What Is Agile?

Being Agile - How To Become More Innovative

 
 
“Agile processes harness change for the customer’s competitive advantage”
— #2 Agile Principle
 

Constant innovation is vital to survive as a business in the highly dynamic environments of today.  Legacy businesses especially are sometimes too static and complex to react to continuous change. Pushing innovation just for the sake of it won’t do the trick either. Organizations need to focus on the customer, their needs and pain points to deliver innovations and products that make  an impact and will help companies to stay relevant.


So how can legacy businesses break out of their bureaucratic habits which are slowing them down and enable themselves to prepare for the future? We at LHBS believe that becoming more Agile is the best way to cope with an increasingly volatile, uncertain and complex world.

 

Why Agile?

Agile helps businesses to accelerate profitable growth by taking people out of their functional silos and putting them into interdisciplinary and customer-focused teams. These self-organizing teams will focus on publishing incomplete versions of products, getting feedback, then learning and improving from this. As a result, they are making the necessary changes to deliver customers what they need, rather than what a product manager (an organization) thinks they want. The idea is to get rid of year-long projects developing services that no consumer desires or endless product development circles producing products that are outdated before they’re even on the market.

Compared to classic waterfall approaches, Agile organizations profit from interdisciplinary cooperation and iterative improvements that allow them to be closer to the customer and quicker into the market. Constantly providing new value for customers and upgrading offerings continuously is the main driving force behind Agile’s self-organizing teams and iterative process.  

 

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Agile will therefore help businesses to innovate and deliver customer-centric offers in an instant and intimate way. At the same time reducing time to market and empowering and motivating employees.

 

What Is Agile?

First of all Agile is a set of values and principles and not a methodology per se. Agile follows a collection of beliefs with all approaches and working styles underlying them.

 

Agile Values:  

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While there are more than 40 different Agile practices, our experience at LHBS has demonstrated a combination of Scrum, Lean and Design Sprint works best with legacy organizations. That’s why this article  will focus on explaining them closer here.


Scrum, Lean and Design Sprint are combined to facilitate a time boxed process of exploring customer behavior, innovation and business strategy by building prototypes in interdisciplinary teams and testing them with real users.

 
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These practices are all iterative in their approach and require adopters to develop insights to constantly evaluate and adapt findings. When combined, these three practices help you figure out what work to do (Design Sprint), how to do the work (Scrum) and how to do the work most efficiently (Lean). The agile pilot is thereby amplifying the innovation process.

It is crucial that the different terminologies are explained when first thinking about Agile in an organizational context. This sounds obvious, but particularly with buzzwords like Agile, Scrum and Design Thinking being hyped in the popular media means there are many different understandings in circulation. This leads to confusion and biased opinions about the topics. It is crucial for Agile that there is a common understanding through the whole organization on how to use these frameworks and on how they best fit the peculiarities of the organization.

 

HOW DOES AN AGILE PILOT WORK?

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By flipping the waterfall process around and continuously following these activities:

  • the quality improves because testing starts from the beginning of the project

  • the visibility improves because you are 1/2 way through the project when you have built 1/2 the features

  • the risk is reduced because you are getting customer feedback early, and

  • the Project owners are happy because they can make changes during the project.


Following this Agile approach, work will happen in recurring sprint intervals. Independently executed from the self-organized interdisciplinary teams to achieve shorter cycles, the workload is split into relatively small tasks and continuous feedback from customers will be collected to deliver the desired output.

 

Agile Pilot Working Mode

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To fully reap the benefits of being Agile, the organization needs to change as a whole. Managers need to embody the Agile mindset and all must understand that becoming Agile is a process that has no predefined ending.

 
“For really becoming an agile company, being agile, it needs to become a necessity not an option.”
— Steve Denning, Forbes
 
 

Resources

 

Agile Manifesto

 

Explaining Agile - Steve Denning, Forbes

Embracing Agile - Darrell K. Rigby, Jeff Sutherland, Hirotaka Takeuchi, Harvard Business Review