Can Agile Projects Turn into Agile Companies?

Anna Majowska
3 min readJun 28, 2017

When thinking of organizations and the ways in which they change and evolve, the main thing to keep in mind is: organizations are made of people. Hence, if it’s people making the teams and teams making the companies, it should not be too difficult to make an entire organization Agile.
It’s “only” a matter of scaling it and pushing forward.

One of the key principles of Agile is placing more value on the teams than on the processes and tools. This could be taken to a broader level and applied to most things you do within an Agile team. What is making you agile, as opposed to slow in response and stagnant in process, is being able to respond quickly and decide on where the valuable information is coming from.
Responding to change and making a difference quick is of the highest value when going from traditional to Agile. It’s as if you were asked to point to the most time-consuming and wasteful practices the organization is now doing and got rid of them. So no planning years ahead, rigidly sticking to a plan that has already started to fail, valuing processes and plans more than people’s insight into a project and customer’s change requests. So, less bureaucracy and more actual result-making work.

How to effectively spread an Agile project onto the rest of the organization?

  • Share results and enthusiasm
    If the other teams care about the work — they will want to participate in this change anyway after seeing changes within your team.
  • Talk about it informally
    This should bring better results than making official recommendations and formal presentations of a new way of doing things. Much better to inspire, than to impose.
  • Calculate the gain
    ..and present the numbers to high level officers within the company. Whereas teams respond to informal clues, the management is more inclined to be receptive to the strength of a data sheet showing comprehensive and persuasive information on the potential benefits.
  • Forecast the changes
    Play with the results and try foreseeing the other department’s potential gains — following the “documented gains” data, it’s perfectly normal to run an estimate of what can be achieved with x changes in x time. All you’re doing is making an example of duplicating what the Agile project has achieved and anticipating a wider result.
  • A welcome change approach
    Present the changes as ones that will make lives easier for both the management and teams (because they will).
  • Sneak in a suggestion
    You can try complaining about what is not working and direct the attention to an Agile approach to the problem that might give a better result.

There are ways in which some Agile changes can be brought in without consulting the broad leadership — make them, whenever you see an opportunity. In the end — at this level — you’re mainly helping and influencing yourself.
Most large organizations are struggling to become Agile, as it takes a lot of work from each individual that makes the company and — at the same time — is very hard work for the organization’s cells and managers. You should keep in mind that it is the job of each of the employees to make the entire organization work a little better, but please don’t expect the change to be quick.

To sum up — organizations can be Agile, and reflect the ways in which projects are Agile, for as long as each part of the organization is also as Agile. It’s the kind of change that has to come from within, but as with most changes, it requires work and effort to remain permanent.

This article was first published on the Kanban Tool Blog.