Recently I was intrigued to see an “agility” button on the control console while checking out my neighbour’s new car – a 2016 Mercedes Benz C300.
As a car enthusiast, I began to wonder how the carmaker had introduced this new feature, which sought to provide better ride comfort, without compromising on precision and control.
The intelligent, adaptive, suspension system offers customers five different driving modes: Comfort, Sports, Sports +, Eco, and Custom. Each of these although serving a specific purpose aims at ensuring customer satisfaction from comfort through to safety, regardless of the terrain.
What does the Agile Manifesto tell us?
Twenty years ago when the Agile Manifesto was written, it was thought to be for only software teams or “Techies in Software Development” as one writer put it. In fact, that path was forged because the manifesto and the underlying 12 principles clearly stated that it was for software.
By doing this, others felt it was not for them and were isolated from a way of thinking that would have enhanced their goals and objectives. To be agile means one must have the “ability to create and respond to change to succeed in an uncertain and turbulent environment”. In other words, it is a mindset that is established on five values:
- Commitment to achieving the goals set by the team
- Focus on those goals,
- Being open and transparent about the team’s progress,
- Respect for each team member,
- and last but not the least courage to rise above obstacles and impediments
- Additionally, the manifesto posits four themes each of which is biased at satisfying the client. They are
- Individuals and interactions over process and tools
- Working software over comprehensive documentation
- Customer collaboration over contract negotiation and
- Responding to change over following a plan
- The benefits of adopting the items on the left either as an individual, organization, or country are countless.
However, to put it simply, it makes you more profitable by delighting your customers and of course harnessing the power of your employees or populace which remains your singular most important resource. Using Scrum as a framework to guide how organizations behave, it is very easy to implement as it comes with its laid down roles and events.
Successful agile adoption leads to faster scaling
Research has shown that companies that adopted an agile mindset have scaled up in leaps and bounds whether on the revenue front, client net promoter scores, overall employee satisfaction index, or sustainability metrics just to name but a few. Early adopters have gotten more done with less in a relatively shorter time and gotten it right the first time because, in each iteration, the client feedback was exposed
And in 2020, COVID-19 has set us on an entirely new trajectory. Organizations that adopted the agile culture change earlier were able to navigate the vulnerabilities, uncertainties, complexities, and anxieties posed. This no doubt has become a new normal.
How can we adopt the agile mindset?
Reflecting on the above, the question that begs for an answer is how can we as a people, organization, or country adopt this agile mindset to enable responding rapidly to changes like that Mercedes Benz car with the ‘agility’ button.
It certainly requires a certain cultural change. The change referred to in this context is not an option, it is a necessity. It ushers us away from survival mode where we cannot sit still and wait for a crisis to change. We must go ahead without further delay to try something new – imbibe agile in our day-to-day activities. I feel there’s no better time than now to get out of our comfort zone and get cracking with an “agility for all” mantra. Don’t forget this can be applied in any industry – financial services, oil and gas, insurance and assurance, automobile, governance and leadership, agriculture, manufacturing, and services.
Sow the seeds of cultural change at all levels
I believe we must begin to sow the seeds of cultural change at our tertiary levels whilst attacking it also across all leadership spheres. Honestly speaking, it should not be seen as an industry trend or as a buzzword as the benefits go beyond these as hinted earlier. Truth is, once senior management especially C-suite executives have a grasp of it, a large quantum of the challenge is solved.
The other challenge I foresee is to do with bridging the gap between early adopters and the early majority. Once it is not seen as a tool or framework for the techies but rather for all, then the other 50% is solved. I acknowledge that change is tough as many of us are naturally not receptive to it and so agility cannot be installed in one cycle or instant. The good news here however is that adopting an agile mindset is continuous and iterative, thus making room for gradual but sure implementation and adoption. It gives power for experimentation where mistakes are permissible.
What can this mean for my home country of Ghana?
Driving a Ghanaian agility model will pay more than lip service, it will set us all – all means all – on a growth path. We will gain a mindset that embraces change and desires continuous learning. We can create safe environments with no fear for failure to challenge uncertainties. We can explore avenues for improvement while seeking feedback every step of the way. We can transform and transcend new heights and make extensive progress in very little time. Communication and collaboration, focus, patience, trust, innovation, and flexibility will remain the key ingredients that will spell our success in a world that is changing faster than we ever imagined and makes us susceptible to distractions like never before. I believe in my heart and mind that Agility for All can make anything possible if we truly embrace the mindset.
The author, Kofi Blankson is a Certified Scrum Master and digital technology enthusiast with 11-years experience in Banking. He has served in different roles including Reengineering, Management Information System and Programme and Change Management. As a Scrum Master with deep knowledge in Agile methodologies, he is on his way to becoming a Certified Agile Leader and Coach.