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Agile adoption changes organizations policies and facilities

by Shane Hastie on May 08, 2012 |

Agile adoption changes the way organizations work - adopting agile practices means supporting more collaborative environments and organizational policies that enable self-organization and break down hierarchies.

Two recent posts about vastly different organizations provide examples of the way things change.

ERP vendor SAP recently opened a new development centre in Palo Alto, California.  The facility was designed from the ground up to support Agile techniques and practices.  In a Computerworld article, Chris Kanaracus of IDG reported on the new facility. 

SAP intends to become a major player in cloud-based software, and has been adopting agile software development practices as one means of reaching that goal

According to the article the push into cloud computing requires a different way of working for SAP's teams and the building was designed to support agile's collaborative practices:

All of the new building's furniture is on wheels and the walls are "writable," making it possible to quickly realign rooms for meetings and team spaces, according to SAP.

 There are no cubicles or corner offices and the overall design emphasizes windows, natural light and a general sense of "transparency," SAP said in a statement.

The setup is also meant to accommodate various workers' personal styles and habits; introverts can find their privacy when they like, while those more prone to seek out collaborators have that option, according to the vendor.

Feedback from SAP employees is positive with one quoted as saying:

This is the first time I've felt like I work in Silicon Valley.

Another organization which is publicizing the way agile practices have changed their way of working is game developer Valve Software.  Blogger Clinton Keith discusses Valve Software's self-organizing culture in a recent post

He describes how Valve Software have gone so far as to make their employee handbook freely available for download, as it embodies why the organisation adopted a self-organizing approach to work.  Keith talks about Valve as:

A place where rigid process and hierarchies were considered a mismatch to creative development

He quotes from the employee handbook:

Hierarchy is great for maintaining predictability and repeatability. It simplifies planning and makes it easier to control a large group of people from the top down, which is why military organizations rely on it so heavily.
But when you’re an entertainment company that’s spent the last decade going out of its way to recruit the most intelligent, innovative, talented people on Earth, telling them to sit at a desk and do what they’re told obliterates 99 percent of their value. We want innovators, and that means maintaining an environment where they’ll flourish.

He goes on to link this self-organizing way of working to Valve's position as a highly desirable and profitable place to work:

While Valve enjoys the highest retention rates of almost any company, it also makes more profit per employee than even Google or Apple!

He challenges organizations to make the change from hierarchical structures to self-organization, ending with the statement:

There is a revolution taking place in how we work that may take a generation to become common place. We have more examples every year that show us how to get there and what the benefits are.

Do agile practices drive change, and how has your organization changed as a result of agile adoption?

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Promising title, weak content by Dave Nicolette

It seems to me that an organization that has a traditional structure and traditional assumptions about management does need to make certain changes if it expects to realize very much of the benefit promised by "agile" methods. That's why the title of this piece caught my attention.

But for a company like SAP to say they intend to use "agile" methods doesn't mean very much. Everyone says that nowadays. It usually never translates into reality.

Valve has been a forward-looking, innovative company all along. "Agile" didn't "transform" it into such an organization.

And these are the only two example cited.

<sigh></sigh>

Agile ensures world peace by M Vleth

Way too much weight is being given to the term 'Agile'. Both types organizational structures have been around for decades and 'self-organization' is definitely not some offspring of 'Agile'. Both types of organizational structures have there place and both can and are successful in the software industry. We probably can sum up just as much cases where adopting 'Agile' failed miserably (and no, not because 'they did it wrong').

Usually it just boils done to people: What kind of people can and will your company attract. Some people function perfectly and efficiently in the more hierarchical organized organizations, others in the more self-organzing environment.

Napoleon: The inventor of strategic agility? by Hendrik Ballegeer

Blogger Clinton Keith quotes :
"Hierarchy is great for maintaining predictability and repeatability. ... which is why military organizations rely on it so heavily."

But, it seems that even military organizations benefit / have benefited from agile and lean practices.

You can have a look at the interesting INSEAD case study : "Napoleon: The inventor of strategic agility ?"

knowledge.insead.edu/contents/Doz2.htm


With kind regards,
Hendrik Ballegeer

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