Agile Organizations: Characteristics & Examples

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  • 0:04 What Is Agile?
  • 1:50 Providing Value
  • 3:32 Empowering People
  • 4:51 Embracing Change
  • 5:34 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Stephen Meyer

Stephen has worked as a Project Manager and is PMP certified, as well as certified by the Scrum Alliance.

Agile is an approach to software development, but its values can be used by the organization as a whole. In fact, Agile is most effective when embraced by the entire organization. Learn the characteristics and examples of an Agile organization in this lesson.

What Is Agile?

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:

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  • Working software over comprehensive documentation
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  • Responding to change over following a plan

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.

Providing Value

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.

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