What’s holding your enterprise back from adopting Agile?

Adopting agile

The Agile framework is most commonly understood as a software engineering methodology that allows for a strong, collaborative software development process that allows for frequent iterations. It represents a sharp departure from the “Waterfall” method that represented the old paradigm used by most software development teams, in which the entire project is laid out in advance in a series of set tasks and milestones.

In Agile, team members work together on short “sprints” to complete just a few features at each stage—then reflect on progress and next steps as a team before determining the next set of goals. This process provides transparency and the opportunity for frequent optimization—if it turns out that a particular feature isn’t working as expected, your team can weigh up the time and cost involved in de-bugging it, rather than charging ahead blindly.

An Agile framework allows for projects to be completed more quickly and with a higher rate of success than Waterfall. Many software development teams have now adopted this methodology: Two-thirds of respondents to a TechBeacon survey embrace a strong Agile framework, while 24% use a hybrid approach that includes Agile.

But Agile isn’t limited to software development teams. Nearly any type of business team can embrace the philosophies of Agile to optimize their own work processes and reduce the level of management support needed. By shifting to this approach, your organization can easily adapt to changing business needs, improve productivity, and move to eliminate work that doesn’t drive ROI for the company. Many lines of business are still siloed and stuck in traditional patterns, however: A McKinsey report found that less than 20% of enterprises claim to be “mature adopters” that integrate Agile principles across all lines of business.

Why are companies having difficulty scaling Agile methodology across their business? Here are a few common roadblocks—and some strategies for getting past them.

You don’t have a set of consistent
practices to follow.

Agile is a flexible framework that will be interpreted differently by different lines of business—but it’s important that everyone in your company shares a common understanding of the methodology and how it can be used to optimize processes. Build a set of best practices that will apply throughout the company, using an expert coach to lead the process if necessary. Team leads from each department can then work with the coach to determine how to codify the practices in their specific function, and train their own team members in appropriate uses.

Your budget is already allocated for
specific projects months in advance.

One of the key premises of Agile is the ability to make shifts on the fly—for instance, if a certain advertising initiative isn’t working, your marketing team can stop allocating budget to it and regroup to formulate a new plan. That doesn’t always work if your company’s budget is sectioned off months in advance, however. Part of a strong Agile process relies on the ability to optimize processes based on what’s working well and shift away from initiatives that aren’t, so your team will need to align with senior executives responsible for department budgeting to ensure the flexibility to make changes as you go.

Your team’s managerial process doesn’t provide the ability to make independent decisions.

Many large enterprises tend to have strict hierarchies, which can lead to hold-ups in approvals, or a disconnection between what’s truly needed and what the manager may assume is needed. Push for a top-down reorganization of teams that stresses a self-management approach, in which each departmental team is guided along their path to reach a collective vision, rather than strictly managed.

In this method, a product leader will typically organize daily “stand-up” meetings in which each team member shares what they accomplished the previous day, what they’re working on that day, and any roadblocks that may stand in their way to prevent them from meeting their goals on time. Each team member takes accountability for their work, building a transparency and sense of ownership into the process that negates the need for task-by-task project management.

Why make the shift?

For some companies, the transition from a traditional management approach to an Agile framework will be difficult and may result in some major shifts in job responsibilities among team members. But it can be well worth doing: McKinsey found that companies that truly make the shift to an Agile methodology can increase the pace of their innovation by up to 80 percent.

When bringing in outside partners, too, it’s also crucial to embrace those that have demonstrated a commitment to an Agile process. Collaborations with teams that embrace an iterative, self-managed approach will result in higher efficiency, improved creative brainstorming, and an overall improved work experience—with strong results that will set your business up for rapid innovation.