At the implementation of Agile in organizations, it looks like idea of the Suzuki Learning Method is applied. This method demonstrates that from an early age, children can learn to play a difficult piece of music in a few months time. Through the cycle of hearing, doing, and repeating, a child is quickly able to play a flawless rendition of a Chopin on an instrument. Is learning an Agile approach that simple, too? Give teams an instrument and guide them through demonstration, repetition, and doing it on their own, and then the organization’s results automatically improve?

Speaking of music, there are two videos online from Spotify that show how Spotify creates what they call an engineering culture. The images portrayed in the videos are those of a growing and innovative company, where making mistakes in a disciplined manner, learning, and creating trust are the drivers of success. In applying Agile on a large scale, Spotify shows that it has found their own way of working. Instead of a process-oriented and hierarchical management structure, the company is organized into tribes, chapters, and guilds that share information in various forms of consultation. Alright, let’s be honest: seeing the story behind the organization that brings us so much musical enjoyment makes us all secretly want to work there – especially when you hear that Spotify isn’t satisfied with an employee satisfaction rate of 91%.

Therefore, it is no surprise that these videos are shown during many introductory Agile sessions in order to motivate people to join the Agile movement. In the meantime, ING (a Dutch bank) has posted its own Agile implementation story online in which it echoes Spotify’s scaling model.

It’s easily doable for the average team to make Agile instruments their own within a matter of months. Just as you can quickly get sound out of an instrument, teams can also quickly start with the usage of SCRUM and KanBan. With the right guidance, a team can come a long way in using new methods of collaboration. Maybe the results not only improve due to implementation of instruments and the methods, but because of the guidance and attention of Agile Coaches (i.e. the Hawthorne Effect)

Getting an organization to truly work Agile based on a shared vision is less straightforward. Assembling teams differently, managing mutual interdependencies differently, and organizing decision making differently – without everyone fully grasping the “why” behind doing so – can lead to ABBA (Agile By Brownpaper Acceptance); groups of people who hold an uninspired stand-up in front of a brownpaper planning board. It then becomes a chore that fails to capture the essence of working Agile. Putting up sticky notes because the boss said so?

By Ronald Teeuw
Magement Consultant & Agile Project Management Practitioner
Capgemini Consulting the Netherlands