Agile Development and Management: Four Ways to Change How Your Business Works, Forever


Agile management has never been so popular; from leading giants like BP to major financials and motorsport teams, CIOs explained to ZDNet how this flexible management style is changing the way teams work.

Although Agile is never applied in an organization, the basic principles of the software development approach – decentralized decision-making, inter-organizational teams and inter-team empowerment – are likely to resonate with most leaders. technological. Additionally, the evidence suggests that the rest of the business is also keen to get the most out of agile management.

So how should business leaders remain open to feedback from their staff on how decisions are made? Four digital leaders give us their best practice advice for applying Agile management.

1. Focus on developing cross-functional teams

Warren Breakstone, managing director and product manager for data management solutions at S&P Global Market Intelligence, calls his organization an “agile store-to-scale” and says the methodology is embedded in the way the business operates.

“We have been using Agile for many years and we don’t see it just as a development methodology; it’s not just for the technology, ”he says. “The best approach for us is to think of Agile as a business practice. So we’re making sure that all of our teams are on the business side – as well as the technology side, and everyone in between – trained and certified on Agile. “

Breakstone says the organization is focused on developing cross-functional teams as a critical ingredient in business success. He describes Agile as a key support practice to help people in the organization get things done.

“And given the speed with which the needs of our customers are changing and the markets we serve are changing, the ability to be Agile isn’t nice to have, it’s a must. If your markets and your customers are changing faster than you are, time is not on your side, ”he says.

“So being Agile has become a necessity, both in terms of the process and the practices of Agile methodologies. But also of the mindset, in the sense that if you are not agile and you are not connected to your customers, then you’re gonna lose. “

2. Support your high-performance teams

Gary Delooze, CIO at Nationwide, says the concept of Agile leadership resonates strongly with him.

“My personal style is to try to put together the best possible team and then get out of it. The best thing we can do as leaders is build the teams, create the environment, and then provide the teams with the air cover, so they can be successful, ”he says.

Delooze says his role is to give teams the space to execute and deliver and then to be there to support them: “For me, it’s more about empowering them to be successful. ”

His leadership style at Nationwide is to listen to people on the ground when they talk about the challenges they see, and then discuss with senior management teams how the company can use technology to solve those challenges.

“It’s about creating an empowering culture where people have a chance to stand up and say, ‘I think I can do it better. for our customers, ”he says.

“These are things people will do when they feel empowered, when they have psychological security, when they don’t feel like they are defying a regime and when they feel empowered by the rulers.”

3. Make sure you are engaged and accessible

Although her organization does not use the term Agile leadership, Tarah Lourens, Director of Product and Technology at Rightmove, says the company’s board of directors “absolutely recognizes” the concepts associated with an Agile leadership style. .

“From the CEO, the management team is very careful about what we allow,” she says. “We’ve worked really hard for this – it’s a conscious behavior trait that we all try to respect.”

SEE: Guide to becoming a champion of digital transformation (TechRepublic Premium)

Lourens says the leadership team is focused on employee engagement. Rightmove conducts a semi-annual engagement survey and uses the results to educate its staff and take the overall pulse of the organization. The C-suite team also makes sure they understand the motivations and desires of the people who work for the company.

“So for example, I recently spent an hour with each person on my team – and now I’m going back and doing the same thing again. I spend time with everyone and the entire management team is very accessible. We care about ourselves and are told things that we don’t necessarily want to hear, but we are always ready to adapt, ”explains Lourens.

“I think being open as a leadership team comes down to making sure you’re approachable and talking to people at their level. So this year, rather than people coming to us and talking to us about their work on projects, we’re going to ask them how they’re doing, we’re going to visit them, it’s not the other way around.

4. Lead like a coach rather than a manager

Claire Dickson, CIO of the multinational packaging company DS Smith, describes herself as an advocate for Agile management. In fact, in a world where CIOs need to speed time to market to delivery, she doesn’t know if there’s another way to work.

“I think you must be logged in,” she said. “I totally believe in servant leadership. It cannot be just the leader. It has to be about the team and making the team bigger than the leader. I think it’s about moving to a DevOps environment, where you push the decision making right into the organization as a flatter structure. “

Dickson joined DS Smith just over two months ago and inherited an organization with a relatively flat structure.

“I believe in being a coach rather than a manager. And then using data to make sure we’re performing. We create Power BI dashboards, so I can see where we’re at on delivery. “, says.


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