When agility proves its point in the time of crisis and change.
Ana Burica
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From a global perspective there is no better time to experiment, prove all sorts of points or scale different concepts that you have so far only experimented with. Locally, here at A1 Croatia, we chose to bet on agile at scale. By that I mean we used this unique situation to prove our scaling efforts have actually become our new standard within this, so called, new normal.  

From experimenting to setting a new standard

Transformation towards agile at scale in A1 started well before COVID19 put it to test. Agile as means of transforming the organization into a more flexible, iterative, insights driven, collaborative, self-organizing environment has been present in A1 for years now and we’ve seen a long way from introducing it as an experiment to seeing it work in Business As Usual environment of our core business. There is, of course, nothing unusal or unexpected about this as shifting paradigms in a big company is never an easy task (or better call it a movement) due to long list of reasons. However, it is a very much necessary, never ending journey of trying, failing, learning, adapting and scaling you undergo in order to increase the organization’s drumbeat and consequently ensure your company remains relevant in delivering value to the market.

It takes a village to reach scale

We have been riding high on steep learning curve since we introduced Scrum framework to the very core of our business. This journey has been anything but one – dimensional or straightforward, involving majority of our company’s departments and requiring significant efforts towards certain shifts in mindset and culture in order to show results. We started scaling with a lot of question marks, insecurities, unknown outcomes and impediments on our way. Nevertheless, with a lot of support from our key stakeholders and extraordinary will to succeed the teams demonstrated, significant milestones have been achieved within that set framework, both from end customers’ as well as organizational perspective, laying foundations for this new normal.

How we successfully tested 4 values of Agile through COVID19

We gained momentum, found our way and then ended up in the lockdown. Somehow naturally, these same teams found themselves in the center of the so called COVID19 marketing plan, carrying out development of products, new and adapted processes and benefit packages to our customers, fully agile and remotely throughout March, April and May period. What our teams, together with the rest of the organization, have been through can easily be illustrated and valued through the perspective of 4 values of Agile, with no exception:

– Individuals and Interactions over Processes and Tools.
– Working Software over Comprehensive Documentation.- Customer Collaboration over Contract Negotiation.
– Responding to Change Over Following a Plan.

Teams we have been building to scale have shown maturity, flexibility, efficiency in this heavily reduced time to market situation as well focus on interaction that adds value to the customer in these extraordinary times as well as efficiency when it comes to extreme changes and shifts from the initially set plan.

This is how we know agile at scale works in A1.

Agile truly is a behaviour no book can provide a recipe for.

If I was to stress out my main learnings so far, it would be:

1. Agile transformation is not about adopting agile development methodologies.

It interferes so much deeper and broader in the organizational culture and behaviours. I embraced that fact once we started infiltrating agility into the very core of our business/ organization. At that point you start differentiating clearly between agile adoption and agile transformation. In A1, we started this journey years ago by adopting agile within our digital teams that primarily focus on software development. We were given space and resources to observe, steer, iterate, educate ourselves and the organization along the way and subsequently relied heavily on that learning curve once we decided to scale agile.
2. Read the book but do not follow blindly because you will fail.

There is absolutely no one size fits all approach to transforming the way your organization handles development, customers, overcomes obstacles and delivers the best possible product to the market. It is critical to allow the teams to explore and find what works. This is especially true when you work in a big, complex system, in a rather traditional industry. This is, also, what makes this journey a quite rewarding experience.