.

ANONYMOUS, 2011. Agile 2011 Conference to Reunite Signatories of Agile Manifesto. 2011. Wireless News.

ANONYMOUS, 2011. Agile Luminaries Gather to Celebrate 10-Year Anniversary of the Agile Manifesto: Thought-leaders to celebrate and reflect upon software development and to discuss "Solved, Solvable and Unsolvable Problems". PR Newswire.

ANONYMOUS, 2019. How British Army's Operations Went Agile. McKinsey Quarterly, November.

ARGYRIS, C, 1999. On Organisational learning (2nd ed.). MA, US: Blackwell Publishers Inc

CONLEY, R., 2011. Four leadership practices to build a culture of trust and openness.Our leadership practices.

DENNING, S., 2016. How to make the whole organisation "Agile". Strategy & Leadership, 44(4), pp. 10-17.

FRANCISCO, L.R. and FERNANDES, M.T., 2010. Exploring agile methods in construction small and medium enterprises: a case study. Journal of Enterprise Information Management, 23(2), pp. 161-180.

KOMPALLA, A., STUDENY, M., BARTELS, A. and TIGU, G., 2016. Agile Business Strategies: How to Adjust to Rapidly Changing Environments? Reading: Academic Conferences International Limited.

KREHBIEL, T.C. and MILLER, D.P., 2018. Should Agile be Part of Your Quality Management System? Journal of International Technology and Information Management, 27(1), pp. 2-28.

LENSGES, M.L., KLOPPENBORG, T.J. and FORTE, F., 2018. Identifying Key Agile Behaviors That Enhance Traditional Project Management Methodology. Journal of Strategic Innovation and Sustainability, 13(2), pp. 22-36.

RICK, T., 2015. Why focus on an agile organizational culture.Agile Organisational Culture, Progquest.

TENNANT, R., 2001. Building agile organisations. Library Journal, 126(7), pp. 30.

 

Author: Marek Teply, LIGS University student, under the supervision of Dr. Zdeno Matta

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