Results of round table on Agile in traditional organisations

A growing number of traditional companies are implementing Agile, the way of working typically associated with startups and IT companies. However, the adoption of Agile is often a big, sometimes painful change for those organisations. Sometimes, it seems best not to adopt Agile all the way, but to combine it with traditional ways of working. Should companies go all-the way with Agile or can they pick-and-choose?

Such was the topic of the round table of February 8th, organised by Magnus Red consultants Samara Minnema, Sanne Reus, and Magiel Tak. The participants of this round table were each Agile pioneers within their, mostly traditional, organisations: Jacobs Douwe Egberts, ProRail, AkzoNobel, and Nextail. They came together in the round Fletcher hotel, a well-known landmark at the south of Amsterdam. Looking down at the fast-moving traffic, it was the perfect place to take a step back from the daily hustle and bustle.

Starting with Agile

There were many similarities between the companies attending: large organisations with a long history in the Netherlands, and beyond. All organisations are looking for ways to add more value more quickly. Most of the participants were closely involved in the implementation of Agile in their organisations. For one person that was ten years ago, for another it was just ten months ago. In any case, Agile was introduced to the company by a small team, often based on personal trust from higher management. This trust grew when proven that Agile was successful. Consequently, multiple Agile teams were set up, creating a momentum for Agile in the organisations.

Benefits of Agile

According to the participants, the benefits of Agile in larger, traditional organisations are evident:

  • Creating more value, by early validation of (project)results by customers
  • A shorter time-to-market of (project)results
  • Being in control of the budget
  • Bringing Business and IT closer, which are often worlds apart in larger organisations

Boundaries of Agile

How widely the Agile is adopted in the these organisations varies. Some organisations limit the use of Agile to project teams. Other organisations expand Agile into daily operations of marketing, design and/or r&d departments. Adopting Agile for the entire organisation, however, has not (yet) been done in either of the participant’s organisations.

Creating a common understanding

The participants have similar thoughts on the involvement of the rest of the organisation. Although not everyone in the organisation has to work Agile, everyone in the organisation should understand what Agile entails. Even though creating a common understanding of Agile in the organisation requires a lot of time and effort, it is a prerequisite for success. Otherwise, the rest of the organisation is not willing to provide input and resources to the Agile team, leaving the team isolated.

No dogma’s

This is when a combination of Agile and traditional ways of working comes into play. A combination of Agile and Waterfall could be a sensible alternative, according to participants.  They don’t believe in a dogmatic approach to Agile. There is nothing wrong with using elements of Agile to fit your organisation. Also, there are many situations in which Agile is not the best option: e.g. the replacement of rebuild of a legacy IT product. In that case, it is clear what the end product should be and an iterative process is not necessary. In fact, an iterative approach could even jeopardise a running process.

Joining us

The participants have indicated a strong desire to come together more often. If you are interested in joining us, please contact Samara Minnema.