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So what is Agile ?

The Wall Street Journal provides an informative  article on Agile and its power . Thanks Curtis Carlson for the link.


And thank you Stephen Denning from Forbes for the amazing insights on the power of Agile 


Below is a succinct summary of what Agile is by giving 2 real life examples – Starmark and Campbell’s soup 

As Gary Hamel says, “Strategy gets set at the top. Power trickles down. Big leaders appoint little leaders. Individuals compete for promotion. Compensation correlates with rank. Tasks are assigned. Managers assess performance. Rules tightly circumscribe discretion.”

One method of implementing the strategy is Agile – so what is Agile 

Agile is a set of tools ? based on core values and a leadership mindset of efficiency, empowerment and accountability – with doing things in small bursts and having the customer as a core member of the team .

It’s about using any resources available to the organisation – and a focussed effort of breaking down silos 

Below is a great summary of differences by Stephen Denning on the differences between an Agile and A beurocratic mindset . 

What they did at Starmark 

Accountability  happens by daily 20-minute check-in meetings. All employees describe in 60 to 90 seconds what they are working on, what they plan to deliver that day and what obstacles they face.. 

Jacqui Hartnett, Starmark’s president says about the accountability sessions . “You make and keep promises to yourself and others, and do what you said you were going to do.”

Clients get to review finished features or functions of their projects at two-week intervals, or sprints. “You fail faster, and that’s a huge relief,” 

Mr. Edenfield says. One team made a quick midcourse correction in a branding campaign recently by showing the client a prototype of a website, rather than the finished product. 

When the client objected to the color scheme, Starmark fixed the problem right away, saving the team a few days of makeup work.

That shift also reduces stress, says Brett Circe, Starmark’s chief digital officer. “There’s no late night or weekend work re-engineering the project at the end.”

One Starmark client, senior marketing executive Brandon Hensler, says meetings at the agency are brutally honest but often improve on his team’s ideas, aided by people from all Starmark’s departments working together. 

When Mr. Hensler asked Starmark to produce a two-minute branding video for the website of his employer, Nova Southeastern University, Starmark suggested three shorter videos instead that could be used for more purposes, including social media. “They took our concept and made it so much better,” he says.

Campbell soup case study 

Craig Slavtcheff, vice president and head of R&D Campbells soup 

The approach is helping trim the company’s average launch times for new products to nine to 12 months from 18 to 24 months.

He says the biggest hurdle for employees was ignoring old silos and reaching across departmental boundaries to access any resources they needed. Meeting discussions are terse and fast-paced,

“We have a rule: Go no faster than the slowest person,” Mr. Skeels of AgencyAgile says. “Before we move onto another point, we say, ‘Does everyone get that?’”

Meeting participants are often asked to call out blockers—colleagues or clients who are impeding their work. Talk about obstacles is supposed to be free of blame or punishment. “When a team meeting is done right, there are few things more inclusive and soothing,” Mr. Skeels says.

But critical or aggressive team members can wreak havoc by demeaning others. “If a manager runs the meeting like a dictator,” Mr. Skeels says, “it becomes the worst meeting of the day.”

About Agile in USA

Some 75% of North American employers are using agile practices at least sometimes, up from 71% last year, according to a survey of more than 3,130 project managers by the Project Management Institute.

Agile techniques can speed productivity by 20% to 50% and improve the quality of products and services, says Jack Skeels, chief executive of AgencyAgile in Los Angeles, who consulted with Starmark on its conversion. But the principles need to be tailored to fit particular teams, their mix of work and the company culture, he says.


Agile: A tool kit of practices for turning complex projects over to self-managed teams that work closely with customers to deliver work in stages and respond quickly to change.

Backlog: A prioritized list of everything that needs to be done to complete a project.

Sprint: A work period of a fixed length, usually one to four weeks, that ends in a demonstration of work accomplished.

Promise: The work a team has committed to deliver during the current sprint.

Scrum: A popular framework for putting agile methods into practice.

Scrum master: A person who helps teams manage themselves, making sure they have the information and resources they need.

Stand-up (or huddle, scrum or check-in): A meeting held at the same time every day when team members report briefly on work completed, tasks planned for that day and obstacles that are getting in the way.

Kanban or scrum board: A display showing one sticky note for each task in progress, aligned in separate columns based on their status—to-do, doing or done.

Stories: Narratives defining features, functions and other work to be delivered, explaining for whom the task is being done, what the customer wants and why.

Timebox: A maximum period of time allotted to produce something of value for the customer.

Waterfall method: A traditional method of organizing projects, moving an entire body of work in steps from planning to designing, testing and launching.

Posted on August 13, 2019

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