The Agile concept was coined about the year 2001 in the city of Snowbird in the USA. The need for this manifesto and the associated methodologies is due to the search for improvements in organizational systems or methods (CMMI, SPICE) used in this field in a common way in the 1980s and 1990s for the management of projects related to the Programming or software development.
Some tools/methodologies contemplated within the concept are Agile Modeling, Agile Unified Process, Crystal Clear, Extreme Programming, and, one of the best known, Scrum.
The essence of Taylorist organizational system with its way of operating based on departments and hierarchies created, and still produces today, dissatisfaction in professionals working in the technological world. Hence the search for new ways to raise software development projects a comprehensive approach to ICT development in the evolution of organizational systems. Agile, Lean, Holocracy, and its relationship with ICT.
In this manifesto, 4 values and 12 principles are collected:
The four values of the Agile manifesto:
- Focus more on individuals and their interactions than on processes and tools.
- Focus more on the software working than on the exhaustive documentation.
- Focus more on collaboration with the client than on contractual negotiation.
- Always keep in mind the response to change, adapt to changes, to follow a plan.
The principles of the Agile manifesto
- Customer satisfaction. The customer approach is a core part of management. It is pursued through the delivery of products that cover a need.
- Welcome the new requirements. Changing as it is developing is considered positive and necessary. Suggestions or new proposals are welcome if this improves a product.
- Deliveries for weeks. The division of labor is done considering deliveries of validated product for weekly periods, say short, and is the basis of the methodology.
- It is possible to measure progress. The progress of a project must be consistently measurable. Progress monitoring indicators should be effective, focused on knowing project status with certainty.
- Sustainable development. The way to execute the projects must guarantee its continuity. It is not a matter of doing to do.
- Close work. The leaders of this type of projects work closely, in the same field, where the tasks are carried out and the team works, not from the offices.
- Face to face conversation. The project leader establishes close relationships and, if possible, in-person to communicate with both collaborators and clients. Periodic meetings with frequencies associated with development for short periods of the project are an essential part.
- Motivation and trust. Projects are more likely to develop satisfactorily for the parties involved with motivated people and in climates of trust and solidarity.
- Technical excellence and good design. The focus on good work is key while always respecting quality standards.
- Simplicity. The tasks are designed considering simplicity to be able to be executed successfully. In case of doubt and when dealing with a task with some complexity, it is recommended to divide it into a set of simpler tasks.
- Self-management of work teams. Although there is a figure that monitors work teams, self-management, and governance in groups are necessary elements. In this way, highly hierarchical structures are avoided.
- Adaptation to changing circumstances or environments. Projects do not usually end the same way they started. The first definition of a project generally varies with respect to the final result. The adaptation and conduction of the projects with the intention of improving them must be an attitude present at all times..
So far, we have described some values and principles about the ‘Agile’ concept. These statements started with the dissatisfaction of how the software development professionals worked in the development of those projects. The objective was to evolve methodologies to work projects, avoiding the evils of traditional organizational systems.
The relationship among the concepts LEAN, HOLACRACY, and AGILE
A constant spectacle of fireworks of organizational concepts means that we sometimes lose perspective of the organizational systems. It often seems that we live under continuous hatching of organizational concepts, and we wonder if we really know where the ‘new trends’ go. So and everything we will try to relate the concepts LEAN, AGILE, and HOLACRACY.
By relating these concepts, we can see how governance is a more classic issue than it seems. We will do this by connecting the concepts to AGILE values and principles.
LEAN and AGILE:
Within the Lean, simplification and quality are always present to safely guarantee deliveries to the customer. The term ‘Takt-time’ refers to the range of product deliveries to the customer with full warranty. This concept applied in agile consists in being able to deliver validated products and with guaranteed operation on a weekly or specific basis and not too long.
The Lean also contains the concept ‘kanban’ used in Agile to design sufficiently simple tasks with guaranteed execution. Concatenating these tasks through a kanban system strengthens the execution of a project with guarantees.
Following is the list of Agile principles that can be connected to the Lean:
From the Agile values, we could clearly connect the numbers 3 (Collaboration with the client) and 4 (Response to the change in demand in the Lean case).
