This morning I joined a breakfast / book presentation organized by Blinklane in Amsterdam. Niels Groen, one of the authors of the book ‘The Chasm, Making The Leap Towards True Business Agility’ introduced the two speakers who passionately presented their stories about being agile (srprs.me) and to transform into an agile business (Philips). Niels wrote this book together with Rixt Geertsma and Florentine Loeb.
The book is divided into four chapters. The first chapter elaborates on the chasm between trying to be an agile business and really being one. Chapter two gives two examples of agile organisations: srprs.me and Springest. Chapter three gives two examples of organisations who successfully transformed into an agile business: Royal Philips and Royal Dutch Tourist Board ANWB. The last chapter explains how to leap the chasm. The real change depends on a transformation that is far more radical than a new process. It requires the willingness to drop almost all practices and behaviours that have become the safe norm and top management consciousness and understanding of what it truly means to be an agile business.
Truly agile companies operate under a significantly different organizational paradigm based on trust, autonomy, willingness to make mistakes and the option for everyone to challenge the status quo.
We got a fantastic story from Tim Beglinger about srprs.me, an online travel company for surprise breaks and holidays. Three principles are key: purpose, trust and autonomy. One of there key learning points, and probably applicable for many start-ups, is the fact that you have to take risks in trying out new stuff is essential to be successful. We got many examples of all kinds of new implemented ideas. Great to see this working!
The second story in the book is about Springest (a comparison website for training programs and courses). The apply the same principles as srprs.me. Duet o the fact that this company is a little bit older these principles have evolved with clear structures for self-direction and practices to ensure participation and quality; holocracy. Meaning a flexible organizational structure with fluid teams that are formed and disbanded when needed, while quality and effectiveness is consistently high. Management functions are non-existent and social cohesion is being used as a control mechanism.
Edgar van Zoelen explained in a very passionate way the Philips’ transformation into an agile business. It started small with the Agile Work Group who experimented with a multidisciplinary approach for IT development (Scrum). Using the ‘oil-stain’ approach to get a gradual expansion and within two years 150 scrum teams had been set up. During the journey several setbacks and challenges were faced like the relationship with partners and the contracts, the necessary value-oriented mindset. To be an agile company requires having short time-to-market and a willingness to take associated risks. Fantastic to hear!
The last example in the book is about the agile transformation of the ANWB. Suffering from a ‘Calimero complex’ by some teams towards proactive, autonomous and proud people delivering more with less people. Still focussing some challenges like the traditional financial structure and their request for non value-added time tracking, aligning with other teams and effective coordination between teams within the same project.
Conclusion. Fantastic to begin your day with enthusiastic and passionate people. The book is a good starting point when you are at the beginning of your transformation journey.