An agile business can quickly redirect employees and resources to respond to customers and changes in the market. Research at McKinsey found that agile organizations saw improvements in operational performance from 30% to 50% and improvements in financial performance between 20% to 30%. If you knew how to improve your operational and financial performance by 30% would you implement the changes?
History of the Agile Manifesto
In February, 2001, seventeen leading thinkers in software development practices met to form an “Agile Alliance” to address the new economy of the digital age. Traditional software development practices and traditional corporate culture moved too slow. As they discussed the Agile Manifesto, they believed that “Agile Methodologies is about the mushy stuff of values and culture.”
Creating an agile organization starts by changing the traditional culture of corporations and moving away from bureaucracy. Implementing a culture of agility is more of an art than a science. It gives your employees the freedom to color outside the lines or even to start with a blank canvas.
Learning to See Differently
A master artist sees the world around her differently than a novice artist. They both see the same colors and objects, but the experience and skills of a master gives her deeper insight. Professional artists must deliver products that people will value and want to purchase. She uses her skills and perspective to add value to her artwork, thus standing out from the novice. As you seek to master the art of business agility, you must learn how to see problems and solutions differently. Changing your perspective on the problem will help you avoid the trap of conventional thinking and enhance your ability to develop unique and innovative solutions.
The Secret Behind Different Learning Styles
How do you learn best? The teaching industry has identified 4 types of learning styles.
- Visual learners prefer images, maps, and graphics to help them learn.
- Auditory learners prefer listening, lectures, audio books, and group discussions.
- Read & Write learners prefer to read, take notes, and focus on words.
- Kinesthetic learners are hands-on learners using their hands and by doing something.
Although people learn differently, there is one secret behind all these styles. A visual learner learns by studying images and material prepared by someone else. An auditory learner learns by listening to someone else. A reader learns by reading the ideas of someone else. Even a hands-on learner often learns by taking apart what someone else built or by repeating what they see someone else doing. Behind every learning style is a teacher; someone with more experience who is helping a student learn.
The secret behind learning business agility is learning from a master.
A karate master teaches you about the martial art of karate. The Master Class offers several online courses to learn from “masters” across a wide array of disciplines. But where do you find an Agile Master to teach you the art of business agility?
Scrum masters and Agile coaches serve the software development community, but often lack business acumen. In many organizations, the Chief Information Officer (CIO) has the best combination of experience with agile methodologies and business acumen to lead the enterprise agility. From 2019 to 2021, Gartner has recommended that the CIO be responsible for leading culture changes towards business agility.
If you don’t have access to a CIO with the agile experience to guide you and your organization, then look for a consultant or person with the following skills and experience.
- Deep knowledge of Agile methodologies including Extreme Programming, SCRUM, and KANBAN.
- Entrepreneur or business owner with business acumen and experience taking risks to grow a business.
- Product management experience that includes designing, implementing, and supporting products and preferably exposure to minimum viable products (MVP).
- Experience teaching and coaching people to develop new skills.
- Expert in change management strategy.
What can an Agile Master do for your business?
First, an Agile Master will work with you to develop an agile culture. As Peter Drucker said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” Strategies often fail when the culture of the company does not support the strategy.
An August 2020 McKinsey & Company publication stated that 76% of executives believed that transforming their culture and ways of working was their biggest challenge to an enterprise agile transformation. An experienced CIO or Agile Master can leverage experience gained from software developers adopting Agile methods to help create an enterprise-wide mindset.
Business agility is more art than science, so there is no formula for creating a perfect agile culture. However, there are 10 “ingredients” that should be blended into an agile culture.
- Collaboration - openly sharing information and getting timely feedback.
- Empowerment – employees have the autonomy to carry out work.
- Accountability – empowerment demands accountability, being responsible.
- Learning mindset – freedom to experiment and learn from mistakes.
- Value driven – prioritize delivering business value over process (checking a box).
- Customer focus – delivering valuable products & services to customers.
- Continuous Improvement – embrace changes that improve and add value.
- Clear Mission & Purpose – a “North Star” that guides everyone same direction.
- Servant Leadership – leaders remove roadblocks, clarify, and empower teams.
- Lean mindset – eliminate waste, strive for simplicity, and avoid complexity.
The Secret Ingredient
Master chefs sometimes use a secret ingredient or combination of ingredients to deliver a unique flavor to their special dishes. Some famous secret recipes include Coca-Cola, Dr Pepper, and Kentucky Fried Chicken’s secret blend of 11 herbs and spices. What is the secret ingredient that will set your business apart from the competition?
Like a master chef, your Agile Master blends the 10 ingredients of an agile culture into a secret recipe that allows your business to respond quickly to your customers and changing market conditions. When the next disaster strikes, your agile business will be prepared to respond quickly.
Zooming Past the Competition
In 2011, Eric Yuan, Cisco’s VP of engineering suggested improvements to fellow executives regarding their WebEx video conferencing product. They didn’t listen and Eric started a small company named Zoom.
In less than 10 years, Zoom has grown from a small startup to the dominant market leader in video conferencing with 50% of the market share. In 2021, Cisco’s Webex only has 11% market share and Microsoft Teams 23%. When the Covid Pandemic struck in 2020, Zoom’s agile business model was prepared to offer customers the right blend of features and performance. In 4 months, Zoom’s daily activity active users increased by 2,900%. Cisco, Microsoft, and Google all had access to the same ingredients to build a video conferencing platform. In fact, as larger companies they had access to more money, more employees, and more resources than Zoom. What was the secret ingredient to Zoom’s success allowing them to grow faster than Cisco, Microsoft, and Google?
Hiten Shah at Nira.com sums it up well, “Zoom might have lacked the resources of Cisco or Microsoft, but Zoom had one key advantage over the legacy incumbents: agility.
Are you ready to learn?
The first step to transforming your business with an agile culture is learning about agility. You need to become an agile master to guide your business. Before you can become a master, you need to learn from a master.