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THE ELEMENTS OF SUCCESSFUL RESPONSE OF AGILE COMPANIES WITH THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC

Under immense pressure to set up an operating infrastructure to allow employees to work from home, many organizations gave up traditional processes and bureaucracy and solved instead for faster outcomes. Most of the Multinationals were luckier than the the local companies because of their EXPAT Employees. Expats have more adaptable skills than Local Employees. Most of them have had remote working experiences already therefore have higher level of Emotional Intelligence.



Agile organizations are designed to be fast, resilient, and adaptable. In theory, organizations using agile practices should be perfectly suited to respond to shocks such as the COVID-19 pandemic. Understanding the experiences of agile or partially agile companies during the crisis provides insights around which elements of their operating models proved most useful in practice using Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and Deep Learning Technologies. They are the winners of Pandemic with AI products such as Elon Musk's #TeslaBot.


Executives emphasized that the agile teams have continued their work almost seamlessly after the shock, without substantial setbacks in productivity. In contrast, many nonagile teams struggled to transition, reprioritize their work, and be productive in the new remote setup. The alignment between agile teams’ backlogs and their business priorities allowed them to shift focus quickly.


Reprioritization comes naturally to agile companies. They do it by embedding customer-centricity in their processes, delayering and empowering the organization, and bringing business and IT together. In reaction, managers asked retail staff to support call-center functions, established microsites in an offshore location to reopen call centers, and switched on chatbot access for all of their customers. Within a month, the queue had fallen back down to just a few minutes. The leader of the telco’s agile center of excellence particularly highlighted that such a reaction could have taken six months in the old way of working. Now, resources could be reallocated quickly, allowing teams to shift focus and deliver digital prototypes within days.


HERE ARE THEIR SECRETS :

Team-level elements

Team-level elements enabled teams to focus and to swarm or rally those with the necessary skills around a task to keep work moving on schedule. Even nonagile organizations and units called upon such practices in reaction to the crisis. They included a set of structured events, or ceremonies, at the team level that allowed teams to keep their pace and rhythm, even if the priorities were changing quickly and team members were no longer co-located. In fact, the events and ceremonies gave the teams platforms for effective, faster decision making as things changed. Some companies increased the frequency of ceremonies—doubling the cadence of status-check sessions, for example, or halving the length of their sprints to cope better with changing priorities. That ensured better communication within the team and provided for regular social interactions. Remote-collaboration tools then helped the teams continue working together and track their progress transparently, even while working remotely.

The ability to restructure an evolving list of product requirements, or backlog, allowed teams to focus on changing customer needs, even as what mattered most to their customers rapidly changed. Most agile teams practiced such foundational agile elements before the pandemic, so they could continue their work almost seamlessly under lockdown.


Expat Teams were the most succesful Employees

Expats are natural travelers and has more adaptable and high emotional intelligence skills. Most of them have had remote working experiences already. They had their tasks transparently described in digital-issue tracking tools and were experienced in using digital remote-collaboration tools. In fact, many nonagile teams started to adopt some of the practices of the agile teams during the pandemic so that they could work remotely effectively.

While co-location has often been seen as a prerequisite for the agile way of working, the pandemic has shown that agile teams can be highly effective in a remote setting. The critical success factors have been a stringent adherence to the agile cadence, efficient use of remote-collaboration tools, and the creation of a virtual co-location. Many organizations reported that being remote helped them to be virtually co-located and become more effective. For instance, a product owner at a global consumer-goods organization described his team as distributed across two geographical locations before the pandemic. When everybody was forced to work remotely, the team’s cohesion increased because every team member was equally co-located.


Enterprise-Level Elements

Enterprise-level elements helped companies rapidly align their entire organizations around shifting priorities during the crisis. Executives and agile leaders particularly emphasized the importance of empowering cross-functional teams at the lowest level to step up and make decisions essential to coping with the shock.

Executives often highlighted that the combination of different team- and enterprise-level elements made the real difference. For instance, to be fully productive, agile teams must be cross-functional, truly empowered, and adhere to agile ceremonies. Similarly, efficient goals and resource reprioritization required outcome-based performance tracking and full transparency.


With the speed of change expected to continue, the need has never been greater for an operating model that can keep up.


Companies need to reflect systematically on what they have learned, assess what practices worked and what didn’t work during the pandemic, and decide which of those they want to embed sustainably. For instance, they could ask what differentiated the teams that coped well with the shock from the teams that struggled the most and what practices they can sustainably manage in their operating models. At the same time, they should also look toward more agile organizations to get inspiration from their broader recipes. It’s key to not only look at what actually worked but also identify the gaps and engage actively in a discussion on how to close those gaps.


Leadership teams, after reflection, should make conscious decisions on where to start, how to start, and which elements of their operating model need structural shifts. There is a wide spectrum of elements to pick and choose. Some may start with an effort to simplify decision making across the board. Others may opt for a fundamental reorganization while focusing on one area or unit to learn from. There is no one right answer. The road to a new operating model starts by experimenting with new behaviors and practices and learning from them before scaling them across the organization. Successful companies have thoroughly measured the impact of initial efforts to identify what works and what doesn’t. The toughest part is then the decision to move to the next step of scaling the practice across the organization. A flattening learning curve is therefore often a good marker that you should move to the next step.


The next steps are to transition and scale the selected practice across the company and to go deeper into each of the levers of the operating-model transformation, including structural capability building, people-modeling changes, and enterprise-process changes. A critical success factor for scaling an agile operating model is that the whole organization, agile or nonagile, is optimizing for the same objectives and spinning in the same direction.



September 2021


Dr. Keskin | LinkedIn

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Digital Transformation Strategic Advisor

Big Data | Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning Consultant | 00 31 6 83952246

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