It’s not surprising to know that Agile and management aren’t the best of friends. Why? The truth is that management and Agile are two different planets.
Management is layered and vertical. Power is centred at the top. Roles are assigned by big leaders to small leaders. Performance is evaluated and compensation is associated with rank. In contrast, the world of Agile is horizontal. The Agile approach is flat and its objective is to delight customers. Earning big money is the outcome, not the purpose of its activities. Its emphasis is on continual innovation.
While firms with a vertical makeup are challenged with declining revenues and cost cutting, organizations in the horizontal planet of Agile like Google and Apple are thriving and creating new possibilities.
What then is so unique about Agile?
The flattened world of Agile involves self-organizing, cross-functional teams that work in an iterative manner through seamless collaboration while generating value to customers. The different methods of Agile include Scrum, XP, Kanban, DevOps and Continuous Development.
Agile represents a new approach to development with focus on speed and flexibility for managing new product development. The conventional, sequential approach to product development may confront conflict with the objectives of maximum speed and flexibility. Instead, an integrated approach—where a team tries to cover the distance as a unit—may be an effective option in today’s competitive requirements.
Agile – an alternative to hierarchical set up
Agile, Scrum and Lean became popular due to the challenges related to hierarchical development that is still valid in organizations today resulting in costly delays, a dejected workforce, a dip in competitiveness and disruption of existing business models.
Given these problems, it’s easy to forget that hierarchical bureaucracy was a great advance when it was introduced over a hundred and fifty years ago. The basic idea of hierarchical bureaucracy is that work is organized with individuals reporting to bosses who tell them what to do and control their work. The roles, the rules, the plans, and the reports of hierarchical bureaucracy created order where previously there had been chaos.
While a hierarchical setup had its own advantages like performing repetitive activities by semiskilled employees in large quantities, it also had some limitations. It couldn’t change course very rapidly. The focus was less on the customer and more internal.
The flattened world of Agile
In the face of these issues, managers began to essentially rethink the way organizations are run. And so Agile came about. Work is performed by self-organizing teams with focus directly on meeting customers’ needs. Work moves in an iterative manner so that it can increasingly satisfy customers’ needs better.