Getting more agile: When and how to do it


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For software companies or startups, Agile development and decision making is a natural fit. But agile decision making increasingly has a place in well-established companies, too.

A rule of thumb: If the company is new, learning something new, or exploring new areas, why not build it around a nimble decision process that focuses on customer reactions rather than hard-and-fast processes and rules?

If you’re urging such an approach in your organization, here’s a rationale from Talent Management magazine and Harvard Business Review to help you make your case.

An agile decision-making approach is most appropriate, writes Talent Managment, when one or more of the following three conditions exists: There’s uncertainty around the product, the product is complex, or the solution is unique and involves new ideas, technology or processes.

“Agile decision-making approach is most appropriate when one or more of the following exists: Uncertainty around the product, the product is complex, or the solution is unique.”

Matt Donovan, writing in Talent Managment, suggests you can lay the groundwork for success by taking the following steps:

— Develop trust-building in your teams through progressive process, controls, incentives, team structure – and clearly defined goals
— Reinforce the importance of cross-functional perspectives on teams, and in building collaborative skills
— Promote transparent decision-making, clear expectations, and good communication, and encourage teams to make decisions closer to customer feedback – and through mechanisms built around customer feedback
— Incorporate budgeting and finance stakeholders early in the process, weight value over cost, and educate everyone on the importance of prioritizing requirements
— Build your leaders by training them around managing process, shaping a vision, and delivering optimal solutions.

Neo’s Jeff Gothelf, writing in HBR, suggests making the following organizational changes:

— Change hiring styles from hiring bundles of skills to hiring for creativity, collaboration and curiosity; motivate them by building something meaningful and creating ownership in it
— Change project funding from full funding for predictable deliverables to portfolio model of treating each project as an in-house startup that must meet milestones for funding
— Change decision-making hierarchies from layers of management to decisions made closest to the customer feedback (and change development processes to include more customer feedback!)
— Incentivize measuring outcomes, making evidence-based decisions and learning

Agile decision making won’t solve a problem by itself.

But in the right circumstances, it can help speed a product to market by identifying customer needs in time to build a successful solution around them, save money by allowing teams to pivot before spending their budget on a prototype that won’t succeed, and enhance ideas by fostering cross-pollination of ideas.

– James Janega



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