Organizational agility in practice

Joseph Flahiff states in his book, “Being agile in a waterfall world”, Agile is about the ability to adapt (to changing circumstances), it is an adjective and not a noun.

For a person, agility could mean — physical agility (someone with a flexible body) or mental agility where they have the ability to learn and adapt to a new skill (language, subject etc.). For a business it is about their ability to respond to changing marketing needs or customer demands.

In the IT industry, this word has lost it’s meaning. It has become a fashion tag that everyone claims to be associated with. You hear individuals, companies saying, “We are agile, because..

  • We do Daily stand-ups
  • We use Scrum..or any other framework
  • We use JIRA … or any such tool
  • We write User Stories..”

… the list goes on. These statements reveal a lack of understanding of the essence of agility. Such Businesses and enterprises chase the end state without changing their behavior, implement new tools or frameworks, but fail to inspect and adapt. They fail to cater to their customer’s needs — the reason for their existence.

In my nearly two decades of software career, I have experienced many businesses trying to “Go Agile” but in the last 3 years since I joined OutSystems, I have experienced what I can identify as organizational agility. During my tenure here, I have seen the core of OutSystems (the platform) evolve in a dramatic way. I started with platform version 8 and saw the product evolve in multiple increments in just few months — an already robust product, becoming the best and most extraordinary tool I have experienced in the market. It was a great feeling using the latest and greatest product and implementing enterprise grade applications for our customers. In matter of 10 to 12 weeks we completed enterprise grade projects and then tackle the next customer to solve their challenge.

OutSystems Engineering, Product and Leadership teams had a trick up their sleeve. Some of us were unaware of the change brewing. In Paulo Rosado’s words, there was an open heart surgery going on to create OutSystems 10.

It’s not just a new version of the product, but latest version that supports mobile development with offline capabilities — a redesign of a decade plus old product which has improved in increments. A reinvented product that came into being to ease enterprise customers struggling with mobile application development challenges.

Following this incredible change to the product that OutSystems developers around the globe are thrilled about the capabilities OutSystems 10 is providing them! This is a major win for the organization that has always been focused on helping customers succeed. Pivoting to put the customer right in the middle and reorganize the whole organization in the new direction. We have experienced changes and realignment in multiple departments like: Marketing, Sales, People operations, Support, Delivery-Enablement and Training.

This organizational change did not happen as a big bang. It came through a series of experiments with the product, testing those with the participating customers and by following lean-startup principles in an enterprise. The results have been outstanding with stories that make an impact.

If you have ever been through at least a departmental change, you can appreciate the impact of change at an organizational level. It is not an easy task, but at OutSystems various teams welcomed that with open and experimentation mindset, reorganized for the ultimate goal — Customer Success.

There are times when the environment can get cloudy, unstable, negative. But, even with the rapid growth the company has been experiencing, the culture at OutSystems is guided by The Small Book of the Few Big Rules and I personally really appreciate the benefits of such open, safe and supportive environments.

Conclusion

Agility does not come from copying some frameworks, but from people who can lead, a culture that enables to experiment, inspect and adapt.