The Plan – Agile at an Organizational level

This is a short story on how the Executive Team comprising of CEO (Brian), Chief Technology Office (Alina), VP Strategy (Haley), VP Human Resources (Savannah), VP Research and Development (Stefan) are planning to use Agile philosophy in their organization. They are projecting to expand Agile from a few Project Teams to the entire organization.

It’s eleven minutes past ten in the morning and the financial towers of Bay Street in Toronto loom in the distance as observed through the partially opened vertical blinds of the executive boardroom. A major snowstorm has just passed, and like a messenger bringing some joyous news, the sun reflects off the distant towers.

This morning the Chief Executive Office (CEO) is meeting with his Executive team comprising of four. They are discussing a change in the strategy of the organization due to recent changes in the competitive landscape and the shifting demands for evolutionary products and services.

The CEO is starting the meeting with his opening remarks, “Last year in 2010, our organization has had some fair successes with our Project Management Teams. We have delivered products that bring great value to the customers, but the overall behavior of our company still thinks and operates in the traditional way.”

Alina the Chief Technology Officer gently waving a pen as she speaks says, “Brian, new technologies utilizing computer simulation can drive changes to the innovation process.”

“I understand Alina, but technology has to be fused with impassioned employees.”

Haley the VP of Strategy with a gleam in his eyes says, “I agree Brian, we have moved forward with innovation technologies and it’s proving to be quite challenging in a culture that has been cemented using prescriptive processes. It requires a great change in the culture…in the people.”

Haley says, “As one who is thinking from the tactical angle, we have to evolve to the point where project leaders are not just lackeys who merely comply with the administrative demands of schedules and budgets.”

Savannah immediately continues, “And replace it with an environment where project leaders are intimately involved in helping teams deliver products.”

“This is fantastic conversation”, Brian says as a ray of sunlight reflects off the mirror on the opposite wall, “I see we are focused on evolution and adaptation vs. planning and optimization. We are definining the new philosophy our organization.”

“As Chief Technology Officer I would comment that our organization is seeing more and more products that can’t be defined completely in the beginning but evolve over time through experimentation, exploration, and adaptation.” Haley says, as her pen seems to wave in the same rhythm as her speech.

“Our purpose is to deliver a valuable product to our customers within some targeted boundaries, however change and deadlines are significant factors.” Brian responds from the head of the table.

After a few moments of thoughtfulness Savannah the VP of human resources responds, “ Everyone, the culture needs to be aggressively transformed to be faster and flexible. I have seen some of Project Management teams in our company use the Agile methodologies. These can be good principles, and practices, however they have to be supported by meaningful performance measures.”

Stephan the VP of Research and Development speaks for the first time, “I was at a seminar on Agility and this philosophy focuses on attitude more than process, and emphasizes environment over methodology. It looks like an excellent framework for our entire organization.”

“But let us remember that practices and methodologies are how principles are acted out. They lead us to the goal, but they are not the goal.” Brian says emphatically.

Savannah responds, “Then from the performance measurement perspective we need to integrate organizational measurements that focus on outcomes not on the outputs as we currently do, and measures that ingrain the purpose and goal in the culture of the organization.”

“Then we have agreed to use the Agile philosophy in the organization, however we have many challenges for the measurement of success as we will be dealing with many intangibles. We cannot just use performance measures because they are easy to administer, we need to evolve metrics that can genuinely measure success and customer value.” Brian says to conclude the meeting.

“Lets remember in our new measurement systems that Value should be at the top ”, Stephan says as he holds up an Agile plaque. “I received this plaque from the seminar that I was on.”

Stephan received this plaque from the seminar

Bibliography and additional reading:

Schmidt Terry. Strategic Project Management Made Simple: Practical Tools for Leaders and Teams: Wiley (March 16, 2009) -

Highsmith Jim. Agile Project Management: Creating Innovative Products Kindle Edition – Kindle eBook (July 10, 2009)

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