Embracing Agile

Embracing Agile

HBR, May 2016, p41

By Darrell K. Rigby, Jeff Sutherland and Hirotaka Takeuchi

One of the problems executives face is that different parts of the organization require different management styles and it is the rare manager who understands this and is able to use multiple styles. The software industry has been acutely aware of this because while production processes and management techniques dominate the management literature, production is only a minor part of a software company. The dominant part of a software company is product development and that requires different processes and management techniques from production. The software industry has worked to develop new management techniques relevant to software development for many years and this article examines these agile methodologies and contrasts their effects on areas of organization outside of software development.

The article highlights the success of agile methodologies and what they have done for the IT industry, even “helping to create a new generation of skilled general managers.” The authors suggest that the greatest problem with implementing agile methodologies is managers who don’t know how agile is supposed to work. The agile methodologies are discussed in enough detail to give one the flavor of their effectiveness. The article shows where agile works in organizations, product development and marketing, and where it does not, finance and accounting, but does not give a theoretical basis for the distinction. Instead they suggest that each department be allowed to make its own decision about whether to use agile or not based on the preference of that department’s manager. For implementing agile, the article recommends starting small, getting senior managers to do it too, allowing experienced teams more freedom and removing barriers to spreading agile within the organization.

Agile methodologies are a step in the right direction and as managers move toward an agile management style, from a command and control one, they require a significant amount of coaching, personal growth and support. Agile changes the culture of an organization and the managers must become different people to be effective.