HBR TURKEY ASKED TOLGA KOMBAK, ONE OF OUR MANAGING PARTNERS, ABOUT SECRETS OF AGILE MANAGEMENT
“The resistance to change is directly related to people’s unwillingness to come out of their comfort zones. “
Why should companies adopt agile working style? How do you benefit from going agile?
The main reason for companies to start using agile approaches is to be able to respond quickly to changing demands. In fact, we can also define agility as the ability and capability to respond quickly to change. In traditional project management approaches, making an essentially very good and detailed plan and following the plan strictly was seen as a virtue for years. However in the information age starting with the emergence of the Internet -which can be dated as the second half of the 80s -, the rate of consumption of products, the fierceness of competition in the common markets, the consciousness gained by the end-users due to the ever-increasing information sharing, and the speed of trying and accepting/rejecting innovations have kept increasing and created a rapidly changing world and hence rapidly changing market conditions. In such a world, the “get the requirements from the customer, understand them by analyzing in the most detailed way, and implement them by creating a convenient development plan” approach is almost impossible, since 65% of the initial requirements are changed during the development phase and even the analysis phase. Now agile approaches basically reverse the “set the scope clearly, make the budget and time plan accordingly” practice and they use the “set your budget, establish iteration periods, and create value by producing the most valuable functions that can fit in this iteration” philosophy to create incremental value with small iterations. Since the outcome is not a prototype or a model/scheme/draft but a real product, it is possible to decide to make more investments by taking feedback from the customer (field) who can use the product and to make a tactical change in direction, if required, with minimum cost. In a sense, agility is not about rapid development but rather providing the advantage of being able to turn quickly and with minimum risk in the right direction in response to the changing conditions.
How can companies integrate the agile approach into their business units? Which functions do you work with and how do you locate them?
In our 10-years’ experience as ACM, we have provided around 100,000 hours of coaching and consulting to more than 600 companies in Turkey and the surrounding countries. In all of our experiences, we have concluded that the agile perspective and working style needs to be adopted as a corporate culture. We believe that companies where the agile approach is effective in the development of new products and services in the whole process starting from the concept stage, in other words, not only for a certain function but for all of the functions; where there is no separation between units (like information technology, marketing, sales, operations, HR) going after team’s common objectives in a full-scale collaboration; and companies, which have increased their organizational agility and business agility, and which can adapt to the changing conditions and establish end-to-end value creation chains, are more advantageous . In our applications as ACM, our Agile Transformation Management Model™’s setup and the framework built enable each organization to manage this transformation in an empirical way under their own unique conditions. In the implementation of this model, chances of success are increased if Agile Leaders™, which are in the center of the company and require high-level commitment, and Agile Studio™ teams, which can be addressed as the center of internal agile competence, work with participation and engagement of all units and stakeholders.
At which points are you challenged in this process?
As I mentioned above, agile transformation starts at process and tools level but requires progressing towards a cultural change. When we look at the process or the tools, using practices like Scrum sometimes Kanban, and if required as complementary XP, DevOps are just the tip of the iceberg. The main objective is the adoption of the agile perspective at all levels of teams, organizational operating systems and production line. This means cultural exchange, however, cultural change takes a long time, and it is a difficult process. Without fail, the resistance to change is directly related to people’s unwillingness to come out of their comfort zones. However, these challenges are not difficult to overcome when a participating transformation model is applied (rather than a top-down approach) with a strong transformation leadership team and commitment and a clear vision of transformation.
Tolga Kombak, ACM Managing Partner