Combining Agile and UX in Organisational Design for Business Agility and Agile Transformation

Some things to understand before getting into the main article. Agile is based on some very human concepts around how to work and what to value. Some of these concepts are exactly the same as UX and are driven by the same desire for simplicity and functionality.

Agile in its most basic sense is about people, how they work with other people and how to maintain a continuous flow of transparent work. In Agile many people will focus on ‘continuous flow’ and ‘transparent work’ and forget the ‘how to work’ and ‘other people’ negating them to agile ceremonies, frameworks and practices. This of course creates an imbalance in organisations adopting agile, as their focus is not on how it affects people, their sense of worth, emotions and their carefully crafted mental models around work and colleagues as much as changing what work is.

Similarly in UX where once a holistic approach to defining the feature set of a product or service to align to the mental model of service consumers to business key performance indicators has become focused on user interfaces, the real value of UX has been diluted from solution creation to solution components. The combination of these two professional skills and others (as Agile Transformation is a team effort) in Organisational Design enables the delivery of Business Agility and Agile Transformation.

UX Transformation

Many people now working in professional areas of business may be unaware that UX has a transformational element and has certainly been a major catalyst and change agent in ‘how people work’ and ‘interact with others’. Much of that function moved into Customer Experience (CX) and was always focused on the mixture of the strategic customer journey and the tactical customer interactions, which has now morphed again into Service Design. While these new terminologies have created focus they have also begun to reduce the overall impact and effectiveness of UX in delivering a ‘holistic ecosystem model’ as we used to describe the key outputs of UX Transformation.

Like many other areas of business UX had adopted but refocused methods from other professional arenas including Personas, taken from Marketing and upgraded with higher levels of quantitative data and demographics, with ordered and scientifically repeatable qualitative data. Customer Journey Mapping, User Flows, Cognitive Mapping (voice and AI) and User Stories were invented in UX and have now been adopted by other areas. This is a far cry from what is now practiced where Jakob Nielsen’s big business sell out 10 user rule is used to cripple to true value of User Experience and it’s potential to deliver groundbreaking innovation and sometimes complete invention from research. Accepting that this was beginning to happen and likely to become the norm for most digital products and services, I decided in 2006 to take the substance of UX on a different pathway and bit by bit focus it on Organisational Design through Agile Transformation and the now current terminology of Business Agility. This is the subject of my current Book, Agile an Unexpected Journey due out in 2021 Paperback: ISBN 978-1-8382370-5-9 and E-book: ISBN 978-1-8382370-4-2.

Agile Transformation

While there is now a huge body of work in regard to Agile Transformation much of it has been focused on ‘continuous flow’ and ‘transparent work’ leaving the areas of ‘how to work’ and ‘other people’ in many cases without guidance so they often create anti-patterns that ultimately undermine the Agile Transformations. So I’m not going to cover CI / CD here although I recognise there is an extreme lack of actionable tools to achieve actual automation and outcome measurement at release train and scrum of scrum levels. I’m going to focus on portfolio to value transformation (specifically the holistic lifecycle) and specifically economic ordering and value slicing in relation to how it changes ‘how to work’ and ‘other people’.

Communication is Critical

It is clear that changing how people work aids the organisations involved with deeper knowledge, flexibility and measurements of everything, what is often less clear is, how one more transformation benefits the workers. They have after all seen a continuous flow of ideas, some quite mad (like JIT just in time, which was call JOT just out of time by the participants, you can’t just translate a method without the culture) being thrown at them. Often in a half baked formats and are used to seeing them fail miserably and in some cases creating a nice firework display as their proposers are escorted from the building.

So few Agile Transformations are transparent themselves and I don’t mean sharing confidential HR material which are critical parts along with regulatory compliance and Union engagement. The value pitch once made to the organisational leadership is not structured and communicated to other executives, management and workers with effective points of reference to them in their work. Rather everyone seems to get the same messages that require a thesaurus to gain a meaning, though often the wrong one as geography and culture change the meaning of words.

Planning is Critical but Lightweight

While many consultancies love the idea of charging clients for large teams to swarm (for obvious reasons) over their organisations to understand the problem its not necessary to fully understand a whole organisation the start an Agile Transformation. In fact it’s a huge waste of money, unlikely to deliver any useful outcomes to the client or in fact be relevant to the final transformation. The simple reason is that organisations, their work and their customers are not static, while they may appear to be, they are in fact changing constantly. So planning is required but in a lightweight fashion, the focus should be just enough to be able to ask questions, what are these questions, well some of them are;

Is there a vertical product, service or regulatory compliance that slices through the organisation from the portfolio level, through solutions into development and provides a customer outcome that can be measured against the portfolio outcome?

Instead of transforming the whole organisation the focus in then to deliver one end to end service, product or regulatory compliance, that touches as many parts of the organisation as possible, a banking candidate would be MiFID II.

MiFID II is a legislative framework instituted by the European Union (EU) to regulate financial markets in the bloc and improve protections for investors. Its aim is to standardize practices across the EU and restore confidence in the industry, especially after the 2008 financial crisis. Investopedia.com 2018.

The essential point is that MiFED II is aimed at delivering client confidence which can be measured, it meets a critical path for Financial Services, it impacts all processes and cultural values and creates a very diverse ecosystem of touchpoints and data that can be used to set up the first versions of metrics.

And then ….

There is of course a great deal more in this than these two steps but as an experienced Agile Transformation Director, I hope you will contact me to discuss your programme of work rather than just lift things online and expect them to work without my expertise.

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