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Adopting the Agile Manifesto for Business Transformation

Alan CameronI’ve been looking at the Agile Manifesto and its “Twelve Principles of Agile Software,” the underpinning of Agile product development, and it struck me that the manifesto and the principles can also be applied to business transformation, where the products are changed business methods.

It’s been reported that effective Agile development works best where the organisation understands the need for effective processes and applies that knowledge throughout the business; so, for me, it follows that there is a need for a recipe that applies Agile principles to business transformation.

So what are the principles that drive an Agile business? I suggest that the Agile Manifesto can only be adopted for business transformation with small changes. Therefore, with due deference to the authors of the original, I have amended the manifesto in a way that can be applied to business transformation, while keeping as much of the original wording as possible.

All the changes I suggest are highlighted below in italics:

We are uncovering better ways of delivering business transformation by doing it and helping others do it. Through this work we have come to value:

           Individuals and interactions over processes and tools

           Working business methods over comprehensive documentation

           Customer collaboration over contract negotiation

           Responding to change over following a plan

That is, while there is value in the items on the right, we value the items on the left more.

The principles can also be suitably amended:

1. Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of business value.

2. Welcome changing requirements, even late in the transformation journey. Agile processes harness change for the customer's competitive advantage.

3. Deliver working business change frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale.

4. Business people and change agents* must work together daily throughout the project.

5. Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.

6. The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a business change team is face-to-face conversation.

7. Working business methods are the primary measure of progress.

8. Agile processes promote sustainable business change. The sponsors, change agents, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.

9. Continuous attention to business excellence and best practice enhances agility.

10. Simplicity – the art of maximizing the amount of work not done--is essential.

11. The best business frameworks, requirements, and methods emerge from self-organizing teams.

12. At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behaviour accordingly.

I am convinced that only Agile organisations can make the most of Agile development, and the best way for them to visualise how they will progress is to apply the Agile Manifesto to day-to-day business.


*Change agents are a proxy for the Agile development team and have the same function – but in business terms; that is, they develop and deliver the business change.


Written by Alan Cameron at 05:00
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