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Achieving Agility Needed for Business Survival

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An increasing number of organizations are embracing Agile development as a survival tactic in these turbulent economic times. This in turn has lead to a number of pundits examining what attitudes and attributes their teams need to be successful. Business agility is important – the ability to “sense environment change and respond efficiently and effectively to that change”, but how is this agility achieved?

Picking just three topics from the plethora of material available, we find the importance of values, motivation, and extreme interviewing to help select the right people.

Values & Ethics

Michele Sliger (co-author of The Software Project Manager's Bridge to Agility) identifies Agile as the ethical way to do business focusing on eight ethical behaviors which lead to organizational success:

  1. Commitment to doing what is needed to deliver business value
  2. Focus on doing only what delivers business value
  3. Openness by honestly conveying the real project status
  4. Communication – talk to each other, answer questions quickly, and help team members coordinate work efforts
  5. Simplicity of purpose, spending time on things that deliver the maximum value for the minimum cost, delivering value early
  6. Feedback from stakeholders to help keep the team focused on what value is being delivered
  7. Courage to make decisions and courage to say no when delivery of value is under threat
  8. Respect for each other and for stakeholders outside the immediate team, understanding who we are building the product for and caring about their needs

(An observant reader will notice that these are essentially the values from eXtreme Programming, and align well with the values and principles of the Agile Manifesto.) 

Motivation Inspired by Restaurateurs

An Enthiosys newsletter titled Chefs and Agile Restaurateurs discusses the need for business agility, drawing the comparison between Agile development and chefs. The article raises a number of useful comparisons that Agile teams will benefit from remembering:

  • Revenue happens when customers buy and use our solutions, not when we release them. The chef with the most magnificent menu isn’t successful; it’s only when people come along and order the food that we can become successful
  • Releases don't equal revenue. The uncoordinated kitchen which gets the meals out in the wrong order results in unhappy customers; it’s only by getting the meals out in correctly that we create happy diners, who pay for this meal and come back for more
  • Well coordinated releases put money in the cash register sooner. A smoothly flowing kitchen allows us to turn the tables quicker and make more money sooner

Pick the Right People

How do we select people with the right attitudes? CIO Magazine has an interview with a pair of leaders who apply “Extreme Interviewing” to filter applicants and identify those with the Agile attitudes, focusing on collaboration, creative exploration, learning attitudes and teamwork skills.

The interview process is demanding, and probably somewhat daunting for participants, but it ensures that people who join their teams have the right fit and skills needed to contribute to success. People trump process, and having the right people provides the best base for business success.

There is no magic wand solution that guarantees survival and success in these turbulent times, but an increasing number of businesses are recognizing that Agile attitudes and practices provide a framework for hope and tools to respond quickly to changing market needs.

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