Creating the Agile Business

 

Change happens. Do you want to spend your life’s resources resisting change, or leverage it to produce at a higher level?

If you’re ready to accept the inevitable, consider applying the philosophy behind agile software development - where change is welcomed, planning adapts, product is evolutionary, and quick deadlines drive progress - to your business.

Fear of change is the enemy of innovation. Arthur Schopenhauer, a German philosopher who lived from 1788 to 1860 once said that “All truth passes through three stages. First it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.” While he was referring to big questions of the day, like whether the earth was flat or round, his observation continues, 200+ years later, to describe innovation in the vast majority of enterprises.

But for every company that insists on being the last buggy whip manufacturer, there are those who “pivot” and go on to greatness. Did you know that YouTube started as a video dating site, or that PayPal started as a way for people to beam IOU’s between their Palm Pilots? Pivot is the hot buzzword right now, but it’s really all about seeing the opportunities in front of you and responding to change. Agile management can help you connect the dots.

 

While creating an agile start-up can be easier - there’s no existing culture to contend with - an agile system can also be implemented in more mature businesses, and it can work throughout the enterprise. What started as a manifesto for software teams is now being implemented in sales and marketing, among other departments. Even the bean-counters are getting in on the act! CFO’s see the benefits and are now beginning to champion agile methods within the accounting field.

Assuming the truth about the benefits of an agile philosophy have become self-evident, the next question you may have is how to implement it in your business. It all starts with buy-in and communication. From the top down, everyone in the organization must be committed to being agile.

Embrace Change
Many organizations have resisted change for so long that they’ve simply died inside. Without a significant emotional event, people will have a hard time believing that change is possible. Don’t just hold a meeting and tell everyone about the new business model, make it significant. Start by demonstrating your willingness to change. Park in a different parking spot, sit in a different chair at every meeting, and go out to lunch with somebody you normally don’t. Buy everyone a copy of Who Moved My Cheese and put it on their desk without telling them why. After you’ve done that for a couple of weeks, then gather the troops and let them know your plans. Tell them that for the sake of the business (and everyone’s sanity) you’re going agile, what that means, and how it works. Encourage feedback, answer questions and let them know that you’re committed to making it happen. This should be the most positive meeting you’ve ever held. Sing kumbaya if you think it will help.

Create an Adaptable Plan
Just because a business is agile, doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a plan.  It just understands and communicates that the plan is subject to change. Ask your teams to write a brief outline of their long-term plan (one year, max) and provide greater detail for the next three months. To the extent possible this information should come from the bottom up. If you want buy in, you must engage.
Set meetings to review the plan, monthly and at the end of each three month cycle. Hold everyone (including yourself) accountable for meeting the objectives set in their short-term plan.
Let everybody know it is OK TO FAIL to achieve the desired result, but it is not OK to leave tasks incomplete or miss deadlines. Focused activity will yield results.

Evolve
Peter Drucker once said that “Because the purpose of a business is to create a customer, the business has two - and only two - basic functions, marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs.”  To meet the ever-changing demands of the customer, you must innovate. It’s rare to have one “ah-ha” moment that causes your business to pivot drastically and brainstorming sessions just don’t work.  If you’ve ever sat in a meeting with a bunch of coworkers who are trying to “ideate” you quickly realize how futile it can be.

Innovation can’t be manufactured, it must be applied. Whether you’re developing software, making widgets, or cleaning windows innovation happens in small steps. The best way to drive it is in short manageable bursts. Review your processes and find the bottlenecks. Challenge teams to solve them over time, in multiple iterations. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Agile software teams often work in two week windows and only commit to tasks they can accomplish in that timeframe.

Meet at the End of Every Cycle
Meet at the end of every cycle to review and demonstrate your progress. Share what went well, what didn’t, and how you can improve going forward. While you can’t always control the outcome, you can control your activity. Wins are few and far between in business. Celebrate your success in meeting the objectives and deadline for each cycle. Then repeat the process.

Your continuous improvement will drive innovation and customers will respond.  

At Crowd Hydrant we help the dreamers take their ideas to market. We use crowdsourcing to engage consumers and leverage their collective intelligence. We use crowdfunding to obtain financial backing. Involving users in the process creates powerful brand advocates and we benefit from word of mouth promotion. If you’re interested in hearing more, CONTACT US TODAY. We’ll begin by consulting with you and provide innovative solutions to help turn your dream into reality.