Why Agile Works to Provide Purpose

As the Delivery Practice Lead, I have the opportunity to meet with executive leaders and stakeholders across a wide range of industries. I get to see the impact that an Agile process can make in the life of an organization and a team. My initial hypothesis was that Agile was just another form of project management in the software development process - I’ve now learned this assumption was only half of the true answer.

A CEO of a large financial institution recently said that implementing Agile has allowed his front-line team members to better understand the “why” of the project.

“Now I understand why we’re adopting Agile. The clarity of focus and purpose in that team is what it’s all about. They’re creating value, not just delivering features. And they care about what they’re trying to achieve. Agile is helping to provide purpose for the team."

For the past few years, MIT Sloan Management has investigated digital maturity using a survey of 4,800 product owners and executives at middle market and Fortune 500 companies developing software and apps. They found that the companies who adopted Agile were more successful and more digitally mature than those that did not.

One example is Greg Baxter, MetLife’s Chief Digital Officer. Greg says that “innovation is synonymous with growth.” MetLife has offices in more than 40 countries and revenues of more than $60 billion. They created a digital experience through Enroll Hero to create the concierge for Medicare. MetLife was able to use the service to better understand their most valuable customer segments - meaning, connecting better with those who would be receiving retirement benefits via MetLife. So how does this Agile idea work in the real world?

Michael Arena, former CTO (chief talent officer) at GM and author of Adaptive Space: How GM and Other Companies Are Positively Disrupting Themselves and Transforming Into Agile Organizations, said that, “For organizations to be adaptive,” he says, “the very first thing we need to do, especially as we’re talking about org design and practices, is to ditch the one-size-fits-all mindset.” The Agile process allows team members to focus on sprints, often 2 week-long, to bring business value to the organization. It is iterative and focuses directly on the needs of the end user or customer.

In my professional career, I’ve been a part of some very large software teams at companies like Coca-Cola and Bayer. I’ve learned how important Agile is to the process of helping people work better together. It becomes about enabling a team to focus on a common goal - and to solve a big problem for the business.