Investing in Agile pays off in times of crisis!


Eduardo Alvim

6/22/20203 min read

selective focus photo of plant spouts
selective focus photo of plant spouts

With social-distancing measures gradually being rolled back, I’ve looked back to where and how organizations stumbled in handling the crisis. “Time, money, and resources have been wasted where value-driven investments could have been made.”

Why it’s important to invest in the right place

“It’s important for organizations to know where and how to invest if they wish to remain competitive and successful. Having an Agile mindset can answer such questions swiftly and decisively. It allows you to carefully define where the best value for your organization really resides, so you can make proper investment decisions to deliver that value. It’s a snowball effect: you invest in Agile, and subsequent investments deliver more value in turn.”

Investing in Agile, the right investment

“In spite of how much sense investing in an Agile mindset makes, I’ve seen countless times how Agility is the first thing organizations stopped investing in when economic pressure loomed. They instead invest in research & development, information technology, or customer support, which isn’t necessarily a bad idea — don’t get me wrong — This is the core business, and as such they have to invest in it. But here’s the reality…

“Agile is a proven way to help you recognize where and how your organization generates the greatest value. Any investment may result in value, but without Agility you have little options to find out which, if any — will bring returns until you’ve already invested — heavily, often. It’s like rolling dice with your organization’s future.”

“With even a small investment in Agility, you can begin to reprioritize organization’s functions around value. You’ll make better investment decisions — and once you focus your workforce on that value delivery, you’re making your organization Agile from the inside out. Despite what many people believe, Agile thinking is essential to guide further investments.”

Two hypothetical organizations

“It’s easiest to paint a picture of just how essential Agile is using two theoretical organizations. One which continues investing in Agile during a crisis, and one which does not.”

“The organization that started its Agile transformation but stops when a crisis hits, and instantly reverts to their traditional waterfall model for working. I’ve seen some organizations which had lost over forty percent of its workforce and then has to quickly reorganize. They do not have the right priorities. They don’t know what their customers want and expect from them. They delay testing ideas, getting value, and gaining the benefits of their investments. The end result is a lot of wasted time and money, and lots of headaches.”

“Now looking at the organization that continued its Agile transformation. They’d be in a position to recognize and adapt to the new market conditions quickly. They’d know quickly and accurately where and how to deliver value. They could reorganize their teams to focus on the new value stream without being overwhelmed. All this would help them reap the benefits of those investments sooner, which could then be invested again to reap even more value!”

Where to go from here?

“If an organization ‘mistakenly’ stopped investing in Agile during the crisis, the best advice I can give is to start investing in Agile again,” says Eduardo.

“Once an organization invests in something, it can’t change course quickly; especially if it isn’t very Agile. Take whatever you can! Even a little bit can help — and put that value back into Agile ways of working. It’s better to keep taking small steps in the right direction, making progress no matter how slowly instead of completely stopping. Maybe your ‘snowball’ starts smaller, but in time it will grow all the same.”

“The other piece of advice I can give is to really focus on the foundations of Agile; on having an Agile mindset in everything you do. If you are just looking at Agile as a procedure or a way to organize teams, you’ll feel tempted to fall back on the ‘tried and true’ methods you had used previously as soon as a crisis hits. But it’s during a crisis you need Agile more than ever! With a truly Agile mindset you can adapt and learn from changing conditions quickly.”

Investing in the future

“How organizations reacted during this crisis so far, and where they choose to invest their resources now will define the market landscape for years to come. That makes it important to invest in Agile to ensure all your investments will snowball and deliver real value.”