What is Agile Consulting?
Whether it’s chemicals, industrial machinery, headphones or the latest app, product development teams are competing against time. Each stage of creating new products, from strategic plans, to concepts on a road map, to project selection, to execution, all take time, and your team is on the clock. Shaving even a small amount out of one of these phases creates competitive advantage. Any toolset that cuts time, while increasing learning and innovation, provides an edge.
Agile consulting experience shows that the benefits software firms have realized from Agile are a result of applying a remarkably small number of practices.
Agile Consulting involves a transformation where organizations gain that edge by mastering:
Rapid iterations, which accelerate innovation
The capacity to perceive and seize opportunities
Agile isn’t just for software anymore. Most of the tenets of the Agile Manifesto are not software-specific. Unfortunately, myths about Agile hinder adoption. We’ve heard all the usual objections: “Applying Agile is all or nothing,” “You must be able to ship every two weeks,” “Agile and Waterfall/Milestone are mutually exclusive.” Our research and experience in Agile consulting show that these objections are easily countered with a flexible approach that selects only the portions of Agile that work for your company.
TCGen’s Agile consulting experience shows that the benefits software firms have realized from Agile are a result of applying a remarkably small number of practices. Many teams are surprised to find that the benefits of Agile rely largely – and unexpectedly – on restraining functional authority over teams. If you prioritize product teams over the Functions you’re well on your way to agility. Any company or function, from medical devices to consumer electronics, and from finance to HR, can become Agile and reap the rewards.
Who is Agile Consulting for?
Across Industries from Telecom to Med Tech
TCGen works with product companies across industries. We have helped Telecommunications and Medical Technology companies make Agile business transformations. We have discovered that a selective and modified set of Ceremonies, Rituals and Roles can create Agile organizations without conflict, and with many of the benefits realized by Software.
Companies Faced with Disruption
Companies that are facing disruptive innovators – or that want to become disruptive – will benefit from the rapid iteration and faster innovation that follows Agile consulting engagements.
Larger Companies Managing Hundreds of Projects
Too many successful companies create a hostile environment for new product concepts. Companies move to eradicate them like antibodies attacking a virus. Agile companies use Sprints to quickly discover the core innovation that makes good products into market winners by showing the product concepts to customers and iterating them based on feedback. Having an Agile environment allows larger companies to nurture the best ideas – to rapidly prototype and iterate, gaining competitive advantage over less nimble competitors.
How do we structure Agile Consulting engagements?
How Agile Helps Teams Innovate and Execute
Typically, TCGen’s Agile Consulting engagements have four steps: assessment, developing custom solutions, training; and then using metrics to manage change by monitoring behavior. In Agile work, we focus on enabling teams to have control and to get closer to customers.
Our proven project history process surfaces issues at the team level and builds a case for Agile adoption. The project histories method takes project data and recreates a timeline of the project, enabling the team to identify the root causes of the team’s successes and roadblocks. Project histories become a knowledgebase that helps in identifying the most applicable tools in the Agile toolkit.
Selecting the Appropriate Subset of Agile
In practice, most firms select the elements of Agile that will have the most impact in their organization and culture. Usually, this is a small subset of Agile practices. Most product companies that we work with have a selection of best practices from the Agile toolbox that co-exists with a phases-and-gates/milestone process. TCGen has developed a model for nesting Agile-style Sprints within a milestone process. We find that the most effective subset of Agile practices for product companies include:
Breaking the work into two to four week Sprints
Writing Stories (or Acceptance Criteria)
Estimating the duration of Stories (using Planning Poker)
Conducting Daily Standups during the Sprint
Performing a Retrospective at the end of a Sprint
Suite of Best Practices
Our Agile consulting engagements enable clients to take advantage of proven best practices such as the Boundary Conditions process that enables teams to do their best work without undue interference from upper management; the Attitude Influence Diagram that helps teams neutralize static in the organization and clear roadblocks; and our Half-Life Diagram that tracks the speed of Agile improvements.
Inch Wide-Mile Deep Implementation
Our Agile consulting engagements are managed to seed improvements within an organization. We begin with small, but potent, changes, focusing on the most important levers of improvement. We use metrics to monitor the change in behavior and do not add further improvements until the earlier shifts take hold in the culture.
In what kind of timeframe do organizations see change after an Agile Consulting engagement?
TCGen’s assessments take about one to two months, including the time to perform the project histories, make recommendations of the best Agile practices for the client, and then to build the required training. The training is often followed by Sprint coaching for the first three Sprints to ensure that what is taught is practiced also. In an Agile engagement, teams will tend to see improvement, in the mid-term, over the two to three quarters following our engagement.
Agile transformation will see teams rapidly empowered. Allegiance to the team rather than the function will increase, enabling better handling of time and resources. Soon, teams will start to rapidly iterate and learn more quickly. Over the longer term, innovation will become more frequent and more predictable.
What kind of internal resource commitment should a company plan for when considering an Agile Consulting engagement?
A Point of Contact
Companies should plan to provide a contact who will serve as an internal point person for the Agile consulting engagement. This point person, usually an individual contributor or team manager, serves as the resident expert and as our guide through the organization. He or she helps to organize meetings and functions as a project manager. Helping TCGen to improve the organization’s agility should be this individual’s top priority.
Typically, in an Agile consulting engagement we also work with an internal consultant or someone at the Director or Vice-President level who serves as our internal champion. This individual will act as the driver of the engagement for the client organization, providing access to data, and attracting the attention of upper management as needed.
Teams may be asked to provide access to project data such as schedules, budgets, project plans, roadmaps or other artifacts for use in project histories.
What do people say about their experience after an Agile Consulting Engagement?
Our Agile consulting clients report greater team empowerment and cohesion. With the tools we provide, teams can begin to iterate more rapidly and capture learning from one project to another. Teams fully empowered and close to customers are the key to consistent innovation.
The best testimonial we receive is repeat business. Companies that have taken advantage of our Agile consulting expertise often ask TCGen to solve wider challenges or to duplicate our prior success in another division. Agile involves system or corporate-level transformation. Companies that take advantage of our Agile expertise may want to apply our best practices to more granular challenges, at the program or project level.