Manifesto for Sustainable Agile
A better way of working for Future of Work
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COVID-19 is proving to be a turning point in history. The changes introduced by this crisis are extraordinary and fundamentally reshaping our beliefs and behaviors. The immediate short-term measures, policies, and direct experiences are already changing how we work, including a greater emphasis on remote working, digital collaboration, workplace distancing, and support for temporary workers for example.
In the last two decades, we’ve witnessed multiple industry trends — globalization, the rise of the, start-up ecosystem, technological innovations, etc., that transformed ways of life and profoundly shifted business strategies across the industries. We’ve also experienced various methods and frameworks, such as Lean, XP, Agile, etc., that have helped companies optimize, expedite, and transform business outcomes across the industries.
The global growth story had been underpinned by capitalism at the forefront with little or no consideration towards sustainability or without truly understanding the impact on the natural ecosystem. When the majority of organizational goals are focused solely on driving revenue (or profits or margins), market share, or growth with an insatiable appetite to go faster, the toolbox for success can only mirror the language of speed, cost, and low (or no) failure. The long-term impact on mankind is not everyone’s worry if you’re chasing the year-on-year growth.
It’s not about philanthropy, it’s about renewing our value-system to demonstrate how uniquely we can build a long-term sustainable growth model by doing the right thing for our societies and our people.
It’s a new value-system
Now more than ever, business and government have a crucial role to play in protecting people’s health, bolstering the economy, and developing both practical solutions and game-changing innovations. The need for agility has never been greater. Over the long term, though, we know that the delivery of value to shareholders, employees, and society requires growth. And growth requires innovation and resilience as key ingredients. It’s imperative for everyone to balance immediate measures and growth orientation with sustainable agility.
As we continue to grow the Sustainable Agile Community, we have a new home for The Manifesto for Sustainable Agile https://sustainagile.org/
The Manifesto for Sustainable Agile
Over the last 10 years of my career studying sustainable business models, one key differentiator I found between sustainable vs. non-sustainable models is the “value-system” that drives every function of the organization. That provided the much-needed foundation for my thinking around the manifesto for sustainable agile.
The manifesto is an extension to the Agile Manifesto which I hope will help individuals, teams, leaders, and enterprises to navigate these turbulent times and discover a new normal and a better world.
The four core values of Manifesto for Sustainable Agile are:
1. Collocated Minds Over Collocated People
Technology has helped us prove that remote work at such a massive scale is possible. Studies have long proven collocated teams are better at delivery outcomes and gain alignment quickly. The effect of the current situation will fundamentally shift how office spaces and collocation are perceived by individuals and leaders.
In the post-COVID-19 era and beyond, remote working may take a front seat, giving people a commute-free lifestyle combined with technology innovations. We are all learning and experiencing a global movement that shows it is more important to have the power of minds, ideas, and thoughts together and collocated through digital mediums and conferencing innovations. Physical collocation may prove not to be an essential aspect for new normal where everyone will master the art of remote working.
In the last few weeks, we have seen some amazing examples of how companies and institutions have responded quickly towards ensuring a location-agnostic approach to various parts of work and life. Some examples are as below:
- In the Philippines, Virtual Courts were launched throughout the country.
- In the Maldives, lawmakers continue to work from Virtual Parliaments.
- The use of Virtual Classrooms throughout the world.
- TCS started a Remote Internship and plans to have 75% of its work-force working from home by 2025.
- The article from business.com about Remote Work Trends After COVID-19 summarizes efforts across various other industries.
- Organizations have started to re-imagine their employee journey, customer journey, and overall work experience to suit the new normal.
- The list goes on….
2. Collective Outcomes Over Individual Outputs
The urge to measure individual productivity has always been of keen interest for people who are more focused on ROI over impact. It has been a topic of debate for years in the agile community that rather than measuring outputs or utilization, one should measure outcomes. In my experience, outputs/utilization measured in an absolute number of hours or any time unit may have NO direct relation to intellectual outcomes. A higher utilization may also yield depreciation in the form of burn-outs or partial failures due to excessive load/stress on individuals.
