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Six Steps for Leaders to Build Lean and Agile teams

This guest post was originally published on Quint's blog site. The content in this guest blog is for informational and educational purposes only and may contain copyrighted material from Quint Wellington Redwood.


Agile working methods have become hugely popular in the last two decades, with more than eight in every ten companies in Western Europe currently working to adopt such practices. A new white paper from Quint Wellington Redwood has highlighted the six key factors leaders need to pay attention to in order to foster successful Agile transformations in their companies.


Agile is a way of working that emerged out of a growing dissatisfaction with IT techniques used in the late 90s, such as the waterfall method in software development. The approach puts speed and autonomy at its core, advocating a process characterised by the division of tasks into short phases of work and frequent reassessment and adaptation of plans. Since the launch of the Agile Manifesto in 2001, the approach gained popularity well beyond the IT experts it was initially intended for, with a study by Wemanity recently finding 83% of large corporates in Western Europe are adopting Agile.


Taking up Agile working is easier said than done, however, as it means adopting a mind-set of continuous improvement, creating time for people to innovate, and encouraging a culture of collaboration and empowerment to support that innovation. As a result, management must drive the Agile transformation if it is to succeed, with senior teams being able to communicate the strategy and demonstrate that they themselves are becoming Agile. Without this, companies will falter and ultimately return to old ways of working.


Quint is an international consulting, training and technology firm that supports clients in designing and operationalising their digital transformations, and adopting Agile working. According to a new study from the Netherlands-based firm, if an Agile transformation is to succeed, business leaders must adhere to six key factors.

Organising


The report finds that most organisations are already structured in the form of an organisational chart, but in a Lean-Agile organisation, this needs to shift to multidisciplinary teams made up of multi-skilled team members, with a clearly defined scope of responsibility linked to a clearly defined set of customers. Before this change occurs, however, Quint Wellington Redwood’s study asserts that leaders need to first secure the provision of capital, personnel and raw materials for the day-to-day running of the organisation. With this base in place, companies can then focus on building a structure to match the work they are executing.


Niels Loader, Partner at Quint Wellington Redwood – and author of the white paper – explained, “Leaders must create an organisational structure in which the dependencies between teams are reduced to an absolute minimum, creating ‘autonomous’ teams. In more traditional organisations, the organisational chart comprises groups of people who work on the same subject matter, so finance people sit with finance people, marketeers with marketeers, IT people with other IT people and so on.”


Visioning


Loader continued, “Assuming we have an existing situation in which people are organised in some form of structure through which value is delivered to customers, however inefficiently, it is now up to leadership to create the story for the direction of the organisation, known as ‘visioning’.”


The report elaborates that in a Lean-Agile organisation, a company’s ‘direction’ is described in the form of a ‘purpose’. Formulated by each team in the organisation, based on the purpose as described by the board, this common purpose is turned into an ‘individual change story’ by each leader, explaining why the individual leader is committed to the direction, and aims t