I’ve been to a few of the big business agility conferences in recent years. The conferences highlight the benefits and challenges of bringing agility into non-IT environments. One conference had a unique format that included several sets of 20-minute “TED style” talks with time for small group discussion around each theme.
The themes included leadership, innovation, governance and strategy. Below you’ll see that I’ve summarized 11 key dialogs from the event. I hope this will get you talking about business agility in your organization.
- Agility helps all parts of the organization adapt. Agile concepts (responding to change, limiting work in progress, experimenting to learn, smaller increments of value, outcome driven plans, value stream driven teams, and prioritizing work constantly to make sure the most important things are bring worked on) help teams of all types pivot and adapt more quickly to the increasingly dynamic business landscape.
- Business agility is a bridge to IT. Organizations that have success with agile in business areas, see improved collaboration with agile technical teams.
- Agile culture maximizes results. If agile works well in pockets of the business and technology, then it will work even better when it becomes the standard way of working and thinking in the entire organization. When an agile mindset gets ingrained in the organization’s culture, it aligns teams and maximizes results.
- Agility yields more value with less work. Agility is a big investment, but also yields great results. It’s not easy and there is no manual for it. It’s a mindset, a set of values and principles, a way of interacting and thinking differently about our work. The agile mindset inspires us to get better outcomes with less work.
- Transformation requires a compass not a map. Every agile journey is different. You can’t buy an agile instruction manual. It’s not one size fits all. There’s no perfect methodology or rules or techniques that work for every organization. We don’t build and follow a map, instead agile transformation requires a compass. We step out and learn as we go—that’s the essence of business agility.
- Agile has governance, budgeting, and planning too. Agility does not mean we skip planning, dismantle governance and wing it with our budget. Instead, governance and planning is based on outcomes and value rather than documents and checking off boxes. Business agility is about budgeting flow, rather than budget planning. Budgeting flow means we budget for outcomes and goals rather than specific project plans. This allows the team to pivot how the money is spent to reach the outcome in an environment of constant change. That’s why teams need to plan and execute in small increments of value–to minimize the amount of wasted work that gets set aside when priorities change.
- It’s about hearts and minds. Transformation and change management are very different. Agile is not about a new process or command-and-control management. Agile is about changing people at their core, their minds, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors, rather than managing them. Doing agile with a methodology or formal agile process gets very limited results compared to being agile and changing the business, team and people at their core.
- Leverage change, instead of trying to control it. When the agile mindset becomes part of an organization’s culture, teams begin to accept and expect change. They begin to think about how they can take advantage of change, volatility, ambiguity, uncertainty and complexity.
- Cozy up to your customers. Agile is about extreme customer closeness. Your customers’ needs will change before you can define them, so agile organizations keep customers close. They find creative ways to engage customers with data, interviews, prototyping, etc.
- Agility asks us to focus on the future. Business agility is about letting go of the problems of today and focusing on the future. If we keep trying to validate existing ideas, nothing will change.
- It’s a scientific approach. Business agility is a constant cycle of hypothesis, experimentation, learning and adapting.
So, how can we align our requirements approach with these business agility takeaways? Well, it all starts with the hearts and minds of our BA teams—getting everyone thinking differently!
It’s especially important for BAs to use their agile mindset to help teams focus on the future state. When we look at our backlog with an eye to the future, we begin working on the right things that allow us to adapt to changing customer needs. The future state may fix today’s problems or make them obsolete, but we’ll never see that if we cling to the past.