From Agile Training to Business Agility: Changing the future of organisations

Joel Calafell

12 February 2020

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According to the 13th Annual State of Agile (2018), up to 97% of companies surveyed in a global sample reported using some form of agile methodology within their organisation. You don’t have to be an expert on the topic to realise that something is always wrong with this kind of global statistic.

Within the same study, 78% considered that perhaps this step towards Agile had not been carried out by all their teams. When asked about the maturity of the implementation, the data was even more revealing: only 12% of the companies declared that they had managed to develop a sufficiently competitive level of competence in Agile or Business Agility. And furthermore, only 6% claimed to have learned how to apply it to improve their performance or profitability in a demonstrable way at the business level.

And, of course, everything changes when you ask the internal employees. Interestingly, according to Gallup, only 15% of employees in Spain feel their company has an Agile mentality or culture. On the other hand, 51% are able to state with certainty that their company or organisation is not Agile yet. 

Maybe this last piece of information isn’t so surprising anymore, right? 

What is the real state of “agility” in Spain? 

This was the most important question for Kairós Digital Solutions when developing its Executive Program in Agile for Change during 2019. Kairós’ training offer is pioneering because it is the first to combine a high-level executive program with practical and methodological knowledge of the Agile world.

To answer this question, we launched a project at Good Rebels to mobilize the following main levers:

  1. To get to know the market and the reality of potential consumers of the programme.
  2. To develop the value proposal of the Kairós training product. 
  3. To develop new opportunities for the tactical and strategic positioning of the training product.
  4. Ultimately, to directly help the recruitment of students and the capturing of data obtained through performance campaigns in the digital environment 

Getting to know the Agile market 

For this phase of the project, a multi-stage analysis methodology was developed, which integrated three different and equally fundamental dimensions of analysis: 

  1. Immersion. We analysed the positioning of Agile in Spain in relation to other key markets, providing studies, reports and key opinions to respond to the perceived reality of the industry and the sector in general. 
  2. Online research. We activated a survey panel in Spain via questionnaires that demonstrated the level of declared knowledge of Agile, as well as the socio-demographic and characteristic features of the different segments of interest. 
  3. Discovery by divergence. Through different sessions and workshops between the Good Rebels and Kairós teams, we detected obstacles and opportunities and traced possible paths towards innovation or disruption in accordance with the objectives set. 

The combination of these different dimensions and the collection of hundreds of surveys aimed at the relevant profiles allowed us to obtain some really revealing answers about the Spanish market:

  • 2 out of 3 people admit to having no knowledge of Agile. 
  • The most repeated words used to define Agile are still wrongly “speed”, “rapidity” or “software”.
  • Out of every 60 Google searches for Agile or Digital, in Spain only 1 is for Agile. In the US, Agile searches are up to seven times higher.
  • Only 10% of those interested in training in Agile would spend more than €8,000 to do so, even in the context of an executive program.
  • Executive training in Agile ranks above digital strategy in perceived training value, although still below new digital technologies (AI, IoT, Blockchain, etc.).
  • The disciplines of Agile and Digital Transformation will soon compete in the same training territories for the similarity of their thematic portfolios in organisational culture, digital tools and new frameworks.
  • The change in organisations will not be brought about by applying Visual Thinking, naming Scrum Masters or using new tools, but by a genuine change in the heart and collaborative mindset of corporate culture.
  • Soon the concept of Agile will evolve and we will start talking about Business Agility.
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Developing a new value proposition: the struggle between Digital and Agile  

In a context which is still full of ignorance, lack of consideration and confusion with the digital arena, the next question we had to ask ourselves was: “How can training in Agile develop a value proposition suitable for the current situation in Spain?

We have already moved away from the vision of agility that many people have; framed in the training of simple processes and methodologies (Kanban, Scrum, etc.), or only useful for professionals of software development or product ownership. Now the path of agility has begun to expand and to be strongly defined in the field of Business Agility, where many professionals and project managers seek to lead a change of mentality in their organisations, reinventing the logic of processes, culture and internal collaboration.

However, it seems that two major disciplines have been competing for this responsibility for more than a decade: digital transformation and business agility. 

If we want to solve this dilemma, the first thing we have to ask is: is it really the digital/technological that changes companies and people, or is it the Agile-based frameworks and collaboration that do it? This question may seem trivial to many of the people that are responsible for carrying out the digital transformation in their organisations since it is expected that in less than 5 years we will already be talking about Agile Digitalisation. Moreover, as we see in the following chart, they share the same core work on many occasions. 

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However, the question is vital for potential training development candidates nowadays and they must choose between a Digital Business or an Agile Business program. We are talking about two products that are very similar in their most basic essence and yet enjoy a totally different perception in the eyes of a market that has yet to be formed.

Generating new profiles and positioning opportunities 

All studies show that the Agile territory offers the best possible opportunities at this time. With 96% of the training pool still to be conquered, and understanding that the future will undoubtedly be Agile (even though the Spanish market is one of the slowest to take off), it is clear that those who can take advantage of the opportunity to refocus their value proposition will be able to position themselves on the crest of the wave and be prepared for when the ‘Keyword shift‘ arrives. That means: let’s start talking about agile transformation to refer to all the organisational cultural changes that so far have been labelled as ‘digital transformation’ and therefore its only attribution. 

As part of our study for Kairos, we identified five key profiles to work on and assign a different strategy from Agile’s executive training: 

Business managers. They manage high-performance teams. They usually have not found time to train and are sensitive to the validity of the program. They seek to generate networking opportunities. 

Area managers. They manage small technology teams. They find training too expensive and are sensitive to the expert training team. They look for real learning. 

Senior profiles. They are currently still developing their career. They have not found the time to inform themselves, although their objective is to position themselves in the market. They are looking for recognition. 

Junior profiles. They have little knowledge of the sector. Training is not currently one of their priorities and they are really sensitive to the training price. They are looking for security. 

HR managers. They will be the key to this decade. They still do not have enough arguments or information to sell the product within their organisations. They are looking for a guarantee. 

As you can see, multiple profiles, multiple obstacles, fears, concerns and market realities, but all of them will be important for the future of Agile training.

And what’s next? We work on positioning axes to see where to detect more obvious opportunities to build the Kairos training value proposal in Agile. As we see in the graph below, competitive advantage can be found between the executive program arena – something normally inherent only in the world of digital training – and pure Agile programs – traditionally within the framework of rapid certifications. The combination of both territories is something still to be explored for most competitors.

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In the end, the most important thing is the culture

The major conclusion we drew from the research we conducted for Kairos is that cultural change in organisations must come from a belief in and actual application of the new frameworks across all lines and teams. It has been demonstrated that the companies that believe they are capable of empowering small work teams end up making the same bureaucratic or practical blocking mistakes in the rest of their areas when they collaborate with each other. That is why learning and training in areas such as Agile must depend on multiple players supported by the general management and by a strong commitment to the future, which will require a real investment in training, both for middle management and for directors or area managers. 

What is also clear is that the world of Business Agility now has all the doors open to transform your training product while commoditising the rest of the options on the market. 

Despite all this, there are still many unanswered questions that will remain legitimate in the new decade: who will manage to better capitalise on the true engine of change in all organisations? Will organisations be quicker to detect the need to incorporate and train these new profiles? Or will training schools be the ones to proactively lead and market their offerings through a long-term positioning strategy? 

For the moment, the battle for capitalization of cultural change is underway.

In the meantime, you’d better start leading the change before others do it for you!