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Customer Channels & Operations Management

3 minute read

What’s the Big Deal About Agile?

Jun 3, 2019

Written by: Shawn Sweeney

Agile isn’t a “big bang” concept. It’s an evolution of what we’ve always done naturally — strive for continuous improvement and quickly learn from failure.

Though introduced and given a name as a methodology less than 20 years ago, it has quickly caught on with forward-focused organizations and taken over other traditional methods of project management outside of the software space from which it originated.

Why? Because it works.

What’s the Big Deal About Agile?

When it comes to project management, it may seem like it’s “all Agile all the time.” Because right now it is. Agile is trending up — way up. But Agile is not a fad. It’s a global transformation of how we do business. It’s so much more than a methodology. It’s a mindset.

As written in Forbes in its “What is Agile?” article just a few years ago in August 2016: “Agile’s emergence as a huge global movement extending beyond software is driven by the discovery that the only way for organizations to cope with today’s turbulent customer-driven marketplace is to become Agile. Agile enables organizations to master continuous change. It permits firms to flourish in a world that is increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous.”

Does the idea of mastering continuous change sound good? Relevant? Critical? In today’s fast-paced world, it’s essential to your ability to survive — and thrive.

Just a few months earlier, Harvard Business Review tackled the topic of Agile in its article “Embracing Agile,” and reflected on its spread within organizations — far beyond its original realm of IT: “Now agile methodologies—which involve new values, principles, practices, and benefits and are a radical alternative to command-and-control-style management—are spreading across a broad range of industries and functions and even into the C-suite. National Public Radio employs agile methods to create new programming. John Deere uses them to develop new machines, and Saab to produce new fighter jets. Intronis, a leader in cloud backup services, uses them in marketing. C.H. Robinson, a global third-party logistics provider, applies them in human resources. Mission Bell Winery uses them for everything from wine production to warehousing to running its senior leadership group. And GE relies on them to speed a much-publicized transition from 20th-century conglomerate to 21st-century “digital industrial company.”

The bottom line: Agile is changing everything. And that’s a very big deal.

Why Agile?

Why Agile? Agile empowers you to do it faster, smarter, better — with faster, smarter, better results.

Agile is not just a way to manage continuous change and continuous improvement in a customer-driven environment. It’s “the” way.

Agile focuses effort and resources on people building things that are delivered quickly to solve the highest priority problems in a rapid, test-and-learn fashion that quickly provides feedback. As a result, Agile adds value and accelerates innovation. Project management elements like documentation, process, and structure are still important with Agile, but the #1 priority is value delivery. To learn more about Agile’s four key values and 12 principles, check out Scrum Alliance’s page on the Agile Manifesto.

With Agile, collaborative decisions come out of the team, rather than being driven by a top-down bureaucracy. Admittedly it’s a major shift in how businesses traditionally have been run.

To be successful, Agile’s short-cycle, iterative framework requires cross-functional, dedicated teams supported by executive sponsorship and top-to-bottom behavior shifts — including pushing accountability for success down into the teams, versus up to the executive level where it has resided for decades. The rigidity of things like chain of command and job descriptions fall away, empowering teams to advance when and how they’re ready, dramatically impacting the pace of change.

Compare Agile to the Waterfall methodology, which assumes all requirements stay the same for the duration of the project — which can last for months. How quickly does your business, your technology, your customer, and your market change? In the end, Waterfall often results in delivery of a solution that was asked for, but which no longer fits current conditions. Agile, on the other hand, allows incremental advancement and adaptation to changes throughout a project.

If you seek higher quality, faster delivery, increased productivity, better flexibility, and better alignment to true strategic priorities over time, Agile is your answer.

Want to learn more? This is the first of our multi-part blog series on Agile. Keep an eye on Spinnaker’s blog and follow Spinnaker on LinkedIn to receive updates in your LinkedIn feed. For more specific questions about how we apply our Agile mindset to your challenges, contact Spinnaker Principal Chris Landrum at chris.landrum@spinnakerconsultinggroup.com.