Agile: Get It Right The First Time Around

When it’s done right, Agile is transformative for a business. It eliminates wasted time, requires collaboration, facilitates stakeholder engagement and ensures fast delivery. Among (many) other benefits.

90% of executives know that organizational Agility is critical for business success (Economist Intelligence Unit Study — Organisational agility), yet we can only count on our fingers companies who can be labelled as truly Agile, and who are highly successful as a result.

Once Agile is successfully implemented, even if it’s just within a small team as a pilot, it seems to only result in positive changes to productivity and consequently, to profits. So why does it sometimes just not work in the first place? Is it having the wrong type of employees, the wrong type of business or not enough money? Absolutely not.

The majority of the time, it all comes down to the business not adopting an Agile mindset.

The Agile mindset is not simply thinking that it’s a great way to work. It’s about understanding, living and breathing the underlying values the Agile methodology was built upon.

There’s a reason it often goes hand-in-hand with the term transformation. To become truly Agile is to challenge and change the ways we have been conditioned to work for almost our entire lives. So it is never easy, but it always pays off.

We recently begun holding workshops here at the LHBS offices, with the goal to spread this knowledge. We want businesses to not only know how and why they should consider working Agile, but to leave with the tools and understanding to achieve sustainable Agility for the long haul and give themselves a fighting chance at a successful transformation.

Now, this is not to say that businesses cannot be successful by working Agile on some products and services, perhaps only within certain teams. Agile and it’s processes can be incredibly helpful to solving certain problems, reaching deadlines or launching a new product, and utilized for only a set period of time.

However, you have likely read (multiple times) about today’s rapidly changing markets, the ever-increasing speed in digital advances and how “it’s no longer the big beating the small, but the fast beating the slow.” (Eric Pearson, CIO International Hotel Group). Businesses now need a proven and sustainable organizational structure that can compete, that can keep them relevant and ahead of the curve.

Legacy businesses are seeing themselves displaced and markets disrupted by young, energetic and technology-based start-ups, and we’re hearing of names — huge names — closing their doors as a result.

It’s tempting to jump to the conclusion that technology is the big disrupter. It’s where these legacy businesses are falling short, right?

In actual fact, it’s something much more rudimentary. Technology is only a (very) helpful aid, and a reflection of the majority of today’s consumers who are now digitally savvy. The real disrupter here is customer experience. With the many (many) quotes, descriptions and stats around the revolution in customer experience, Alberto Brea said it best:

“Netflix did not kill Blockbuster. Ridiculous late fees did.
Uber did not kill the taxi business. Limited taxi access and fare control did.
Apple did not kill the music industry. Being forced to buy full-length albums did.
Airbnb did not kill the hotel industry. Limited availability and pricing options did.
Amazon did not kill other retailers. Bad customer service and experience did.
Technology by itself is not the real disruptor.
Being NON-customer centric is the biggest threat to any business.”

Those who rose up and became today’s leaders in these industries had one crucial advantage over their predecessors — they knew what the customer wanted.

They knew their pain points and they acted on it. They introduced a solution that addressed these pain points, but that the customer didn’t realize they even needed. Before disruption, these pain points were simply a necessary evil, something that was just tolerated but not an obvious problem because we never knew any different.

So where does Agile come into all of this? At the base of the Agile mindset is a goal to deliver the most value to customers. Principle №1 of the Agile Business Manifesto is:

The primary orientation is towards customer need delivered through constant improvement of customer experience.

Utilizing technology is simply a means to an end. It’s reaching consumers faster, it’s collecting more detailed data around the consumer and it’s interacting with the consumer in places they spend most of their time.

To deliver a consistently positive customer experience is to be successful in the long run.

Agile is a mindset built upon customer-centricity, and to be customer-centric can only yield success, in any organization.

68% of customers stop using a service because they believe the business does not care about them (the next greatest proportion is 14% who are simply dissatisfied with the service). The Rockefeller Group

Omnichannel is becoming crucial, with 75% of consumers and 88% of business buyers expecting companies to provide a consistent experience across every channel. Huffington Post

It’s also becoming easier for consumer to be choosey, with 70% of consumers and 82% of business buyers saying technology makes it easier than ever to take their business elsewhere. Huffington Post

The gap between desire and reality for many consumers presents a huge opportunity for businesses (and a pretty bleak reality), with 86% of buyers saying they would be willing to pay more for a better customer experience, compared to the 1% of customers who feel that vendors consistently meet their expectations. IBM

The current state of customer service, a primary touch-point in the customer’s experience with a business is embarrassingly poor, with customers being four times more likely to walk away from an interaction dissatisfied rather than satisfied. A huge contributor to disloyalty.

Read the full report on customer service and loyalty

The importance of Agile is abundantly clear. And as previously stated it can prove successful when applied to short-term projects. But let’s assume your aim is to keep your business relevant well into the future, to stay ahead of competitors and to ensure sustainability of the business model and consumer acquisition for years to come.

You need a way of working that ensures (true) value is being delivered continuously. A way of working that keeps your sights on the end user and facilitates consistent feedback to keep your team informed and on the right track. A way of working that offers the best chance of success when it comes to launching the product.

But let’s be clear — this practical application of Agile is through using practices that support the Agile mindset. In many organizations, and here at LHBS these include Scrum, Design Sprint and Lean (we’ll explore these processes in more detail in upcoming articles, or attend our next workshop which shows them in action). Here’s a brief overview of these practices:

The Agile mindset is to believe that customer-first is the way to exist as a business. To hold continuous value creation by frequently evaluating progress via feedback direct from the consumer as a priority. To know that having a quick time-to-market is the most productive way to work. To understand that the best way to measure success is by how you are perceived by your customers.

So, is your business Agile?

Please share your answer and opinion with us and other readers below!