I joined Zaizi as Principal Agile Lead in February. My remit, amongst other things, is to help Zaizi achieve greater Agile maturity. For me, Agile working is a mindset. From this mindset comes a set of behaviours which allows us to deliver software in an interactive and incremental way, so that we bring value to the customer.
I have been working with Agile for 21 years and coaching Agile teams for the last 11 years. In all that time I have discovered one key thing. If your organisation has a culture which is centred around command, control and a high level of autocracy, agility will not thrive. I have worked in several organisations where the leadership team asks for an Agile transformation, when really they just want the developers to go twice as fast. Further, managers often have no idea of their role in an Agile team, and squash what little agility begins to emerge by perpetuating their existing, counterproductive culture and values.
Imagine my delight upon joining an organisation where, for one of the few times in my career so far, I have met a leadership team who actually demonstrate Agile values and mindset. A couple of weeks into my engagement with Zaizi I asked the leadership team two questions. Firstly, what does Agile mean to them personally? And secondly, what would more agility bring to us at Zaizi? This is what they told me.
Agile working means:
- iterative development and the ability to fail fast
- continual learning, ability to take feedback, and the means to adapt and adjust our thoughts and actions
- team empowerment
- adaptability to user and business needs
- providing better services more efficiently, creating a balance between time, scope and cost
Realising potential through Agile working
Agile working is a way for everyone at Zaizi to achieve the company goal of realising potential. It empowers our teams to be autonomous, master their capabilities and have a sense of purpose in what they do – all of which are linked to motivation and engagement. Engaging our customers in this approach creates that alignment needed to meet their needs, and Agile focuses on delivering the right thing in a predictable way.
Speaking with the leadership team, we collectively identified some desired outcomes from Agile working.
Agile helps us increase productivity by:
- being responsive – for example by experimenting using spikes and reviewing the resulting options
- being profitable – through learning, adaptability and communication
- investing in learning as a productive use of time
- addressing the frustrations that we experience
- working with clarity, consistency and scalability
2. Positive customer interactions
By developing our Agile maturity, we’ll be able to:
- reach and influence the right people when we engage with customers
- articulate the benefits of Agile and feel empowered to articulate the benefits of Agile working to the customer, so they can understand how we work, and why
3. Employee engagement
Done right, Agile can make for happier teams by giving our employees:
- the ability to work autonomously and decide how they collectively want to work
- a way to identify and navigate blockers
- a collective, common language through which to communicate
Developing Agile working at Zaizi
So what is my role in this? As Principal Agile Lead, my role is to provide the catalyst to facilitate and expedite Agile growth at Zaizi.
I’ll do this in three ways.
- Train and coach all the members of our teams to live the Agile values.
- Work with our customers to realise their potential through our Agile delivery capabilities.
- Work with the whole organisation to develop and maintain our Agile culture.
This will in turn lead to more engaged and productive teams, delighted customers who return to us again and again, and an organisation that everyone wants to work with.
Big plans, right? And with the right culture and the right leadership support, we can build upon our successes iteratively, one step at a time.
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