The Future of Work is Agile

We probably do not have to tell you that Amsterdam is among the innovation capitals of the world. Innovation is no longer a matter of choice. To quote the ancient innovation guru Joseph Schumpeter: “anyone seeking profit must innovate.” At Amstel Lab, we agree. But how does one organize a business culture that fosters innovation? The magic word is short, sweet and sticky: agile. 

The agile methodology, puts the customer in the center of everything. As such, agile can not be called top-down nor bottom-up: it is outside in. How does that work? Well, the manager is expected to fully empower those carrying out the work. This means that he/she should enable them to contribute to their full talents by trusting in their judgement, talent and capacities. Solutions develop iteratively and through collaboration between self-organizing and cross-functional teams. The result and beauty of agile development is that it enables teams to respond to change quicker, to be more efficient and deliver more value to the customer. Everybody benefits. 

Roughly 20 years ago, a group of IT guys, where the agile ideology originated, put together the agile manifesto. This is how it goes: 

1) Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
2) Working software over comprehensive documentation
3) Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
4) Responding to change over following a plan

Makes sense, right? In reality, however, many companies encounter resistance in the process of going agile. That is not surprising, considering that this change in working style will require a change in mindset and therewith company culture. However hard we all know that is, it is worth considering.

Generally speaking, companies aiming to go agile will need to overcome five significant shifts:

1) Communications will need to be horizontal. This means that there is zero room for one way, top-down commands. 

2) Rather than efficiency and predictability, the predominant values throughout the business should be centered around continuous improvement and transparency.

3) Instead of having bureaucratic rules, regulations or any other formal system in place, work should be prioritized according to iterative work cycles and direct customer feedback. 

4) There is no room for micro management in agile methods. Managers should not check whether their employees do what they are supposed to. They should enable them to effectively function is those self-organizing teams. 

The goal of the company should not be making money. Instead, it should be about exceeding customer expectations.   

“The result and beauty of agile development is that it enables teams to respond to change quicker, to be more efficient and deliver more value to the customer.”

Looking at companies that have been agile for a good while, such as Apple, Zara or Google, two things can be concluded. First, they are extremely successful. Second, they managed to put the customer in the very heart of their business models, allowing them to design every process in such a way that the customer ultimately would be delighted. 

Without any doubt, adopting the agile philosophy is easier said than done. Company cultures are extremely hard to change and so are traditional management practises. Nevertheless, agile methods are worth switching to. They suit the 21st century, the Millennial and Gen Z mindset and the fast pace at which our digital world will continue to develop. 

About Amstel Lab
Amstel Lab partners with start-ups and scale-ups to commercialize your business. On the back of our experience, we have developed the unique Amstel Lab method: a tailor-made approach to maximize success. We test your markets, refine your product, innovate your commercial approach and execute your strategies. Any good idea is worth seeing through.