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5 practices to implement Agile methodology at company level

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The agile methodology must be a radical alternative to the classic management style. Agile has changed considerably in the last 20 years, involving new values, principles, practices and benefits. Companies such as Sanofi, John Deere, Toyota, Bosch or GE use this system to transform their companies into a digital factory, with teams of automatic management and concentration for customer needs.

Agile was originally developed to support the work environment in the IT industry, but the results that this methodology has demonstrated have developed the interest of other industries to use this work strategy. The correct implementation of the methodology can bring to the business, on average, the increase of efficiency by 50%. From their own experience and study of companies that use agile, the Idea Perpetua team was able to distinguish five practices that entrepreneurs can use to successfully adopt and take full advantage of the agile methodology.

Learn how agile is actually functioning

The process is not an anarchy or a state of disorder, where everyone does what they want. Methods such as scrum, sprint, lean developmentor kanban are used to solve problems and achieve goals. When something is not working, entrepreneurs should not resort to the classic methods of management, but to reintroduce agile and give this workflow time to spread over the entire team.

Scrumis a session that focuses on creative thinking and adaptive collaboration to solve complex problems. In this phase the work tasks are distributed and passed in a sprint, which is the centralizer of the objectives being usually done monthly. The sprint is constantly updated following regular scrum sessions. The recurrence period of the scrum session is variable, the effective interval being the weekly one for the service industry. Meetings with daily recurrence can last 15 minutes and involve a discussion about the tasks performed and those to be performed.

The functional component of the agile methodology is represented by teams of three to nine people. These teams have a leader chosen by the members, who is responsible for achieving the goal and delivering added value for customers and the company. Team members should have all the skills needed to solve tasks without outside help, assigning tasks to themselves and testing prototypes of products or services.

Google sells countless products and services, making it impossible to manage without implementing agile teams. The composition of the teams brings together experts from different areas such as: marketing, management, software development, etc. to develop additional features and services to Google products, taking into account the impact of introducing new features across the company.

Find out where agile works and where it doesn’t work

Agile is not a methodology that works universally, without the process being adjusted for a specific company. The process is a trial and error type in which the process must be tested in different ways and it must be observed where it fails in order to update. Usually agile works when the problem to be solved is complex, the solutions are initially unknown, it is very possible that the requirements for meeting the objectives change, the workload can be divided and collaboration with the end customer is easy.

The workflow is also based on teams whose members are passionate about their work. From this point of view, it is optimal that, initially, agile teams are made up of passionate volunteers rather than people who are reluctant to change. Although change is good, most people dislike the idea of ​​abrupt change. At the same time, the continuous repetition of a set of practices is not beneficial, installing monotony and inefficiency. A company that wants to evolve must introduce practices that have a balance between change and monotony.

OpenView Venture Partners, an enterprise that has invested in 30 companies, chose to introduce the agile methodology after learning about this concept from one of the companies in its portfolio. Business representatives learned that agile working methods yielded very good results for strategic planning and marketing, but less for the sales department, where all tasks could be changed instantly, following a phone call. This does not completely deny the incompatibility of using the agile methodology for sales departments, but it is necessary to develop a customized workflow. Moreover, OpenView Venture has provided agile training for companies in their portfolio to increase customer added value and most of them introduced the system enthusiastically.

Test and then scale

As a result of massive efforts, large corporations are introducing low-yield agile programs. The successful introduction of this methodology is based on the introduction of one or two teams in the company functions that need this and thus creating a base of employees who support this method of work and are willing to share the knowledge of a superior workflow with the other colleagues.

An example of the adoption and expansion of agile methodology is the John Deere company, which deals with the design, production and distribution of agricultural equipment. The transition to agile lasted several years, being initially introduced at a low level until it was mainly used in the research and development department. The introduction of a modern methodology has allowed the increase of innovation by about 50% and the quality of work, on average, by 200%. Products that usually took a year and a half to design were now completed in 8 months. In addition, agile leaders wrote and submitted weekly articles about the methodology to all those interested in the company. The success has attracted the attention of the entire John Deere team and currently the employees who do not already use agile are implementing the system or thinking about how to improve it before implementing it.

Allow your teams to personalize their work practices

Japanese martial arts students, especially those who practice aikido, often learn a process called shu-ha-ri. In the shu stage they study the discipline and follow the basic principles, then enter the ha stage, in which they begin to detach themselves from the traditional techniques. The ri stage is reached when they become true masters, imposing new practices and rules that must be followed by other new followers. This methodology has been taken over by Western culture in the form: Shu – follows the rules, Ha – breaks the rules and Ri – creates the rules.

