Pivoting Towards Agility

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It is the year 2020, and many organizations are still on the fence about whether Agile practices and DevOps are right for their companies.  It is our view, though, that in this time of global pandemic and unstable economies, an organization’s ability to adapt swiftly is vital not only to the viability of companies in this economy but over the next decade as well. 

Agile Practices Engage Teams

Many organizations still vacillate when prompted to assess their company’s ability to take on the challenge of transforming their teams from their current methodologies to Continuous Delivery and Lean Practices.  However, we believe that the evidence points irrefutably to the conclusion that failure to do so only inhibits job satisfaction, which deleteriously impacts operational excellence.  The diagram below from the book Accelerate by Nicole Forsgren, Jez Humble and Gene Kim offers this somewhat simplistic equation:    

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Figure 1:  Impact of Technical and Lean Practices on Job Satisfaction

The Accelerate authors’ research proved that “companies with highly engaged workers grew revenues two and a half times as much as those with low engagement levels. And [publicly traded] stocks of companies with a high-trust work environment outperformed market indexes by a factor of three from 1997 through 2011” (SOURCE:  Forsgren Ph.D., Nicole. Accelerate (p. 154). IT Revolution Press. Kindle Edition.)

These companies accomplish this by adopting the core concepts of Agility: Continuous Delivery and Lean Practices.  Through working with our clients to complete such transformations, we have found that the following practices can significantly improve not only customer satisfaction but also employee morale and cross-enterprise collaboration that generates customer delight.   

1. Audit the Value Stream

In the ‘80s and ‘90s, we all became laser-focused on adopting lean six sigma processes in manufacturing.  We worked tirelessly to analyze the entire process, identify bottlenecks constricting work in process and reduce waste that delayed finished goods.  Maybe today, your firms do not manufacture as much as they used to, but the keys to optimization are no different.  The difference today is that enterprise systems are far more complex and engineered into our companies’ DNA.  To optimize IT to the exclusion of Marketing, Sales, and Operations is to cut the proverbial nose off despite the face.  The value stream now is far more integrated.  Understanding the full scale of work in process is vital to delivering customer delight.  No one element is more important than the other. 

2. Adopt Agile as an Enterprise Practice

Establishing Agile as an IT delivery process can lead to tremendous delivery optimization. Adopting agile and lean practices throughout the enterprise additionally often leads to an exponential increase in throughput, innovation, and employee morale.  All three elements combined across the enterprise ensures that everyone operates through the same values and unique culture from ideation to delivery and from concept to cash.  Put simply, teams that work together succeed together. 

3. Think PRODUCTS, not PROJECTS

The reality is that there are very few projects anymore.  Meaning that very little of what we do at an enterprise-level ends the minutes we push the code to production, release the resources, and close out the project.  Rather, such a moment is typically the BEGINNING of the journey, not the END.  So, approaching enterprise initiatives with that mindset has tremendous benefits:

Avoid Feast or Famine

We frequently witness teams piling scope onto a project.  This typically occurs when teams work in an environment where the project budgets are capped, and the resources available to them will go away once the project ends.  Shifting to a product mindset reduces this stress.  Teams can focus on a few features at a time in a product world because there will always be room for another release. 

Establish Predictable Efficiency

If organizations pivot to funding innovation rather than funding projects, then teams have time to create a culture.  They have time to get to know each other and the system(s) they support. This gives them time to create a unique way of working that works for that team.  Over time, the efficiency metrics for this approach are off the charts.  If the time teams have to work together is ephemeral, those teams will reach some point of productivity, but the odds are against that team achieving high performance. 

Achieve Speed to Value

Simply put, teams working on fewer items over smaller time frames produce repeatable value all the time.  Teams have time to experiment.  They have time to think and achieve Deep Work states where innovation happens.  Ultimately this leads to faster production of things that make money, reduce cost, and increase efficiency. It’s a win-win. 

Pivot and Gain

As is evident, pivoting to Lean Practices and adopting an agile mindset can produce tremendous gains for companies.  These gains will be evident in team productivity, employee morale, and ultimately, customer delight.  Let us know what is working for you or how we can help you and your organizations advance this discussion. 

Written by Jonathan Goldstein, Vice President

Jonathan Goldstein has over 20 years of experience as a PMP and CSM delivery executive.

He has focused his career on managing multiple business and technology transformation initiatives, building Project Management Offices, and leading organizational change through process optimization.  He offers a blend of technical and business knowledge that enables him to be an advisor on initiatives of varying sizes, budget levels, and business impact.

Jonathan leads an organization currently delivering projects in the areas of agile transformation, systems integration, product management for core front and back office systems, and production support.  He blogs frequently about his lessons learned along his professional journey on his LinkedIn profile.

Reach out to Jonathan to discuss Agile practices and the next step for your business!