Corporate Agility: Q+A with North Highland Partner DayBlink

North Highland partner DayBlink Consulting, recently published a book titled “Corporate Agility: Insights on Agile Practices for Adaptive, Collaborative, Rapid, and Transparent Enterprises.” For the book, North Highland’s Colin Ferguson, Master Practitioner, was interviewed for his perspective and experiences in Agile. We connected with both Michael Wong, DayBlink CEO and book author, and Colin to learn more about corporate agility and the future of Agile. 

What is corporate agility? 

Michael: Corporate agility refers to teams and enterprises that embody four crucial characteristics: adaptive, collaborative, rapid, and transparent. It is often achieved through a combination of doing Agile – practicing Agile structures, processes, and frameworks – and being agile – internalizing Agile values, principles, and mindsets. 

Colin: Corporate agility is leveraging the agile mindset and ways of working to enable the organization to maximize value delivered. 

When should an organization consider Agile? 

Michael: The need for adaptive and rapid teams is a timeless function. Markets have, and will continue, to be disrupted – all teams and enterprises need to be able to adapt alongside. If your team prioritizes a people-first mentality to getting work done, we believe now is the time to commit to Agile. 

Colin: Organizations should consider transforming to Agile when their current ways of working are not delivering the required value to the organization in a timely manner. Agile and its manifesto provide a framework for focusing on only those things that will deliver value to an organization’s customers. 

What role does leadership have in creating corporate Agility? 

Michael: Leaders are an integral part of the pursuit of, and achieving, corporate agility – from instilling an aligned vision, to finding “people-first” change champions, and everything in between. Successful transformations require leaders that buy into and commit to true corporate agility as well as understand how corporate agility is applicable to their team. 

Colin: Leaders must provide a clear vision and meaningful purpose to their team to help them understand why the transformation is necessary and helping each of them understand their role in achieving that vision. The role of a leader in Agile changes from assigning tasks to the team to removing the impediments that impact the team, but the leader needs to be out front and engaged, driving the transformation. It is not enough to say they are supportive and provide funding, the leaders must be a role model for the new ways of working and leadership culture.   

How has the Covid-19 pandemic impacted Agile ways of working? 

Michael: Covid-19 has spurred an even greater need for agility, although it is not the last disruption our markets will face. The largest, and most apparent impact Covid-19 has had on Agile teams is the lack of co-location or continuous communication. However, true to their training and mindset, Agile teams have adapted, utilizing new mediums through technology to maintain normalcy – colocation via video conference, communication through instant messaging platforms. While it may still be too early to tell if these changes will be a mainstay in corporations following the pandemic, it has served as a viable option for companies in the interim. 

Colin: Covid-19 will likely be proven to be the single most effective change management event in our history.  The majority of Americans went home on Friday, March 13 as “in-office” workers and woke up the following Monday as remote workers. Teams were forced into quickly adapting to operate in this new world. For teams already operating in agile ways of working, they had to learn how to work together remotely but likely this was the only real change. For other teams, this resulted in having to completely rethink how to work together and shorten the inspect and adapt cycle. Some leaders had to figure out how to operate in an environment where ‘time in seat’ is no longer a viable metric for tracking progress. As one IT Director I spoke with put it, “I had just gotten approval for a six-month Agile transformation and when COVID-19 hit, we transformed in one weekend”. It will be important for leaders to assess how the transformation is working and make modifications as necessary. 

What was one of the biggest takeaways you learned when writing the book? 

Michael: In collaboration with North Highland, DayBlink delivers many Agile services across Fortune 500 companies and are familiar with the challenges and impediments to successful transformations. Still, as we interfaced with Agile leaders across the globe, we were surprised with the consistency at which certain themes were referenced. Although each Agile journey is unique in its own right, common themes regularly held true no matter who we talked to – eventually they manifested into six Agile lessons, or the AgilessonsTM. 

Colin: I agree with Michael, it was interesting to learn that our experiences as Agile practitioners at North Highland are very similar to others interviewed in the book.   

Why should people read Corporate Agility? 

Michael: Corporate Agility utilizes a data-driven approach, compiling case studies, first-hand interviews, professional experiences, and actionable advice to help leaders start on their unique path to agility. And while there are many tactical “how to implement” Agile books, Corporate Agility focuses on why, therefore, and how, strategically – an objective perspective on the challenges and lessons of achieving true corporate agility. 

Colin: Corporate Agility focuses on one key aspect that many Agile transformations do not put enough importance on – the reasons why the transformation is necessary and why it is important to focus on change management and agile mindset. Once that has been established, it paves the way for people to embrace the ways of working. Forgetting to embrace the impact of change on the people in the organization will severely limit your ability to transform.  

Interested in learning more? Click here to learn more about Corporate Agility and to order your own copy of the book.