It was Herbert D. Benington who, in 1956, spoke in a symposium about a new methodology for programming digital systems that years later would be called “cascading”.
Over time, and perhaps thanks to the confluence of two phenomena – Moor’s Law and the fact that digital software was being bought by many professionals who were lacking in technical knowledge – the limitations of the waterfall methodology (sequential) made agile even more essential. One basic principle of this iterative methodology is that software requirements vary from user to user, and so do the solutions offered by the supplier – these suppliers are constantly developing new features.
This applies to the entire market, everything is changing and we need a working knowledge of agile methodologies in order to survive.
Agile organizations and corporate culture
Agility is a company’s ability to change.. From a product launch point of view, organizations cannot afford to maintain a time to market over one or two years. The current environment is tremendously competitive in terms of the agile implementation of initiatives. Consumers are becoming more demanding and their needs vary according to inexorable and continuous technological advances, so the reformulation of products and services must be constant and focused on the delivery of value.
From a more general perspective, the agile methodology when applied within an organization supposes radical change in the form of approach and definition of culture, as well as the way in which the organization works. It is common for companies to form teams that apply this methodology in specific areas, especially within areas of technological development.
These specific teams, although they might act as a good starting point prior to continuous implementation of the methodology in other departments, are not sufficient if the organization’s aim is to change the corporate mentality. Through this change of perspective, organizations are much better prepared to face the challenges of the changing environment and are able to generate many more opportunities for growth.
Key areas of change for agile organizations
The implementation of the agile methodology within an organization, impacts three broad areas: focus, processes and people.
- Global vision. The organization that wants to excel in such a competitive environment and face the challenges of its sector head on, must develop a global vision.
- Constant value delivery. The agile methodology is based on the delivery of continuous value over a short period of time. The organization must adopt this method of delivery in order to be constantly improving its products and services.
- Innovation. Being innovative is no longer an advantage, it’s fundamental. Organizations must innovate at the external level, in the development of products and services, and at the internal level, to develop innovative initiatives with co-workers, utilize tools that improve processes and so on.
- Decentralization of communication. The agile organization no longer functions as the sole emitter of messages, neither internally nor externally. The organization empowers people to communicate on their behalf and advocate for the company in their professional environments or between teams.
- Shared knowledge. As in the field of communication, knowledge must flow freely among the people within the organization, without the organization centralizing that information. Their job should be to provide the necessary context for each employee, independent of their position, to share knowledge and increase the value of their coworkers at an individual level. This then results in a global increase in team value.
- New models of decision-making. As detailed in the section “Marketing decision-making”, agility is one of the two main axis that guide the quality of a decision. The organization must develop structures that allow for agile decision making, and they must ensure that they have involved key people who will ensure coherence and contribution of value.
- Reduction of bureaucracy and simplicity of processes. The organization must remain committed to simple rules over complex processes that overextend over time. This is well aligned with the pursuit of efficiency in the development of products and services. In addition, these rules should be constantly reevaluated, and then optimized or modified if necessary.
- Interdepartmental collaboration. Independent silos lacking in communication, should be replaced by a culture of constant collaboration, with the aim of generating value.
- Multifunctional teams. Responding to the needs of consumers by providing a service or product requires the participation of different departments. Only through the sum of their understanding, skills and knowledge can excellence be obtained.
- Empowerment. The empowerment of people generates flexible and less hierarchical structures. The objective is that each employee will be able to develop their capabilities to the fullest and this involves promoting individual responsibility and autonomy. This increases agility in the development of initiatives, since it does not depend on a hierarchical structure in order to move forward.
- Transformation-oriented leadership. Leaders of agile organizations must adopt a role in alignment with the cultural approach, the goal of which is to allow each person the freedom to maximize their potential without hindrance. In addition, leaders must work to ensure that the above is achieved, develop a great capacity for empathy, and push for continuous improvement.
Talent as the fundamental axis of agile organizations
People are the founders of organizations and their organizational culture. Agility, as a guiding concept, is tremendously beneficial in the evolution of an organization. However, to remain competitive, they must also be able to capture talent and promote the right mentality within the organization so that they might produce talent internally also.
In this sense, the department responsible for managing talent, and the leaders within the organization face the challenge of promoting internal talent and attracting people outside of the organization who meet the conditions essential to the development of an agile organization:
- Easy adaption to change. The changing environment forces organizations to permanently reevaluate their methods and processes; they must develop the capacity to adjust to constantly arising challenges. Agility means being able to change course quickly whenever necessary, without detriment to quality and without losing sight of the global goal.
- Business and IT Focus. There are two key groups within agile organizations; those who understand the needs of the consumer, as well as the needs of the organizational core, and who have a vision of where their sector is headed, and IT Profiles, who must be kept in mind at all times. After all, in an agile organization, technology is at the service of the people.
- Ability to think and execute. Versatility is key. People within agile organizations should be thinkers and doers, people capable of posing the best solutions. In addition, the ability to think differently and in a result-oriented manner is extremely important.