All Agile principles are easily connectable to LEAN. You can review them one by one.
HOLACRACY and AGILE:
A simple and possible definition of holacracy is, ‘An organizational system among people where authority and decision-making are distributed more horizontally and with greater autonomy in order to avoid the evils of classical hierarchical structures.’ This does not mean the elimination of hierarchies but a more transparent way of establishing relationships and governance. And thus help more efficient and effective management and better integration of people in the search for a purpose.
The AGILE concept occurs in a technological world where:
- The academic level of the people participating in these projects is high.
- A Taylorist organization ceases to make sense from the concept ‘Designer-Foreman-Operator’.
- A person cannot be an expert in all the subjects necessary to undertake software development projects.
- Motivation and level of involvement are necessary to maintain a certain level of quality.
- The competition is brutal.
- Talent can make a difference.
- A successful project can reach important economic dimensions.
Not introducing holacratic elements in organizations where ICT is developed seems, in principle, counterproductive. Another thing is to what level you want to take those holacratic elements. Nowadays and in environments such as those mentioned above, to evolute within the holacracy seems necessary. However, is it done by necessity or by conviction?
If we return to the values and principles ‘Agile’ and the concept ‘Holacracy’ the following connections arise:
- The value 1 of focusing on individuals and their interactions is something that holacracy considers nuclear through roles, circles, and governance.
- The value 4 of always keeping in mind the response to the change is done through the governance meetings where adjustments to the system are sought.
- Principle 8, motivation and confidence, seems to make sense.
- Principle 11, self-management of work teams, is an essential part of holacracy.
- Principle 12, adaptation to changing circumstances or environments, is part of the DNA of holacrocy.
Sometimes when we talk about concepts, we find cases where a concept is not easily applicable in concrete reality. In those cases, you can doubt the concepts themselves. However, and often, the reason why a concept cannot be applied to a specific reality has its origin in elements not considered in the analysis. And this is where WITORG with its guide, helps to analyze specific cases of organizational systems. That way, the treated organizational system will be understood, and the root cause for which the concept could not be applied can be attacked.
AGILE and the WITORG guide
This section will analyze how to introduce Agile elements into an organizational system through ‘The WITORG Guide’.
The CEO and the shareholders are the ones who create the essence of an organizational system. At this level, values and principles are defined. AGILE requires values and principles already declared in the first part of this entry. Therefore, the CEO and shareholders will have to endorse those values and principles so that they can then be applied to the reality of an organizational system.
The sector where an organization operates can condition the essence of the organizational system in terms of its uses and customs. Relations with customers, relationships with suppliers, openness to transparency, competitors, will somehow condition the introduction of the ‘Agile’ concept. Perhaps not so much internally but in terms of relations with other external entities.
As for the values necessary for the introduction of the ‘Agile’ concept into an organizational system, the values of the holacracy must be present. Taylor hierarchical organizational forms may want to introduce ‘Agile’ tools or methodologies. However, the organizational system itself will often prevent the concept from being taken to an acceptable level of implementation. The aforementioned fireworks of organizational concepts that we live today cause us to sign up for concepts with supposed goodness, without having analyzed in advance if the organization is prepared for it.
The level of education and knowledge in the technological world is normally high. This type of people seeks more holacratic or more Agile forms of government. Not working in a certain harmony, even if you have to work with high levels of demand, can lead to demotivation and search for opportunities outside the organization. The ‘Agile’ concept can help to involve people within the purpose of an organization.
From WITORG, improvement is defined as proposing and making improvements both formally and informally within organizational systems as a habit to adapt to a changing environment and world.
In both values and the ‘Agile’ principles, improvement, and adaptability are key elements. From this point of view, the manifesto ‘Agile’ itself is already a declaration of intent. Now wanting to be ‘Agile’ does not mean getting it. To deepen an Agile reality, it is necessary to design an organizational system with its routines and governance that makes it possible to be ‘Agile’ in concrete reality.
