The vast majority of our clients are experimenting or wholly embracing the agile model of doing business, in which companies manage core functions through smaller, independent work teams empowered with unprecedented levels of autonomy.
And our clients are not alone. As a recently published Harvard Business Review article, “Agile at Scale,” illustrates, phenomenal success stories of the digital age, such as Amazon and Netflix, were built on agile approaches. Large legacy corporations are adopting agile as well, and achieving extraordinary benefits.
But going agile is not always easy.
Challenge to Going Agile
The idea behind the agile approach is that smaller teams, when set up properly, are closer to the customer, more adaptable, and faster. As “Agile at Scale” points out, agile can and does deliver extraordinary benefits by making it possible for big companies to solve problems and bring products to market more rapidly.
But the authors also note that launching a bunch of smaller, agile teams is not done lightly or easily. Not every team needs to be agile, and it’s not always easy for businesses to know which ones should adopt agile and which ones should not. Moreover, “If your newly agile units are constantly frustrated by bureaucratic procedures or a lack of collaboration between operations and innovation teams, sparks will fly from the organizational friction, leading to meltdowns and poor results,” according to the article. “Changes are necessary to ensure that the functions that don’t operate as agile teams support the ones that do.”
The HBR article is a compelling guide for anyone trying to achieve agile at scale. The authors discuss a number of ways for businesses to manage the organizational and cultural pitfalls of rolling out agile across a large enterprise. Those solutions include creating a taxonomy of opportunities for going agile and breaking those opportunities into teams that span customer experience, business processes, and technology systems. The article also suggests that companies roll out agile in sequenced steps to achieve “the right balance between how fast the rollout should proceed and how many teams the organization can handle simultaneously.”
A Consistent Approach
“Agile at Scale” focuses on organizational impediments to going agile. As such, by design, the article does not attempt to address every dimension of adopting agile. Here is one issue we see with companies adopting agile ways of working:
Making sure that all product development teams have a consistent approach for acting in an agile fashion.
Without a repeatable process, going agile can create problems such as:
- Teams may develop products in an agile fashion — but agile product development, if done without proper vetting at the design phase, may actually speed up the development of very unlovable products.
- Inconsistent outcomes with varying levels of quality.
- Lacking any codified process, agile teams will struggle to manage onboarding of new team members.
A number of management gurus have espoused their own approaches for adopting agile techniques. At Moonshot, we believe in an approach we call FUEL (Future Unified Experience Lifecyle). The principle behind FUEL is that with a consistent process, design and product development teams can collaborate to launch lovable, scalable products with consistency and velocity:
- Lovability and scalability mean that your agile teams make products that customers love — and those products can be put into widespread production.
- Consistency means that your teams can develop lovable products multiple times. They don’t get it right just once.
- Velocity means that your teams get those products to market faster than anyone else can.
Here’s how FUEL works:
- Design thinking vets product ideas. Integrated design and development teams use an agile approach known as a design sprint to design a prototype for a lovable product. Design thinking forces an agile team to collaborate with customers to make a go/no go decision with a product development prototype within five days. Talk about velocity – but with rigor.
- Lean innovation implements ideas. With lean innovation, cross-functional teams collaborate on holistic product design in an iterative, agile fashion. The teams create an actual minimum lovable product based on the prototype created during design thinking; and create a real product for commercial application. Lean innovation includes agile principles while also including a broader focus on people, processes, and governance as well as go-to-market strategies and communications.
With FUEL, businesses deliver lovable products to market more frequently and with higher quality, while managing cost and risk – in other words, continuous velocity that achieves breakthrough customer-centric innovation that agile has promised all along.
FUEL does something else: it helps businesses align their teams around agile ways of working for any process — whether the teams are developing products and experiences for customers or for employees. In other words, FUEL applies even if you’re not developing customer-facing products, per se.
Moonshot developed FUEL based on our work with large companies that are committed to customer-centric innovation. If you’re trying to agile at scale, you need a process such as FUEL to go agile the right way. Contact Moonshot. We help modern companies create lovable products.