Recently we have been doing a lot of speaking on agile transformation within complex, distributed organisations. We always include examples of how large companies are making it work – we want to show that it is possible to be big and agile at the same time. Even so, we still get the comments: “These practices seem to make more sense for start-ups.”
It’s an understandable reflex. Many new management techniques originate in smaller companies who possess the right conditions for experimentation, such as inspired founders and reduced organisational complexity. But we now have a sizeable – and growing – body of case studies that show how large organisations are resisting the fate of the big, dumb company.
And so we celebrate companies like Kimberley-Clark who are shifting to a culture of accountability through its use of Workday data and continuous feedback from managers. And General Electric, who is still going strong at #125yearsyoung, by adopting Lean Startup techniques for agile product management and exploring the edge of the possible in its network of research labs.
Still, it’s the first step that is often the hardest. Whether you are a leader, manager, or employee, we encourage you to think about how to begin transforming today. Most often, the team is the basic unit of agile ways of working. Experiments with new teams structures – even if they are temporary for a project or set time – yield the insights and business cases that feedforward movement. For example, inspired by a ‘water cooler’ conversation, the UK online grocer Ocado began co-locating data scientists, software engineers, and contact centre workers in order to create solutions to improve customer response time. The result of bringing together these formerly separate teams? A 4x improvement in dealing with urgent negative sentiment emails.
The following links offer inspiration in the form of case studies from large companies on the journey.