The Quest for an Agile Company: Six Years tangly llc

2022 02 01 head

Historically, big beats small. Scale was a sufficient advantage to be successful in the market.

Now, fast and adaptive beats slow and steadfast.

New technologies, evolving customer preferences and changing employee expectations are fundamentally challenging established ways of working [1].

It is time to move beyond rigid hierarchies, siloed business units, crippling bureaucracy and an increasingly unwieldy matrix.

Agile organizations combine the efficiencies of scale with the speed, flexibility and resilience to compete and win in today’s world.

Increasing agility is a path.

Progressing on that path requires vision, belief, persistence and hard work.

— Gunther Verheyen

Companies are asking themselves:

  • Why does our organization struggle to move quickly and what can we do about it?

  • How do we empower our people to take more accountability for performance and truly embed customer centricity?

  • How do we organize for both sides of the productivity equation—cost and innovation-driven growth?

Challenges of Agile Companies

Now, we find the machine paradigm shifting in the face of the organizational challenges brought by the digital revolution that is transforming industries, economies and societies. This is expressed in four current trends:

Quickly evolving environment

Stakeholders’ demand patterns are evolving rapidly: customers, partners and regulators have pressing needs; investors are demanding growth, which results in acquisitions and restructuring; and competitors and collaborators demand action to accommodate fast-changing priorities [2].

Constant introduction of disruptive technology

Established businesses and industries became a commodity or were replaced through digitization, bioscience advancements, the innovative use of new models, and automation. Examples include developments such as machine learning, the Internet of Things, and robotics [3].

Accelerating digitization and democratization of information

The increased volume, transparency and distribution of information require organizations to rapidly engage in multi-directional communication and complex collaboration with customers, partners and colleagues [4].

The new war for talent

As creative knowledge- and learning-based tasks become more important, organizations need a distinctive value proposition to acquire and retain the best talent. These knowledge workers often have more diverse origins, thoughts, composition and experience and may have different desires, (for example, millennials).

Trademarks of Agile Organizations

Agile organizations are working daily to improve. There is no substitute for doing hard work. They try to figure out solutions to difficult problems as they go along, using Scrum as a canvas to illuminate the way.

Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forward.

— Kierkegaard

Non-agile organizations are only talking [5]. The illusion of agility is often established in such companies. Internal working groups are drafting transformation plans, updated processes, and guidelines. Where is the doing? It was one of the findings of thw SwissQ agility report 2020.

It is not a transformation if it does not change how you work.

It is not an agile transformation if it does not simplify how you work.

It is not an agile transformation of Scrum if it does not increase the actual collaboration between customers, teams and stakeholders.

— Gunther Verheyen

Look at all these companies trying to copycat Spotify ways of working. Their dreadful hope is that the copycat will solve all their flaws. Agile is not magic nor a silver bullet!

Fully understand that:

  • Agile does not fix poor leadership, poor management, or command-and-control culture.

  • Agile does not fix lack of engagement or company political games.

  • Agile does not fix people’s ego or lack of motivation.

  • Agile does not fix poor behaviors, culture and mindset.

  • Agile does not fix over-allocation of people or lack of focus.

  • Agile does not fix poor customer focus Agile does not fix poor process workflow or poor collaboration.

  • Agile does not fix poor HR compensation processes that do not set the right people’s behavior.

Agile makes it all visible and transparent. Beware being transparent can be excruciating and induce distress.

Agile is the framework to detect flaws and to measure improvements through an empirical process. A huge intentional effort needs to be taken by those in the process, willing to fix or improve such things.

Agile Teams

Here a set of capabilities strongly improving the throughput of an agile team. Our company is proud of how cool, professional and effective our development teams are. The eight tips are:

  1. Do Just In-Time kickoffs.

  2. Have at least one Product Owner that is always available.

  3. Create T-shaped developers by pairing different disciplines.

  4. Do team code reviews, better promote Pair Programming.

  5. Keep your pipelines in great shape. You shall deploy your software product multiple times a day to an integration staging area.

  6. Technical Debt should be zero at all times. A powerful practice is the zero bug policy [4].

  7. Drop rituals that give you no added value. Avoid Cargo Cult.

  8. Have a good mix of experience and personality in your team. Promote continuous training and when adequate certification in key technologies. Establish a strong learning culture in your organization. Encourage your collaborators to work on open source projects and publish on blogs.

Fight to avoid becoming a feature factory [6] [7]. Warning signs are:

  • Your sprints do not have a written and published goal. The content of a sprint is just a bunch of product backlog items.

  • Your teams just implement stories during an opportunity. They never adjust the Sprint backlog content to increase the odds of achieving the spring goal

tangly Agility Advantages

We found out being an agile company bring us concrete and gratifying advantages [1] [2] [3] .

The decision about what to abandon is by far the most important and most neglected.

No organization that purposefully and systematically abandons the unproductive and obsolete ever wants for opportunities.

— Peter Drucker
Age of Discontinuity
Social and Cultural Advantages
  • We love to work in a kind and supportive organization.

  • We are proud not to have political games and power struggles.

  • We stand to our collaborators and love to see them growth.

  • Motivation, ownership and accountability are high.

Financial Advantages and Enhanced Operational Efficiency
  • The timely invoicing process allows us to send all monthly invoices on the first day of the following month [5].

  • Our company can finally process all federal, local and VAT taxes electronically. The local government systems now support digital sending and processing for tax declarations.

  • Realtime financial cockpit

    • Cash-flow overview provides security how our company is doing and how our liquidity is evolving.

    • Rolling budgeting optimizes investments when the market shifts [6].

    • The sales pipeline provides indicators of how we should perform the next months.

    • Paperless processes remove scanning, archiving and printing activities.

Technological Advantages and Increased Developer Productivity
  • Agile software development approaches with technical focus provide as strong market proposition. Motivated collaborators love to work on such initiatives. [7].

  • Technological leadership for the Java technology stack delights our collaborators and is a huge market advantage. Our delivered solutions are deployed in hybrid clouds and scale to match customer needs. We leverage automation, DevOps, and emerging technologies to create better experiences and increase work productivity.

  • We are digital affine and project our experience and workflows into the applications we develop. Our company does not own any fax machine, landline phones, or printers. Our workflows are digitized and all our artifacts are stored on secure servers. The information is available worldwide to all involved parties. Sensible artifacts are cryptographically protected. All emails are digitally authenticated and signed.

Business Advantages and Faster Time to Market
  • Leadership how to develop successful software products.

  • Clear understanding and extensive experience with digitalization. We discarded paper artifacts for years. Your company does not possess any paper archive, printer or fax machine.

  • Expertise how to remove waste and streamline digital processes through a whole organization.

1. The impact of the last pandemic on home office, remote distributed teams and hybrid company models was tremendous and here to stay.
2. An agile organization has partners and not suppliers. Your purchase department is not a sadistic group trying to pressure rebates out of your vendors and forgetting all about quality and supply chains.
3. Evaluate your own company. A digital organization should not possess fax machines, paper archive rooms, landlines. You should finish the phase-out of printers, scanners, and virtual private networks.
4. Check if your company issues electronic invoices. A digital document can automatically be processed by partners' applications. A PDF document is not an electronic slipper.
5. I regularly interact with companies forgetting to invoice their delivered services. They are often quite thankful when I remind them to send the invoice for their work!
6. The Corona catastrophe was a huge test we successfully mastered.
7. To be honest, the biggest problem we have is to find collaborators with the required skill set.