A short story about Business Agility

How a CEO discovered that his company has a problem with real Business Agility!

Karl has been the CEO of company in the greater area of Stuttgart, a mid-sized enterprise, for more than 15 years. However, Karl has the feeling that something has been fundamentally wrong with his company for a while now. This despite the fact he has given his managers clear guidelines: Reduce costs by at least 15 %, make the individual departments consistently more efficient, establish agile software development with the aim of achieving faster time-to-market, hire a new DevOps employee and implement modern communication and collaboration tools for all employees.

The final objective was particularly important in view of the never-ending corona crisis. The management claims that all of these costly measures have been implemented successfully. However, the latest reports from Controlling and Portfolio Management brought bad tidings and confirmed Karl’s fears …

Karl asked himself “What is the difference between Agile and real Business Agility?” What could he do?

Karl decided to commission an independent consulting firm to analyse his company’s current situation and to critically examine the improvement measures implemented to date. In this case, he chose to hire the Werte-Macher.

Team & culture check

During the introductory meeting, we agreed to begin by analysing the current situation in the software development department, which the managers wanted to work agilely. The first deficits quickly became apparent: Cargo cult wherever we looked. By this, we mean imitating behaviour without understanding the underlying meaning. Only the words themselves were truly agile. The subsequent culture check we did with the other teams and departments revealed a similar picture: Silo mentality, no shared sense of “we” and staff unwilling to assume responsibility.

Valuestream & flow analysis

Drawing on the results of the team and culture check, we then examined the value stream more closely. This revealed a critical bottleneck in sales, product management unable to define the customer requirements understandably for the development department and lack of any real customer feedback. It also became clear that the previous improvement measures had achieved little.

Leadership check

“The fish stinks from the head”: Unfortunately, this brutally honest diagnosis truly applied to parts of the management when viewed from the perspective of a modern agile leadership style: Compartmentalisation, micromanagement, lacking understanding of how to deal with complexity, lack of role models as well as a superficial “we all get along” culture in which existing conflicts were played down or swept under the rug instead of being discussed and resolved openly and constructively.

Portfolio management

We concluded our analysis of the current situation by examining the portfolio management. The question was: “Are we doing the right things?” It became clear that the client had previously taken the unfortunate approach of “the more projects, the better” instead of striving to achieve transparency and to set priorities. The client was not used to examining products and their value streams as a starting point for improvement. Instead, the client remained bogged down by the classic project mentality.

To be continued…