This article is a 2 in 1 since you will discover why transform your company into an Agile Company and how to make your Company Agile. We hear about an agile company more and more frequently around us … That sounds cool … But what is it? And above all, why are more and more companies adopting this operating model?
Classic project management
You may be used to classic project management (Waterfall type) using a V cycle:
- Analysis of customer needs;
- Drafting of extremely precise specifications where everything is planned and meticulously specified, described and analyzed (functionalities, production methods, technical choices, etc.);
- Execution of the project by following the specifications to the letter.
A flaw in the system
Truth be told, this is a very reassuring way to approach a project since it seems that everything is planned and settled in advance. The “catch” is that whatever we do, a devious law almost always comes to play the “spoilsport”!
“The most advanced phase of the theory is … Practice! “.
Basically, it is both the rigidity that induces this way of proceeding and the impossible openness to unforeseen discoveries that never fail to arise along the way, which make this way of doing things fragile, but not at all ” agile ”.
The problem is that once engaged in carrying out the project following the implacable specifications, it is impossible to deviate from it. This is the famous “Tunnel” effect!
Suddenly, the need for a new operating mode was felt in the field of software development in particular.
It is also the specific requirements linked to the nature of startups that have enabled the emergence of a new way of managing a project. Indeed, what would you do in a context of extreme uncertainty?
Imagine that you are in the dark and in a completely unknown place! You are unlikely to start running …
On the other hand, you will start by reaching out in front of you and around you with caution and you will fumble to understand what environment you are in and how you can move forward without breaking your face!
Well, that’s the agile philosophy … basically!
Question of confidence
You will also have to do this “exploration” with others. So, to take my example, if there are many of you in the dark without knowing your mates, a serious problem arises: can I really trust my companions to send me correct and honest information? Or is one of them going to use me to advance on mined land or even as a human shield or whatever? Things get tough!
And there, you understand in the blink of an eye that it is out of the question to embark on such an adventure before being sure that your partners are really brothers … and also sisters if possible.
Collective intelligence and women
Indeed, Émile Servan-Schreiber, Doctor in cognitive psychology and engineer in artificial intelligence, we also learn in his book Supercollectif that 30% of women in a group significantly increase their potential for success.
In addition, he shows that diversity makes us smarter – that’s why we will do it together – and that collective intelligence makes our companies more efficient! We take note.
First, you will build multidisciplinary teams who welcome the project manager, the coordinator renamed “agile coach”, the designer (s), the developer (s), the designer (s), the marketing manager and… the (s) ) collaborating client (s).
Second, you will consider what I call “Opportunistic uncertainty” as an integral part of the product.
This approach may seem frightening at first, since we admit that we are not sure where we are going, or how it could work.
We do not make a precise and very elaborate plan since we know that we do not have all the necessary components at the start. We only rely on the conviction that we will discover them as development progresses, in an extremely concrete and opportunistic way.
We will indeed take advantage of what is presented to shed sterile ideas as much as to seize opportunities that are impossible to foresee before we have advanced enough in development.
If for some, this operation may seem super random, for those who already have the experience of setting up a complex project, this approach corresponds much more to the reality on the ground experienced on a daily basis.
Note that unlike the classic approach, you will no longer put the project at the center, but the realization itself. Quite simply for the reason that what will be born and take shape can turn out to be very different from what was imagined at the start!
Moving in the right direction
Third: Forbidden to travel kilometers and kilometers without being sure that we are moving in the right direction !!!
The risk is too great to make an entire team work for a year on a product that will not please! You would lose a lot of money, a lot of time and, above all, your most precious capital: the confidence and enthusiasm of your team, your partners, investors, your customers and … yourself.
Nothing is more demotivating and more frustrating than disappointment and outright failure!
There follows an inescapable question: how can we be sure that we are moving in the right direction? The answer is quite disappointing: in fact, you can never be sure that you are on the right track. It’s a fact !
Ok, but how do we do then?
- You are going to take a few steps, two to four weeks of maximum work. Two, is that good?
