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Stephen has worked as a Project Manager and is PMP certified, as well as certified by the Scrum Alliance.
Chris has been working at a company that has used Agile for software development for many years. He has experienced firsthand the advantages of using this approach to projects but sees an opportunity for greater impact. The use of Agile has been limited to technology, which has sometimes caused tension with the company as a whole. Chris wants to make the case that the entire organization become Agile because he believes it will be beneficial for everyone. He starts with the foundational aspects of Agile and then defines how these can apply across the company.
Agile is an approach to software development that attempts to provide an alternative to traditional methodologies that rely heavily on documentation and following a process. Traditional methodologies are often more rigid and are not ideal for projects, like software development, that often involve moving parts and can change quickly. The basis of Agile is the Agile Manifesto, which is a set of statements that attempt to place value on and prioritize aspects of projects. The main portion includes the following:
Underlying the Agile Manifesto is the acknowledgment that within projects, tradeoffs exist. It's unrealistic to be devoted to all aspects involved, and when a tradeoff is needed, priorities must be set. Each of the items listed is valuable but some are valued more. In general, the values reflect an emphasis on providing value, empowering people, and embracing change. Chris believes that, like projects, there are tradeoffs within the organization and the best way to approach these is in the same way as Agile.
One of the primary emphases of Agile involves providing value. For many organizations, including Chris', this emphasis would represent a fairly significant organizational shift. While it's not often explicitly stated, the driving force for companies is often to make money or provide a return to shareholders. From a practical standpoint, this makes sense because the organization will not last long if it's not profitable, and the reason individuals invest money in the company is to receive a return. However, this result can still be achieved, even if its not the primary goal of the company.
In Agile, the way that value is provided to the customer is focusing on functionality that meets a need. In fact, in the project requirements, known as user stories, one of the elements is explicitly identifying the business need or value provided to the customer. In the same way, an organization can shift focus to the customer and to meeting a specific need or solving a problem. The way in which the need is met can still be efficient and cost-effective, which would actually be encouraged by Agile. However, this is a departure from the norm, where companies often start with what they can efficiently or cost-effectively make and then try to align it with a need, or create one if it does not exist.
In this approach, profitability can still be achieved, among other benefits. Companies that truly meet a need or solve a problem for individuals attract them as customers. Not only that, but in placing the emphasis on customers first, loyalty is created which has significant value. From an internal standpoint, there is more buy-in from the individuals working for the company because their work has a purpose beyond making money. This can give them passion for the job and increase their performance.
Stemming from the emphasis on providing value, Agile also empowers people. This is one of the main shifts that Chris wants to bring to the organization. Within each project, there is engagement with stakeholders to define user stories. As user stories are taken on, each team member is actively involved in how they are completed. This keeps the customer closely involved with the process and encourages the team to be cross-functional and self-organizing. The same can be achieved throughout the organization.
An organization that has a focus on providing value to the customer naturally incorporates customer collaboration. The needs that are met or problems being solved are best understood when they are expressed by the customer or by someone from the business who deals directly with customers. This input is extremely valuable and can shape the vision and direction of the company.
Implementing an Agile approach would affect individuals within the company from top to bottom. In most organizations, a hierarchy exists where decisions and directives come from a high level and are spoken down at the lower levels, telling people what to do and ensuring they do it. In an Agile organization, individuals are trusted and given responsibility based on their knowledge and skills. Each person contributes and is valued. Managers enable individuals to flourish and communication shifts from vertical to horizontal.
The last aspect of Agile that Chris desires the organization to incorporate is embracing change. In Agile, the project timeline is broken down into sprints, which are repeated cycles in which user stories are completed. At the end of each sprint, feedback is received and adjustments are made as needed, rather than strictly following a plan.
Throughout the organization, there's opportunity for change to be embraced rather than feared. This can be accomplished by increasing the frequency of feedback and evaluation to confirm the direction or course correction as needed. This increased frequency does not create the need for change but simply makes it known sooner, which reduces its impact. This benefits the customer and the entire organization.
Agile provides an alternative to traditional approaches to software development, but has a broader application. The values put forth in the Agile Manifesto, which reflect an emphasis on providing value, empowering people, and embracing change, can be used throughout the organization. Agile user stories focus solely on business values or customer needs, which can be incorporated by the organization if the need to make money shifts from a primary goal to a desired result.
This emphasis on value in Agile leads to customer engagement and empowerment of each individual to contribute can directly translate to the company's approach to people. Finally, Agile attempts to embrace change by increasing the frequency of feedback and evaluation using sprints. The same can be done within the organization, which reduces the impact of change by addressing it sooner.
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Back To CourseAgile & Scrum Training
9 chapters | 131 lessons