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What’s in an Agile transformation?

    Today’s market is increasingly competitive as new products are launched daily and entire industries are thrown upside down by innovators. Think of Uber and Lyft, how they have revolutionized the taxi industry, which — caught by surprise — is struggling to redefine its identity and maintain market relevance; or the recent purchase of Whole Foods by Amazon, the leader of online sales which is increasingly moving into the brick-and-mortar retail space, threatening long-held leaders in this market.

    Companies today cannot afford to ideate, research, and develop a new product over a long time. The risk is that by the time the product is ready for launch, someone nimbler, faster, more agile, who can identify an opportunity and quickly bring a solution to life, has already taken the top spot in the market.

    Successful companies today adopt Agile practices throughout their organizations. Agile allows them to move fast, adapt to changing market conditions, and validate new ideas in a limited time. Coupled with the ease and speed at which new technology can be built, and with a customer-centric focus on user needs, these companies can deliver benefits and value to their customers faster, and reduce their risk exposure tremendously.

    Because Agile employs an iterative process, it minimizes rework and allows teams to validate their work with customers and stakeholders at multiple times during the development process. Compared to Waterfall approaches to software development, Agile methodologies deliver faster outcomes, with less effort and higher customer satisfaction.

    A product may be built in increments, but if it takes months to define the requirements and design a solution, by the time the finished product hits the market, it may deliver a solution that is no longer needed.

    Luckily for us, Agile, Design Thinking, and Lean Startup methodologies help organizations infuse agility at every step of the product innovation pipeline. By employing these methodologies, the product innovation pipeline can not only become more agile but can also be turned upside down. Ideally, an organization can strive for market validation of a new idea before even investing in building it.

    • Agile: Build in iterations, one step at a time. Validate each iteration with end users. Adjust and re-prioritize if necessary.
    • Design Thinking: Approach problem-solving with a customer-centric iterative approach based on learning, ideation, and prototyping.
    • Lean Startup: Learn-build-measure cycle focused on early validation and MVP.

    Adopting Agile practices

    Organizations that adopt the key principles and accept the iterative development model offered by Agile are able to reduce risk, optimize return, and satisfy customer needs. At their core Agile methodologies are designed to control risk. Isn’t this one of the most important tenets of any business? Agile provides transparency into the work, shortens the feedback loop with customers enabling rapid validation of new business ideas, and improves productivity by better employing the available resources and removing impediments.

    Business leaders should appreciate the value of launching an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) in the marketplace as early as possible, learning from their customers, validating (or invalidating) hypotheses, and improving from it. Executives should empower their teams to make decisions and self-organize how they work, letting go of control and delegating authority to prioritize product development.

    At the core of Agile are collaboration among team members, transparency of information, and flexibility in planning. As stated in the Agile Manifesto, Agile does not intend to replace the good practices of logging documentation, planning, or following processes. Its aim is, instead, to move the focus to people, their interactions, and the development of a “working” product.

    Activities to infuse a culture of Agility

    The project team is struggling to get traction in the project, feeling the pain of unclear dependencies, lack of priorities, too much work in progress, and poor visibility onto progress and status. The organization is struggling to define a unified vision of its product and to create transparency and collaboration between the product team and the operations teams. The product team is accountable for building the right product, but it lacks direct access to its end-users. Each team may have a different understanding of customer needs, priorities, and values, and this difference generates conflict and miscommunication of expectations.

    Do any of these sound familiar? Moving to a culture of Agility and product innovation can help overcome communication barriers, bring visibility onto the project, clarify priorities and timelines, and ultimately reduce the risk of failure.

    What can 5D Vision do for you?

    We help organizations innovation and deliver great products that customers love. We offer these services:

    Assessment of Agile and product mindset: We embed with your team(s) and evaluate the current state of affairs. This helps inform the strategy for activities and training needed to begin the transformation journey towards a more Agile organization.

    Co-creation workshops: We bring together the product, development, and operation teams through hands-on work in a series of sessions that are focused on:

    • Shared vision and roadmap/MVP with Product Journey Maps
    • Prioritization of features and capabilities using WSJF
    • Rapid ideation with Design Sprints

    Implement Scrum/Kanban: At its core Agile practices like Scrum and Kanban deliver customer focus, transparency on the work, and shared accountability of what is delivered. In particular, some core practices can help drive collaboration between the teams:

    • Kanban board: built at the project and/or team level, a Kanban board visualizes the work and helps everyone have visibility of what is going on. By highlighting impediments and delays, the board also helps in identifying bottlenecks in the process.
    • Sprint Review: this is an opportunity for the product and development teams to share the progress of their work with interested stakeholders (which can include the operations team) to create transparency on what has been built, and collect feedback from stakeholders.
    • Backlog transparency and refinement: A Product Backlog is a key artifact of Scrum and it makes the plan to build the product visible. By creating transparency on the backlog and its priorities, everyone involved in the project can be aligned and has the same expectations.

    Learn and implement SAFe (Scaled Agile): For larger products and projects, you need to organize the work across multiple teams, synchronizing their delivery with the same cadence to allow for integration. We offer training in SAFe practices (Scaled Agile for the enterprise) and work alongside your team to implement SAFe and organize effective PI Planning events.

    Human-centered design: Infusing a culture of human-centered design within the organization helps not only to understand the customer needs at a deeper level, but also at sharing the same understanding within the organization. In particular, we recommend engaging customers in these activities:

    • Discovery: early in the development pipeline for a new feature, discovery allows understanding of customer needs and expectations.
    • Prototype testing: before committing to building a new feature, the team can create a rapid prototype and test it with customers. This helps to validate if the expected work delivers the value that customers expect, or if the plan needs to change.

    Training: We deliver training classes on Product Innovation, Design Thinking, SAFe, and Agile practices. The goal of training is to teach how to use practices and methodologies, develop skillsets, and adopt the same vocabulary. This fosters collaboration and baseline understanding.

    Coaching: Training should be followed by coaching to help the team members put in practice what they learned in the classroom. A coach can guide the teams on the best ways to adopt the practices, remove impediments, and speed up the implementation.

    Take the next step

    If you’d like to learn more about how we can help spark innovation within your team and organization, drop us a line and start a conversation.