- You will measure the result;
- You will learn from it, whether positive or negative;
- You will not fail to realize that some ideas that seemed great at the beginning do not add much and that, on the other hand, unsuspected possibilities bring a lot of value to the project;
- You’ll readjust just right…;
- … And leave for a few more steps. Two weeks, we said;
- And you will repeat this sequence until the completion and completion of the project.
This is what the brilliant Éric Ries calls the “Produce – Measure – Learn” cycle in his Lean Startup approach.
An agile method therefore provides a project management framework in which we find:
- A multidisciplinary team with specific roles;
- Meetings with effective communication;
- Artifacts; good or bad contingencies;
- Management rules;
- And an iterative cycle of development.
The working environment is simple, transparent and pragmatic. To summarize simply, we define the content of an iteration in terms of functionalities which are developed and then validated at the end of the short period allowed (two weeks).
A review of the version thus produced is carried out in the presence of the full team before continuing to the next iteration.
How to make your business agile?
Let’s move from discussion to Practice and to the more concrete aspect of transforming your company into an Agile Business.
Review your priorities
You need to rethink the main purpose of your business, which is no longer growth or profit, but the satisfaction of the customer (s) as much as that of your employees at all levels.
Your main lever to generate profit is the satisfaction of human beings who interact in and outside your organization …
We take a deep breath and breathe out slowly, as this is just the beginning of the changes …
You will now favor new features that appeal to customers and that respond precisely to their explicit or implicit, conscious or unconscious requests! This is the number 1 goal for the whole team.
Anticipating this satisfaction remains a major challenge.
Release the brakes
You should expect reluctance to say the least, or even resistance from your collaborators since the rules, the mentality, the procedures as much as the known benchmarks will shatter.
It may even be that as an executive or business manager, you yourself are destabilized as this new mode of operation is far from the comfort of a known context.
The philosophy of this new approach brings about a real cultural change. Humans are propelled to the center of concerns by dethroning tools in the process.
Making your business agile leads you to highlight:
- People and their collaboration rather than procedures and tools;
- Operational achievements rather than rigid planning;
- Client participation rather than contract negotiations;
- Adapting to change rather than following unchanging specifications.
The new agile business standards are becoming:
- Creativity fueled by collective intelligence;
- adaptability, the ability to move from one idea to another;
- The culture of change with natural flexibility;
- The reactivity through taking immediate action.
Note that the entire hierarchy should support this approach. Criticism giving way to stimulation and encouragement for continuous improvement in work as well as on a personal level.
The needs of employees are taken into account, skills and efforts (personal or collective) are publicly recognized and formulated.
As a manager, you will also ensure the regular training of each employee since better trained employees are more competent and produce better quality work at lower cost.
Finally, communication will be encouraged and solicited at all levels in order to properly align the needs of the company with those of its employees and customers.
The secret to success lies in the ability to work together and erase the pyramidal authority for the benefit of a fluid flow of information. The executives descend into the workshops and the problems are resolved on the ground in the presence of all the employees involved. The solutions are developed and adopted jointly, which facilitates understanding as well as acceptance if constraints are added.
It is easy to imagine that this mode of operation will induce everyone’s motivation and involvement in their work through clear objectives, each of which grasp the meaning.
An essential aspect is also the fact that all the employees must draw in the same direction which is given by the global vision of the project or the company itself.
Who says agility says autonomy. It is obvious that the teams must benefit from the confidence of the leaders who will have to grant them in exchange all the necessary autonomy.
The aim is to encourage initiative and creativity as much as to speed up the “produce – measure – learn” cycle. And therefore, the productivity gain.
The role of managers is changing to focus more on help and support than on control and authority. He is a listening facilitator who will ensure the cohesion of the teams as well as their ability to question themselves.
A good definition of a successful business where it feels good to work may well be an agile business, that is, one where everyone finds meaning in their work in a competitive and successful organization.
A society that takes up the challenge of adaptability, a culture of change and collaborative work.
A company that knows how to take advantage of collective intelligence to offer quality products or services that perfectly meet the demand of its customers for their greatest satisfaction, which is also the pride of happy and recognized employees.