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Agile - But where are the people?

Agile working has been talked about for years but now, the conversation moves to virtual agile working and how you can make this effective. 

Agile working has been talked about for years but now, the conversation moves to virtual agile working and how you can make this effective. The team at Nimble have provided their thoughts on this at: https://www.nimbleapproach.com/thoughts/tips-for-remote-working. We have also been practicing far more virtually than in the past an have honed our processes accordingly.

We are big advocates of working with Agility, almost as much as we are fans of getting the most done, with the least amount of effort. Creating great outcomes by liberating the people potential contained in all business, within a very commercially orientated framework. So as you might imagine I have a view on this debate.

A view does not mean I think I am right by the way. A view is a way of looking at something… I just thought i’d say that before getting to the meat of this post… which is many of these things sort of miss the point for me.

It’s not the methodology. It’s the people

One of our meme’s is “In this increasingly virtualised world – It’s people that  make (and will continue to do so) the biggest difference”. I introduce this as the Agile Vs Prince – which may or may not encompass Waterfall etc – debate often seems to exist in a process vacuum and therefore misses the things that for me define the very essence of a successful project or not.

Leadership style

 

Before you look at which project method to adopt, consider what the leadership style (which by the way will define the culture – it always flows top down) is. There are two simple camps on this, and this has also been done to death by a lot of people, but you really should consider the following:

– Purpose driven – Is the business driven by a common, widely understood (this is different from agree with by the way) sense of what the business exists to do, that people feel able to contribute to and understand their role in creating value for Customers, Colleagues & other stakeholders. People here come to work because they feel they make a difference. 

– Process driven – Is the business focussed on how things are done, with people having an understanding of what their specific role is and are measured and rewarded on the basis of delivering tasks that they, and the teams they are accountable for, need to get done. People here come to work to move things along.

I don’t really have a strong view on which is better of the above in terms of achieving outcomes, and in effect most business’ don’t present in such a black and white manner. I do however know which I prefer to work in.

What I would absolutely say is one of these requires less management effort (which means cost by the way) and is in my business experience more likely to create sustainable value over time. It does this because it is built on emotional engagement and as I said at the head of this an emotionally engaged team can move mountains. I will leave you to work out which one it is.

Context

In my humble option Context (capital ‘C’ of course – I used to run a Direct Marketing Agency, what can I say – type as you speak!) is more important that talent, insight and process for creating correct outcomes. Again though this has been done to death by a lot of others, which of course may not mean we take heed of it.

But here are two factors that again get missed by many in the which approach wins debate (either, neither, or any combination being the real answer of course). Again I think these should be understood with crystal clarity before you ascribe any approach:

Technology – Put very simply the cost and consequence of any change – which of course will involve technology as almost everything does – has fallen though the floor and is continuing to do so at an accelerated pace. Business used to be quite rightly very risk averse as you were often banking the business future when making service/operating model changes. That is very often not the case today. Interestingly though it is mostly people capability that holds this one back – Legacy Systems = Legacy Mind/Skillset.

Enviromental – When you look at how business is being done today, it is at a crossroads, with the internal ways of working increasingly looking at odds with the widely connected, personalised and increasingly ‘try, keep, dispose’ culture. The important it here is not that people who have been in work for a while need to change. It’s bit about the fundamental shift that new (and not so new) work entrants are bringing with them. For them it’s not a change. It’s how they expect things to be.

Final thought

I remember sitting in a board meeting when I was working in Home Shopping (subsequently re-invented as on-line, then e-commerce and now morphing into Digital first) and presenting about the potential impact of a new retailer called ZARA (yep.. that long ago). We were talking about how the pace of things were changing – Zara had 4 week lead times, ours were 18 months – and that we needed to adapt or die.

So perhaps the question is not what methodology, but do you understand the leadership style and the current context you will be delivering in.

What ever you decide the one thing that is absolutely certain is if you don’t approach change with agility, then there is a high chance you will not adapt in time and the business could die.

By Simon Norie - Co-Founder & Empathy Creation Specialist
Data led Board level Brand marketeer. Passionate about aligning Colleagues to a common purpose they can contribute too. LinkedIN www.custerian.com