Making an Agile Organization

By | June 30, 2014

Dart board | agileThe term ‘agile’ is frequently used in today’s business environment.  Many organizations claim to be agile or profess to implement agile software development.  But what does being agile really mean?

In my experience, very few organizations are actually agile in how they address every aspect of the business, much less in their software development processes.  However, the benefits of an agile organization can be an enormous discriminator for a company.

Being agile is a journey not a destination.  Some companies and government organizations have been very successful in leveraging agile methods, and they continue to strive to be even more agile.

I see many pockets of agile activities in the federal marketplace, but there is room for significant improvement.

Characteristics of an Agile Organization

To set context, let’s define characteristics of an agile organization.  These characteristics have their origin in the agile software development practices; however, the application of these characteristics is much broader and potentially much more powerful when adopted for all organization activities.

Below are five characteristics of an agile organization:

  1. Continuous user/stakeholder involvement and feedback
  2. Focus on the most important end objectives (i.e., 80 percent of the benefits are achieved with 20 percent of the capability/process)
  3. Timeframes for delivery/completion are very quick and fixed (scope is changed if necessary to meet schedule)
  4. Products/processes evolve over time through iterations
  5. The workforce is empowered to make decisions

I see many pockets of agile activities in the federal marketplace, but there is room for significant improvement.  I have asked Asynchrony to develop some materials that we can use to assist our company-wide efforts to become more agile.  These will be available in the next few months.

A Business Opportunity

Moreover, there is opportunity to bring agile methods to our customers.  This can become a major discriminator for Schafer.

As an example, I recently had a discussion with one of the senior executives in DARPA.  She was aware of the benefits of agile methods and was actively seeking to have Schafer help bring agile methods into the organization.

What would this mean for Schafer?  First, we could help DARPA and other customers reduce the cycle time of everything that they do, while helping focus on the most important objectives.  Second, we can help our government customers actively and continuously engage their stakeholders.  For DARPA, we might help them initiate technology transition at the earliest phases of research with very active involvement of end users and stakeholders.  Third, we can help our customers leverage the benefits of rapid, iterative process or product development.   And finally, we can help DARPA and our other customers implement effective agile software development where appropriate.

I look forward to working with you to make Schafer agile and to bring the benefits of agile to our customers.

Please don’t hesitate to offer your suggestions as we undertake this journey together.