Experimentation is fundamental to discovery, a widely acknowledged truth. But it’s also essential to the process of refinement.
"[Agile] means being curious, learning through discovery and testing ideas with customers before building."
Scott Collary, CIO, ANZ
Back in my school days, I recall science class and how we would be asked to come up with a hypothesis and test it. It really didn’t matter whether your hypothesis was right or wrong - the main thing was to expand what we knew, to create a new hypothesis and test it. In doing so, we built and built.
It’s a very good way to do science. And as it turns out, it’s an effective way to deliver projects as well.
Sometimes we do come up with an idea that’s not going to work or a hypothesis that ends up proven false. But that’s integral to the process, whether it’s science - or an agile way or working.
AGILE, NOT AD HOC
‘Agile’ is a way of working that has become synonymous with innovation. It relies on everyone involved having a shared vision and is underpinned by a strong culture where collaboration, trust and curiosity feature prominently.
At my bank, ANZ is moving rapidly to adopt more agile ways of working. This is partly motivated by the need to compete more effectively against traditional rivals and partly to be ready to respond to changes in the marketplace.
Embracing agile means thinking differently about how you work: the way you do things and the way you make decisions. It means being curious, learning through discovery and testing ideas with customers before building.
So how do businesses create a culture where curiosity and learning through discovery feature prominently?
I’m a fan of the quote ‘change will never happen as slowly as it does today’.
Across all industries customer expectations have changed. What customers can see being offered through experiences like Uber or Netflix creates expectations on other businesses. Customers expect the brands they choose to get products to market faster and better than anyone else.
A culture of curiosity and a desire to understand is invaluable in business because it will be a culture that supports and embraces change.
Sun Tzu – more famous for his military insights than his green thumb – once said strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory and tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.
It’s the same with ‘agile’ - it’s not just an aim unto itself, it’s a way of working helping business deliver great outcomes.
GETTING TO THE TRUTH FASTER
To encourage people to embrace an agile way of working businesses need to recognise staff who are effective collaborators; who display curiosity and creativity. What leaders want to see is a desire to explore and learn.
When a business works with an agile mindset it is able to attract employees who want to develop project delivery skills and who are attracted to truth in business (because agile gets to the truth faster). This can only be a good thing for shareholders.