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How Agile Are You, Really?

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Through the years, Agile developed from a workflow method for development teams to a broader, front-end process for companies working on the predominant customer journeys for apps, client interfacing, and products.

Currently, a small but growing group of financial institutions are entering a next reality, using the concept – with scaled Agile as a steppingstone – as a means of organisational philosophy. They are embracing ideas such as Lean, Scrum, Agile, Self-Steering teams and Super Seven teams in a holistic way to enhance overall organisational effectiveness. In applying agile principles as an organisational philosophy, organisational structures tend to get reorganised, functions redefined, and new ways of working are introduced beyond just the ‘front-end’ and even incorporate ‘running the bank.’

This next level of agility offers the most gains, but it also requires significant organisational transformation impacting structures, functions, and collaboration mechanisms. Typical consequences are the need to re-applying for functions, an influx of new people, and a fundamental shift of mentality and culture throughout the organisation.

With so many interpretations of the concept and with so many different stages, it is imperative for companies that want to take the following steps in agility to ask themselves the question: How Agile are you, really?

Levels of Agility

The first levels of agility are characterised by using the Agile framework mostly at former IT development and project roles, with some functions connecting to business roles. It is developed by introducing new roles, artifacts, and ways of working in a separate part of the organisation. At this point, transforming the organisation means focusing on the groups directly involved in training developers, using artifacts, and coaching teams in their new way of working. Typically, you see an area of generally accepted friction between the governance of development and management of other areas.

At a next level of agility, one typically sees more business functions at the front-end, such as in marketing, process management, product management, and data management. We see T-shaped profiles being introduced and permanent multidisciplinary teams being organised in the business, but mainly at the front-end of the value chain.

At this level, transforming the organisation is more about focusing on aligning teams and cadence, introducing overarching alignment, and introducing accountability for front-end client and business goals in line with Agile team structure.  At this point, organising ‘alignment’ is a general theme related to governance, planning, budgeting, cadence, performance management, attitude, and senior management style.

At the end of the scale we see an agile organisational philosophy being introduced as a new organisational structure, redefining functions, and fundamentally changing collaboration models along the whole value chain. This shift is also a reorganisation with people reapplying for fundamentally changed role profiles and government patterns along the value chain. Agile and Lean are translated in integrated structures and adopted in coherence from front to end of the organisation. Overall integrated accountability for client’s and business’ goals is allocated to single functions in the new organisation. A new way of governance is introduced throughout the entire organisation – from the front-end to the mid-end and back-end. Flexibility to adapt these frameworks in the complete value-chain is a more accurate measure of maturity and mastering the concepts.

What to do next?

To truly reap the huge benefits of becoming an Agile organisation, you need to understand your company’s ambition, capability, and maturity level in terms of agility. The transformational program is always a combination of several workstreams, but the type and character differ per stage. Transforming the organisation to the next level takes experience and insight into each stage’s specific success factors and pitfalls.

Delta Capita will start a series of articles to take you through these essential factors in the following months. Some examples of learnings are:

  1. Beware of the one-size-fits-all mentality: Clarity and focus in how Agile is applied correctly for the specific organisations and departments are essential.
  2. Leadership is vital: Becoming an agile organisation is much more than working with artifacts and adopting a new structure in the organisation. The cultural change must be led by management example.
  3. Process and planning must support agile: There must be a refresh of old mechanisms and ways of planning and reporting on progress as otherwise the new structures will be constantly undermined.
  4. Innovation: An agile organisation is excellent in rapidly adapting to changing environments, but it would be best described as rapid evolution. There are risks that must be managed, such as technical debt and a lack of focus on high impact revolutionary innovation.
  5. Agile is not the answer to every problem: An agile organisation will be more effective and can be more efficient, but it is essential to understand that there are easier ways to reach single focus targets as cutting costs or enhanced innovation

The series will help you to understand your organisations level of ambition, its current state and gives insight for taking next steps from a practical, goal-oriented, and non-dogmatic angle. Experience is based on insights from helping many businesses in their journey to agile maturity. If you would like to speak to one of our experts and find out more, contact us here.