Don’t overlook this with agile

Last week the Shayne Elliot (ANZ Bank CEO) announced the largest agile deployment in Australian corporate history with the bank planning a significant restructure of existing hierarchies by transforming the work practices of much of ANZ Bank’s staff into agile teams.

If you’re unfamiliar with agile it’s a great approach for what I’ll refer to as “marshalling the troops together” in an organisational context to increase focus, collaboration, responsiveness to change and speed to market. Origins started in the IT industry with short targeted deployments (known as sprints) replacing the traditional large “big bang” style of implementation that often ran over time and budgeted expectations. Sprints are typically set anywhere from 7 to 30 days with the agile teams collaborating in daily stand-up scrum meetings that discuss:

  • What was completed the previous day
  • What’s planned for today
  • Obstacles and impediments

In the article Defining agile as an organisational capability Lena Ross said: “Agility, or agile, is not a methodology; it’s a mindset, along with set of behaviours and practices.” This is an important point because history is littered with initiatives that didn’t deliver expected outcomes due to poor implementation ie. Lean Six Sigma, Business Process Redesign, large scale IT business system upgrades, flexible working etc. There’s nothing wrong with those initiatives per say, (many are highly successful) but results are limited when they’re poorly executed.  

Those who thrive in agile environments are the people who are not only open minded and collaborative but great at planning, estimating workload, prioritising, minimising distractions and basically getting stuff done. Essentially, they demonstrate superior time management practices.

It’s the people who are weak in these areas that struggle. Think what it would be like to attend daily scrum meetings to publicly announce you hadn’t completed what you said you would? Sure, the scrum master is there to coach you, but it’s hard not to feel pressure from a frustrated peer group if you’re letting the team down.

Personal productivity is what is often overlooked in agile. The focus from agile will drive productivity improvements but be limited by people’s ability to get their work done. The good news is time management can be a learned skill and powerful when the principles are embedded into your daily rhythm. If you’re a master of your personal productivity then it doesn’t matter what the company does in an organisational context because you’ll be a versatile important member of the team regardless.