How to be ‘Agile’ within an organizational reality? It is evident that for each specific case, it must be analyzed in a particular way. The entity of the projects, the number of people involved, the sector, the competition, and many other elements must be taken into account to generate an organizational system with an ‘Agile’ concept.
In witorg in the internal element ‘200. Continuous improvement ‘describes this type of micro improvement. Generally, they are several improvements and not of great economic impact at least individually. These arise in the interaction of the elements of a project and of the operational routines executed on a day-to-day basis where nonconformities occur. The concept ‘Agile’ considers within its principles and values the approach to improve interaction. This fact implies a behavior focused on the search for improvement constantly. However, the approach of improvements on an ongoing basis could go against an adequate advance for the times of a project. The projects at the end of the day respond to the need to solve or improve something, and in established timings
When we relate the concept ‘Agile’ and continuous improvement, in its micro aspect, it is necessary to take into account certain aspects for the organizational system and for a given project:
- The design of planned and executable tasks with guarantee in time. This will be done as a routine and on a specific frequency.
- Sharing the tasks performed and rethinking improvement of the project itself. In principle, this will also be done as a routine and on a certain frequency as well.
The execution of the two previous points can occur without any problem in a satisfactory development of a project. Now, although it starts with some organizational routines, we can find that even having a method, a project is not developing satisfactorily. Hence the importance of project review routines from an organizational point of view. From here, changes in frequencies or operations, generally micro, could be generated to readjust the management of a project. This is related to governance in holacracy.
An organization that works with ‘Agile’ methodology may encounter challenges that can be included as a macro improvement described in ‘200. Continuous improvement ‘. These might be:
- Carry out projects for an unknown sector.
- Introduce new ICT for the development of current projects.
- Develop new services or products.
- Be disruptive in the current activity with the objective of surpassing competitors in the value proposition offered to customers.
When significant qualitative leaps arise within an organization, is it sufficient with the ‘Agile’ principles and values of everyday life?
Normally thinking ‘Out of the box‘ is a complex thing when you have been running routines satisfactorily for a while now. I don’t know what the reason is but the organizations accommodate. Hence the following questions:
- Can people think ‘out of the box’ by working day-to-day operating routines?
- Does there have to be people thinking ‘out of the box’ within an organization?
- If an organization already has people thinking ‘out of the box’, what relationship should they have with day-to-day routines?
- Do the ‘Agile’ values and principles allow us to think out of the box?
- To be contributed by the reader.
300. Process Management
We are going to imagine a map of management processes for an organization dedicated to software development. We will do this by following the concept of process management presented in the internal element ‘300. Process management‘. The main management processes proposed are:
- Order delivery of projects to develop for customers.
- Technical assistance service for projects already delivered to customers.
- Development of new products or services.
- Organizational System Improvement
We will remember the three roles in the processes of management, designer, executor, and analyst. The question raised in ‘300. Process Management’ was if a person or team of these could assume all three roles at the same time. Let’s analyze it for each process:
1.-Order-delivery of projects to be developed for customers
Starting from the values and principle of the manifesto, it seems that executor and analyst should work on a day-to-day basis. In the governance corresponding to micro improvement, the designer should also be present. Instead, in the macro improvement, or in thinking ‘Out of the box’, should the designer taking part in the micro improvement be the same person or team in the macro improvement role?
From the previous paragraph, the question arises if the role of the designer can have two aspects, that of micro improvement on the one hand, and that of macro improvement on the other. Hence the proposal if two designer roles should be considered. One for micro improvement, and another for macro improvement.
The role of designer of micro improvement participates in the adjustments of the organizational system. Instead, the role of macro improvement designer would focus on a radical rethinking of the management process itself.
2.-Technical assistance service for projects already delivered to clients
Being this management process an operational process, the casuistry to raise is the same as in the point ‘1.-Order delivery of projects to develop for customers’.
3.-Development of new products or services.
Here, as in the previous management processes, there is the question of how to raise the roles of the designer (of the management process, not of the new product or service), of the executor (who could be the designer of the new product/service), and of the analyst. Developing new products or services can be something not excessively complex, or it can be a commitment to something new or disruptive.
