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Steps Towards Building An Agile Organization

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Steps Towards Building An Agile Organization

· Agile Zone ·
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Abstract: When an organization decides to embrace agile, it is looking for agility in work culture that helps in quickly responding to rapid changes in market needs. This agility is primarily achieved by its people. Including top executives, people working in the organization need to be groomed and mentored for agility. This is quite a big change for many and as we learnt change is not easy to adopt. There will be skeptics about this transition who are more comfortable with working in conventional manner. Breaking organization hierarchal structure to an open and flat one is a bold step in the agile journey. A positive attitude from all sections will help overcome many hurdles. While adopting agile, one of the many things that need to be conveyed to the organization is to address the people on the need and benefits of being agile. So, let’s see what it takes to be an agile organization.

1.  Leadership Involvement: It goes without saying that Senior and Top management commitment to agile adoption is very crucial. Without their active involvement, support and guidance, people in the organization won't take it seriously. The involvement of management will be visible when they are also part of the process. They should be part of the planning process, setting up goals and targets and taking regular feedback from various stakeholders. If you see management investing in resources (people, infrastructure, tools, and workplace) then it is an indication of their commitment and seriousness in the effort. The commitment also needs to be exhibited through change in thoughts and behavior. If day to day work at the ground level continues to be the old ways having heavyweight processes and policies around then these efforts will break down soon. The management has to drive the organization with a lean philosophy and not letting it get bogged down by the past ghosts of a command and control culture.

2.  Clarity of the purpose: The management should have an absolute clarity on why it wants to take the organization agile way. Many organizations adopt agile because everyone is doing it and if your organization does not do it then it is looked as outdated and not keeping pace with current industry trends. Agile adoption should not be made as a marketing statement but understanding and realizing its value to the organization and its customer.  The management should convey the need of adopting agile practice to its people through various forums and means. Many of these changes are driven by business needs to make sure that your organization remains competitive and innovative in the fast paced technology driven world.  The communication needs to happen at all levels by various people and through change makers of the organization. This will ensure faster reach and wide acceptability.

3.  Investment in people: Agile requires people to be multi skilled than just be an expert in a single stream. Any agile adoption is incomplete without dedicated and focused efforts on people competency development. This is one of the most important steps in agile adoption and the one that has to be tackled from all directions. Awareness about agile and subsequent trainings should be addressed at different levels in the organization. Every role in the organization may have different training needs and these trainings should be planned accordingly. For example, everyone in the organization should have basic knowledge of agile and as we expand further with other roles, people can be trained as Scrum Developer or Scrum Master or Product Owner to develop their competency.  Management can rope in agile evangelists/ agile champions to boost up awareness and knowledge among its people.

4.  Organizational agile process framework: While many will find this step of less priority but it is an important step in the agile journey, especially with medium to large enterprises. Most of the agile methods provide a framework for implementing agile practices. It is up to an organization to define set of processes and practices that will be uniformly implemented across the organization. There are ample examples of 'my agile method vs. your agile method' and it could be disastrous if implementation of agile processes is left to an individual. When adopting agile at an organization level, everyone in the organization should have a common understanding of its agile process definition. By doing so will help in establishing uniformity across the organization and eliminate any ambiguity in the implementation of agile practices. Having a common vocabulary across the organization will go a long way in the successful adoption of it.

5.  Tools and infrastructure deployment: To reap truly rewarding success of agile adoption, tool and work place infrastructure goes a long way. Anytime-anywhere with quick turnaround of working software is the ultimate goal which can be achieved by using right set of tools and technologies. Automating the integration and deployment processes, testing, defect analysis, infrastructure management, etc. can be achieved by using various tools and techniques like TDD, BDD, CI-CD, code refactoring, etc. Building a work place infrastructure that is conducive to open, innovative and agile culture creates just the right kind of environment that is needed to foster exciting work life ahead.

Finally, agile adoption is a long journey with many challenges. To overcome these challenges require people to change some of their behavior that may not be in line with agile values and principles.  This change comes through investing in organizational change initiative which is targeted at grooming and mentoring people.  Setting up solid processes, techniques and tools is no less an important step.

Making a commitment towards building a truly agile organization is the first stepping stone towards a robust and sustainable agile culture. Continuous action will be required so as to develop agility that ultimately delivers superior customer experience. This agility is required not only for satisfying the needs of external world but also the internal stakeholders. This is one of the biggest mistakes that companies can do if they ignore the internal stakeholders.

Change is difficult but it cannot be stopped and ignored.


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