Have You already fully exploited the potential of Your transition to agility? For example, have You already achieved Your time-to-market goals? Are You fast enough?

Imagine a development process for technical functions that creates a new feature in sales or product management, then involves an engineering department, finally ends up as a defined requirement in an implementation team, then is tested for customer suitability in a test department and eventually needs a rollout in operations.

And because this usually requires central process control in a large organization, there is often a release process between the individual steps. Many processes in large organizations are structured in this way or something similar quite simply because central control has worked just as well over a very long period with manageable organizational complexity.

And because the process is now running much too slowly due to the high expectations of customers, the development teams are beginning to improve the development time of innovations. That sounds very logical at first glance. “Development is too slow, and you have to get faster! “is the argument that one could hear.

Now let’s take as an example, a company would have such a process with a lead time of, say, six months for a new adaptation to the product. Often the actual technical development of this takes perhaps only six weeks.

And imagine further on, you could shorten the development phase by about 20% in the process. I mean, just the technical development time, which would be a significant improvement on the one process step in development.

But, how much faster could a new function have been implemented in total?

I experience this decision logic again and again. It’s often about the fact that you want to make agile teams faster in IT. That’s why agility initiatives have often been launched in IT in the past. But only in IT.

Klaus Leopold, an Austrian Kanban pioneer and probably one of the most experienced Lean and Agile experts for knowledge work have illustrated this effect very nicely and simply in his book “Rethinking Agility”. Because he too has experienced it in his experience.

He describes in the book that “business agility” is needed, not just agility in the development teams. Agile forms of collaboration across the entire value chain can change the lead time of innovation. However, if many individual units are managed centrally and sometimes own teams work independently and self-contained “agile”, it remains centrally controlled by middle management. This does not change the overall process significantly enough to become fast. After all, it is often not only the sum of the work steps that consumes throughput time but also the decision-making processes across the organization that take up a lot of time.

Agile or not agile. Unfortunately, that doesn’t make much difference in this context. One could ask oneself the question of whether an agile method is needed at all in separate teams if the possibilities of active cooperation are only used to a minimal extent anyway. To optimize individual process steps, a process improvement could also be sufficient. However, if you want to change holistically, you probably cannot avoid the new working methods.

Think agility not only for individual teams. Think agility from the perspective of the entire organization. Perhaps the reason they are relying on agility is not the fact that they want to introduce agility. Instead, it is probably business factors, such as faster time-to-market, that drive them to do so.

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