How to become an agile business?

How to become an agile business?

Quite a few years ago I saw a famous slide that simply said:

Old organisation + new technology = expensive old organisation

Since we can’t do much about the left side of the equation, we decided to host our first ever agile business conference track last week at the J. Boye Aarhus 16 conference. The objective was to try to address the right side of the equation. How do we turn complex organisations into more flexible and faster organisations?

While moderating the 4 conference sessions on the track, I learned so much and I wanted to highlight and share some of my findings.

There’s a black market for common sense

Morten Elvang from Nordea opened the day with a session titled Game Changing Beliefs. In the session and discussion that followed he answered what agile really requires, both in terms of behaviour and structure.

During his well prepared presentation, he also shared what became one of my favourite conference slides titled Prison 3.0 as shown below

prison3-0

He used the humorous slide to illustrate how organisations of today are a big part of the problem. He also introduced the term “black market for common sense” to describe how employees tend to find alternative ways to get things done, e.g. by using non-sanctioned IT tools or skipping parts of the governance model.

Our morning keynote speaker Michael Bednar-Brandt from Oracle contributed actively to this session raising the discussions on game changing beliefs to a new level. Here’s some of the beliefs that Morten went through:

  • Accept that most ideas are bad
  • Enable everyone to learn and act intelligently
  • The worst cost is what you can’t do, because of what you did
  • Small, fast, simple beat large, slow, complex any day

Lean project metrics

One of my favorite questions to ask is:

What’s the problem you are trying to solve?

Karoliina Luoto from Finnish-based consultancy Codento shared a tangible dashboard to provide a transparent view of how to track progress. By going through the different components of the dashboard, she shared both examples of useful project metrics as well as examples of how having an established dashboard with key metrics can help change the mindset for those involved in the project.

Another simple, yet important point in Karoliina’s talk that several participants also highlighted afterwards were:

Change metrics when they become too easy

You can already find Karoliina’s slides on Slideshare: Lean Project Leadership – Minimum Metrics

How to really be agile

To most readers, the term agile is probably not new. It has been around for a while, and has also made it beyond the realm of digital leaders. There are popular books on the topic and we’ve also previously had very popular sessions at both J. Boye conferences and group meetings on the topic, including by award-winning UK-based agency MMT Digital.

While it is always interesting, and often entertaining, to hear agencies talk the talk, I found the presentation by Lisbeth Storgaard at eBay extremely interesting as it offered a case study from the customer perspective. Her session was titled Build great products faster with small diverse teams.

Lisbeth introduced the term dual track agile, which was new to me. I understood this as a way to address the problem of how the discovery and development project phases requires different ways of working. You can do both in 2 week sprints, but dual track agile presents an approach to connect the dots so that the learnings from the discovery team gets into the development team, in particular without loosing speed.

A different world requires different organisations

Finally Matthias Henrici from German-based Safari Consulting shared insights specifically to large, complex and old organisations. His focus was on examples that can help us deliver faster and ways to fit agile into non-agile organisations. 

During his session I shared this tweet on the term MLP (Minimum Lovable Product) which was new to me.

From reading my notes now a week later, Matthias described MLP as the version of your product that delivers the most love with the least effort.

Learn more about agile and making things work

Specifically on agile, you might find my postings on the agile project manager or the more controversially titled Your waterfall management skills will become useless interesting.

On a related topic, I’ve written about the usual disconnect between strategy and execution

And finally, we’ll host an agile & project leadership conference track at the J. Boye Aarhus 17 conference in Novemer.

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