What approach occurs to you for the roles of designer, executor, and analyst for this management process, for cases in which you participate or know deeply?
Besides, according to the entity of new products/services, there could even be a change in the organizational system. We leave this for the management process ‘5.-Improvement of the organizational system’. We will see it later.
This process includes the management areas of an organization where it is decided what approaches to carry out for the rest of the management processes in the medium and long term. Therefore, this process can significantly affect the rest of the processes.
How are the roles of designer, executor, and analyst for this management process established?
5.-Improvement of the organizational system.
From the management process ‘4.-Strategy’, ideas and approaches for the development of the organization will emerge. From that point on, how to carry out strategies needs an organizational system. For this process, the designer-executor-analyst concept remains in force. Another issue will be how the designer of this management process interacts with the other four process management designers 1,2,3 and 4.
If the concept of designer, executor, and analyst is observed, three levels arise with certain differentiation, according to the management process analyzed:
- At the level of management process ‘4.-Strategy’.
- At the level of the management process ‘5.-Improvement of the organizational system’.
- At the level of operational management processes 1,2 and 3.
How to structure this complex world of relationships, roles, and powers, is essential for sustainable organizational development over time, within an organizational system. Each case can have a different solution. However, the awareness of the complexity and the need to evolve requires solid process management.
The values and principles of the ‘Agile’ manifesto can help importantly. Although in the macro improvement in addition to ‘Agile’ values and principles, talent and an organizational system will also be necessary.
The values and principle in ‘Agile’ contain elements of transparency and dissection of information. This is necessary to delimit the work to be done and concatenate them among them, as for the analysis of the progress with clients and the constant rethinking of the work carried out with the objective of improvement. To do this, measuring and analyzing is basic.
Being connected to the changing realities of today is not achieved only with the senses. In fact, we often found that we were wrong regarding sensory perception before we started exploiting new information.
The inclusion of KPIs for each management process is a core part of the organizational design.
500. Project management
The ‘Agile’ concept itself is a way of understanding projects. Note that within the concept, we find different jargon too. Some examples, Agile Modeling, Agile Unified Process, Crystal Clear, Extreme Programming, and, one of the best known, Scrum.
Without being an expert in any of the ‘Agile’ variants, it has to be commented that any tool/methodology can provide innovative ways of working with respect to those already used. This fact can add a new value to the way projects are managed within an organization.
Now when we talk about projects at the level of the management processes ‘4.-Strategic’ and ‘5.-Improvement of the organizational system’, can the concept ‘Agile’ be used?
This internal element of the WITORG 600 guide includes the necessary conditions to evolve the teams of people within an organization. If you compare this point 600 with the ‘Agile’ values and principles, you can reflect on the elements necessary to develop teamwork in an Agile way. After all, the Agile principles and values are a very general recommendation. Deepen values and Agile principle for a specific organization, requires a more in-depth analysis. To do this ‘The WITORG Guide’ with its outline can be a great help.
A. Organizational Characteristics
In the matrix of this internal element of the WITORG ‘A‘ guide, there are types of companies, sectors and different organizational approaches. Where do you think the ‘Agile’ concept can fit most likely.
B. Quality Systems
Already certified organizations, or basing their management system on a specific standard, try to introduce ‘Agile’ elements into their organizational system. Although each organization has its reality, we are going to raise some issues generically. Thus, the reader can reflect on his specific case:
- How are the concepts ‘Agile’ introduced and collected within a certified organizational system in any standard?
- Does a quality standard complicate or favor the introduction of ‘Agile’ elements in an organizational system?
- How do the quality standards contain the principles and values of the Agile manifesto?
- Where does the reader find it challenging to apply Agile principles and values in his/her organizational system?
Others to be contributed by the reader.
C. ICT Systems
Being the systems an external element to an organizational system, the selection and introduction of these within an organizational system could also help to be more or less ‘Agile’.
D. People and circumstances of the environment
In a changing world, organizations need to attract talent and make it integrate satisfactorily into them. To what extent working in an ‘Agile’ way could help organizations to attract talent?