Agility: A Method or a Mindset
By Eric Mansoux, Agile coach & Chiharu Minamijima, Manager, Process & Quality Control, AXA
Facing a contradiction between traditional long-term dimension and need to adapt market changes, the IT in financial companies need to change not only the technology but the way it thinks. This is not limited to applying agile methods to software development but should be creating Agility mindset covering the entire company. An innovative approach and strong support from management is essential to change the mindset.
Financial companies have a history legacy that is there to stay. It is especially true in Life Insurance companies due to the long life cycle.
On the other hand, new challenges have appeared requiring speed and time to market have emerged; customer 360 view, omni channel, big data, digitization…
Facing this dual word is not only a question of technology but also the question how people work.
Agility: Changing the way you Work
To manage this contradiction between legacy/needs for speed and time to market, many companies have started using agile methods, usually starting with SCRUM.
“In financial industry the culture is quite strong, and introducing Agile through traditional classroom training is not enough. Introducing Agility requires doing things a bit differently.”
This will bring some results, but a pure SCRUM approach may soon reach some limits: people that are affected to multiple projects or many external dependencies.Some agile practices will be needed too in the full life-cycle: use of Lean Canvas and gamification for product scoping or prioritization in the early phases, Kanban to manage dependencies or small improvement projects.
Let’s give some examples.
Agility: From Portfolio to Operations
Agility should start from portfolio level. It can be done quicker than you think. Why not implement visually the project portfolio on the wall, with project managers choosing a post-it with the status of the project?
This will help company to identify and address issues very quickly.
Agile can be used for all the small operations and enhancement activities: it can be to track all the tasks and impediments in a large migration project or to prioritize and follow a set of small security projects. Visual management and team collaboration are very powerful tools to accelerate these initiatives.
Agility: Thinking out of the Box
In financial industry the culture is quite strong, and introducing Agile through traditional classroom training is not enough. Introducing Agility requires doing things a bit differently. For example, you can involve people in the transformation in giving them virtual badges by contributing to a global improvement program, or organize customized Lego© games to introduce managers and staff to Agile practices. In both cases, the keyword is gamification.
Agility: It’s not about Methods, It’s about Mindset
What is common to these initiatives is that it is clearly as much as “people” topics, a mindset change than a process improvement topics. It’s about being innovative and entrepreneurial, taking some (small) risks to try new things. It’s about being concrete and speedy. It’s about transparency. It’s about being one team. And it’s about content and not format… does it ring a bell? Yes, it’s a bit similar to what is in the Agile Manifesto! But for that, you need to challenge the status quo and you go back to requiring strong management support and a clear vision! No agility can come without strong commitment and clear vision!