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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3 Comments :

Alan Cameron said...
Hi Ally, I think you hit the nail on the head when you talked about low maturity organisations. When you examine the implementation of agile software development, it works best where there is already high maturity. In huge, highly complex, software development projects, agile is excellent at enabling the management of the business complexities, but only if the whole organisation embraces the principles embodied in the manifesto. I think we'll have to agree to disagree about business change, but if an organisation embraces agile, it also embraces the greater discipline needed for successful implementation. The principle of agile development works for large organisations such as Nokia, where they have clear strategic direction, everyone is bought into the principles and they all work together. Software development is only part of the chain of business change, so I firmly believe that the manifesto has much wider application. It's indeed necessary to look at how organisations work most effectively, and big command and control organisations have greatest difficulty with dealing with small agile ones. Google is an example of how and agile company can grow organically by using agile principles and sticking with them as they develop the business. The older slower companies will die unless they move to agile. Summing it up, the Agile Manifesto, though it was put together for software development, is at its heart a manifesto for business change. All the best, Alan
May 27, 2015 07:13
Alan Cameron said...
Hi Ally, I think you hit the nail on the head when you talked about low maturity organisations. When you examine the implementation of agile software development, it works best where there is already high maturity. In huge, highly complex, software development projects, agile is excellent at enabling the management of the business complexities, but only if the whole organisation embraces the principles embodied in the manifesto. I think we'll have to agree to disagree about business change, but if an organisation embraces agile, it also embraces the greater discipline needed for successful implementation. The principle of agile development works for large organisations such as Nokia, where they have clear strategic direction, everyone is bought into the principles and they all work together. Software development is only part of the chain of business change, so I firmly believe that the manifesto has much wider application. It's indeed necessary to look at how organisations work most effectively, and big command and control organisations have greatest difficulty with dealing with small agile ones. Google is an example of how and agile company can grow organically by using agile principles and sticking with them as they develop the business. The older slower companies will die unless they move to agile. Summing it up, the Agile Manifesto, though it was put together for software development, is at its heart a manifesto for business change. All the best, Alan
May 27, 2015 07:13
Ally Gill said...
Hi Alan, I'm all for leveraging ideas, concepts and tools and reusing them in different situations - and the application of agile in business change initiatives certainly has a lot of potential. But I think we need to take a step back before we merely reframe the agile manifesto for business transformation. The manifesto was created by a group of relatively disenfranchised developers in order to meet their needs regarding a very specific set of software development issues. When we start talking about business transformation we're onto a whole different topic and a completely different set of people's needs which must be addressed. More importantly, the complexity of an organisation needs to be considered as a critical factor - something that is less of an issue in developing software. There are far more interactions in an average business than in any agile development shop. So I think we need to look at the issues organisations face in undertaking business transformation before we start rewording a manifesto designed for a completely different purpose. There are synergies and touchpoints - but I can see all sorts of dysfunctional behaviours being let lose by some of your principles especially in large, bureaucratic and hierarchical command and control based organisations who still have very little maturity and even basic understanding of how to manage change effectively! Cheers Ally.
May 19, 2015 06:12

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