When we focus on collective outcomes, it drives collaboration, cooperation, and teamwork. Successful organizations will find it a continuous endeavor and a critical mandate to work as a team (not individuals), leveraging collective strengths to deliver collective outcomes.
A majority of leaders are still focused on remote worker productivity. There are many reports of remote worker productivity, which was also a concern prior to COVID-19 and covered as part of the State of Remote Work 2020 report. It is time we adopt a collective outcome-driven approach towards productivity. As a leader, enabling remote work is one part, while making it sustainable needs more than productivity measures.
3. Speed to Value Over Speed to Market
In these times of stress, going faster isn’t the universal answer. Leaders must focus on anticipation and responsiveness along with the perceived opportunity value. Defining value is hard — leaders should carefully define components that make up the value. The components that create value are different for different companies ranging from competitiveness, risk reduction, compliance or sustainability, or other business drivers. When leaders define and manage priorities in the new era, they also need to consider the greater good of society over the traditional capitalist mindset.
I received a few questions and emails around the Speed to Value part. I found a golden nugget from Bill George (Harvard Business School Professor), explaining the new purpose behind the “Creating Shared Value” aspects of capitalism. It is great to see how the new purpose is shifting towards becoming more inclusive for all different stakeholders (employees, customers, suppliers, communities, and shareholders).
4. Empathy and Trust Over Command and Control
During the current crisis and in the post-crisis era, empathy and trust would define the success of leaders. Without empathy, there is no trust which directly impacts working relationships. Between layoffs, lockdowns, and health worries, everyone is going through a different set of challenges. Leaders who continue to use authority and command to push people in these circumstances may lose respect. A truly nimble mindset that encourages people to be at their best while balancing their essential needs is really critical for now and beyond. A sustainable work culture, driven deeply by empathy and trust, would promote unconditional loyalty.
‘Empathy and trust’ is one the most popular topics in management and leadership circles during this time. Everyone has a part to a play, throughout the journey. It’s not a one-off action.
Some of the resources I found useful are listed here:
- Remote Onboarding and Working with Remote Customers.
- Hiring a fully Remote Team.
- Steps to Support remote members.
- Emotional Intelligence in Remote Environment.
- Susan David, Ph.D.’s “Emotional Pyramid of Needs.”
Why We Need Another Manifesto
The Agile Manifesto (2001) at the time of writing had the primary focus to find better ways of developing software. Over the years, Agile adoption has continued to expand, not only within IT, but also beyond IT, in different organizational functions such as HR, finance, marketing, and so on. The values and principles of Agile remain timeless. However, the application of these values and principles must be revisited.
We’re experiencing an unprecedented reality. As companies and leaders go through discovering and defining the new normal, we need a nimble yet resilient mindset to support different ways of working for everyone — be it software development, business operations, or mission-critical service operations. That’s the promise of the new manifesto.
The Manifesto for Sustainable Agile brings inclusiveness for everyone into the new normal. Its application is not limited to any particular domain, function, industry, team, or business model. These core values can be universally applied to any and all of the below compositions:
- Domains of Work.
- Types of Team Compositions.
- Technology Functions.
- Business Functions.
- Business Models.
Contribute to the Manifesto
I believe the best way to get the best possible version of anything is through a series of “inspect and adapt” cycles based on feedback from the community at large. As a true believer of collective outcome over individual utilization, I would like to capture insights and best practices from the global community so that the manifesto can become a living document.
To that end, the Manifesto for Sustainable Agile is open source and is released under the CC4-BY-SA license. Join the Sustainable Agile Community today to support and join the movement for future of work.
Please also comment and reach out to me directly via email or Twitter to provide your input. Let us make this new era a collaborative endeavor.
This manifesto is an attempt to reimagine the intent of agility for everyone with a universal applicability in the new normal.
A black and white poster for the manifesto can be found here.
Published at DZone with permission of Sandeep Joshi. See the original article here.
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