Characteristics of an Agile Organization
Jim Collins, in his famous book “Good to Great” talks about his teams five year research where they determined what it takes to change a good company into a great one. Can Agile help in the creation of great companies?
Jean Tabaka suggested a list of 10 characteristics of a truly Agile organization which potentially would help an organization make the leap. Jean suggested the following characteristics in order of increasing importance
- Work/Life Balance and Consistent Delivery – Empower teams which are dedicated to personal and organizational goals. Create a discipline of shorter release cycles.
- Servant and Leader - The entire spectrum of managers should serve by leading and lead by serving. Instead of making decisions for the team, managers should support team commitments.
- Sustainable and Successful - Maintaining sustainable pace and stability, all divisions of the organization should focus on customer value.
- Contributing to the Community and Maintaining a Profitable Company – Apart from profitability and core business, making a positive impact on the community should be a focus area.
- Collaborative and Smart – Hire smart people and foster collaboration to spread the intellect.
- Bottom-up and Top-down Decision Making – Leaders are informed by knowledge workers and vice versa to complete the cycle. Tacit knowledge helps and informs explicit knowledge.
- Personal Flexibility and Rhythm – Create a regular cycle of delivery and value.
- Quality and Faster – Entire organization focuses on value delivery and a quick feedback regarding the value.
- Creating Your Own Reality and Corporate Vision – Rather than implementing a corporate vision by having clearly defined rigid roles, Agile organizations hire great individuals who guide the corporate vision with their passion
- Commitment to be great; disciplined culture and metrics – Metrics such as work/life balance, bottom-up and top-down decision making, servant leadership practices, innovation practices and technical debt help to decipher where the organization is on its path to greatness.
- Management Pyramid is inverted
- Greater Liberty and Freedom to accomplish the task at hand
- Constant Learning, Knowledge Creation and Knowledge Sharing
- A More Enjoyable and Humane Work Environment
- A Hyper-productive Cooperative Work Mode
- Emergent Planning, Architecture and Requirements
- New values that generate a cooperative culture
- The Quality of Life
Mike Cottmeyer suggested a list of patterns that he has observed across organizations, which are essential for success of Agile. According to Mike,
There are some patterns I see over and over that are fundamental to a successful agile adoption, or a large scale enterprise agile transformation. Here are the ones I think are most important and why.
- Cross-Functional Teams
- Empowered Team Members– Focus is on business outcomes and the teams are empowered to take their own course and decisions.
- Single Voice of the Business– Business needs to define the priority and value for the development team.
- Shared Accountability– Everybody has shared ownership of business outcomes.
- Servant Leadership
- Continuous Flow of Value– Make sure that the organization is delivering value on a regular cadence.
- Value over Activity– Every activity should be able to bring some value addition to the organization.
- Attention to Technical Excellence– There should be a constant watch on minimizing the amount of technical debt that is carried over time. Quality, reliability and scaleability are built in from the very beginning.
- Early Feedback and Adaptation
- Total Openness and Transparency– In a truly Agile organization, nothing can be hidden. People can’t hide. Progress can’t hide. Metrics can’t hide. Poor quality can’t hide. Risk can’t hide. Impediments can’t hide.
- Trust– An environment and culture where people trust each other.
As one would observe, most of the characteristics place a lot of importance on empowerment, communication and collaboration. The key is to promote an environment of trust, learning and deliver business value with a sustainable pace.
Re: Great lists!
Re: Great lists!
I wonder if the statements are really in the "spirit" of "Good to Great"
Most agile posts come from the direction of creating a "cosy" environment for developers and not from the direction of an "incurable need to produce sustainable results".
I really try to understand :) I am not certain if my interpretation is right. But I would currently suggest that agile is a tool in the toolbox of a level 5 leader that he can use in the right circumstances.
In addition I don't think that the mechanics of agile, like described above, count! It is all about mental state of people in the sense of Christopher Avery:
If you get the mental state of people right and if they come from the direction of and "incurable need to produce sustainable results" then I think agile (in the best sense of the word) will emerge automatically.
How do you see that?
Ian Culling, Andy Powell & Lee Cunningham Dec 11, 2013