June 30, 2016

10 Traits of Agile Organizations

Are there characteristics of an organization that can help it become a truly great (agile) company? The agile consulting and training company formerly known as Rally Software (recently purchased by CA Technologies) put out a thoughtful series of short videos in 2014 about the “Top 10 Characteristics of an Agile Organization.”

 I thought the list was well worth revisiting. Here they are, in reverse order of importance:

10.  Work/Life Balance and Consistent Delivery: Organizations can help their employees achieve work/life balance by maintaining a consistent, disciplined schedule of short release cycles and by aligning corporate and personal goals.

9. Servant and Leader: In successful agile organizations, the managers at all levels understand the best way they can lead is by serving the employees. Rather than making all decisions for the teams, the managers support team decisions and commitments.

8.  Sustainable and Successful: Agile can become a great differentiator when it is coupled with a stable organizational environment, a sustainable pace, and a constant company-wide focus on what the customers value.

7. Contributing to the Community and Maintaining a Profitable Company: Creating a culture of continuous improvement helps boost the organization’s profitability; using this culture of improvement to better the local community fosters a sense of purpose and pride which in turn strengthens the company culture.

6. Collaborative and Smart: Hire smart people, and then encourage collaboration to get the most benefit from their collective intellect. Studies have shown that a “command-and-control” environment actually decreases people’s IQs and produces poorer decisions.

5. Bottom-up and Top-down Decision Making: While some decisions such as salaries and benefits may still be made in a top-down manner, decisions such as assigning responsibilities or daily tasks are best when made organically at the lowest level possible. 

4. Personal Flexibility and Rhythm: Creating a cycle of systematic delivery and consistent value produces a rhythm which makes it easier for people to maintain a constant pace, while still allowing for flexibility when needed.

3.  Quality and Faster: Putting “quality” and “faster” into the same sentence can seem counter-intuitive to a non-agile organization. But an agile team understands that responding quickly and constantly to feedback allows for the release of high-quality, high-value features at a faster pace.

2.  Creating Your Own Reality and Corporate Vision: Rather than trying to impose rigid roles for people based on the corporate vision, let the passion of the individuals in the organization guide how they can best contribute to meet the corporate goals.

1.  Commitment to Be Great; Disciplined Culture and Metrics: The most important characteristic is a strong commitment to agile within all levels of management. Also incorporate the discipline and metrics to ensure agile happens, or there may be merely pockets of agile or a slow adoption rate.

While each of these attributes can be applied to various organizations, when taken as a whole, they provide the platform for a successful transformation to a great agile organization. What about your company? Does it have all of these characteristics? If not, could it?


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