In the implementation phase of the agile methodology, the teams must be maintained with the initial composition. Such stability can help teams develop a key principle: improvisation. This principle, also considered agile adaptability, allows teams to customize certain work practices to ensure improved customer satisfaction, work efficiency and team morale.

Spotify, the company behind the Internet music streaming platform, is an example of the experience of adapting its work teams. The company has created a business model that has operated with the help of agile teams since its inception in 2006. All Spotify processes are designed to improve the consumer experience when interacting with the company’s products or services. This is due to innovation through agile, and currently top leaders no longer dictate the practices to be followed by teams, but encourage flexibility and the development of new principles to improve results.

Introduce agile from the top of the company

Top executives should also practice the principles of agile methodology, not only to set an example, but also because this could bring them extraordinary benefits. An agile team of executives can strongly influence how business strategy develops, how resources are allocated, or how organisational culture is formed.

The time of the leaders must be reallocated in a percentage of 20 – 25% in order to implement and develop the agile methodology and the teams that use it. This can ensure that priorities are properly assigned and that barriers are removed from the process of creating the company’s work teams. Leaders need to identify and minimize the impact of bottlenecks in the agile implementation process, becoming facilitators. Some techniques include:

– Develop a transparent and equal system for all. Access to information for all team members must be optimal and equal. Each member must have access to the same volume of information, and the agile techniques practiced must be arranged transparently towards them, such as: place of scrum meetings, method of managing workloads, dates of scrum meetings

– Do not try to implement all agile practices, but check and implement the best ones for your team. For example, scrum and kanban are two techniques that can rarely be used simultaneously, with many companies choosing the optimal working method for their organisational structure. While scrum focuses on teamwork, kanban prioritises individual management of work tasks.

– Do not change the implemented structure before testing it from all points of view. If certain techniques do not work, try to change the composition of the team or appoint other people to key positions.

– Make sure that each team member follows the same vision. You can ask questions like “Why are you doing this?” to check if the tasks of a team member are heading in the direction of the company’s goal. At the same time, you can tell your colleagues what to do, not how to do it. It is the equivalent of a person having to make a helicopter out of LEGO pieces without having the instruction manual at hand. The results can be surprising, as this is the main goal of the agile methodology. Other questions that can develop ideas and results are: “What do you recommend in this situation?”, “How can we test this?” or “How can we verify the effectiveness of this process?”.

– Make sure you develop agile management, not waterfall management. Waterfall is a type of management that presents a sequential chain of work practices. This provision assumes that this type of management is weakly susceptible to change, any intervention on the previous stages being costly. The agile work process involves the modular distribution of a product, so changes can be made later. This is a principle that operating systems also use in communicating with other connected devices. For example, to print a document, the operating system transmits the data to a reserved document, and from there the printer driver retrieves the information and transmits it to the printer to perform the operation. If that reserved link document didn’t exist, you should have purchased a new computer if you bought a newer-generation printer.

Systematic, a software company with global presence, including Romania, started using agile in 2005. However, the CEO and co-founder of the company, Michael Holm, had the impression that his executive team hinders the process of work teams in the rest of the company, transmitting documents that seemed outdated and using processes that took too long. Thus, in 2010, Michael Holm formed an agile team of nine members with leadership positions. The team reduced the volume of documents submitted, prioritized direct communication through 20-minute daily meetings, and focused on processes that could maximize customer satisfaction. In addition, the team began to use a physical kanban, in the form of a blackboard, which tracked and described all the actions carried out. Due to this, any member of the company could intervene to improve the work processes.

 

Most businesses that integrate the agile methodology use at least one of the practices described above, but agile should not be limited to these techniques, as it is a complex process. The proposed techniques do not guarantee the successful implementation of agile management, but a professional team of management consultants can use these techniques in the coherent implementation of agile management. If you want to maximize your chances of implementing new management strategies or if you want to streamline the management system, contact the Idea Perpetua team, which can help you through efficient methods to implement an optimal management model for your business.

 

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About the author:

Daniel Bilea

Daniel Bîlea

Junior Business Consultant

Daniel is pursuing a BBA (Bachelor of Business Administration) program at the University of Bucharest. Within Idea Perpetua, Daniel implements projects in Consulting in Entrepreneurship, Consulting in Digital Innovation and Consulting in Investments. At the same time, Daniel is oriented towards solving the problems of entrepreneurs and start-ups through a creative, innovative and efficient approach aimed at optimizing systems, automating processes, validating and scaling business models.

 

Published: 2020-05-20 11:00:04

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