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In a conversation with the editorial team at CIO Applications, Mike Cottmeyer, the CEO of LeadingAgile speaks at length about how his company is safely and pragmatically introducing Agile into organizations to help them progress toward achieving their critical business objectives.
Could you provide a brief overview of your company?
LeadingAgile was established in August 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia, and we are exclusively focused on the niche of agile transformation. We have built a robust change management model with a motive to help organizations achieve greater business Agility in a reliable, predictable, and systematic data-driven manner.
What differentiates us in the market is our belief that Agile Transformation has more to it than just a cultural shift or a new way of doing work; it is also about effectuating a fundamentally different operating model for organizations. As such, we lead with the business structure, follow with practices, and then deal with the organization’s culture. Our experts help businesses build a team-based structure by aligning people with strategy, install the governance metrics, and then enable it with Agile practices.
What are the major challenges and pain points that your clients generally face, and how does LeadingAgile solve them?
The biggest obstacles that our clients experience are the lack of predictability in their ability to deliver products, a lack of quality, long lead times, spiraling cost, building the wrong products, and the inability to innovate efficiently. Usually, when our customers approach us, they have a hypothesis that adopting Agile solutions is the answer to all their problems, which we agree with, but we also try to educate them on what is necessary to obtain the business outcomes that they want to achieve. We place emphasis on the fact that Agile cannot be incorporated through just training or changes in business practices, culture, or the leadership; it is about combining all of those aspects with a complete organizational redesign.
We have built a robust change management model with a motive to help organizations achieve greater business Agility in a reliable, predictable, and systematic data-driven manner
Could you describe the process LeadingAgile takes to seamlessly assist organizations in their business transformation process?
We follow a specific methodology in terms of how we break the organization into small pieces and move it toward the different stages of improvement. We do this by defining “Basecamps” and “Expeditions.” The Basecamps are clearly defined company milestones focused on becoming predictable, reducing batch sizes, breaking dependencies, team-based funding, and investing in learning. An Expedition, on the other hand, consists of a group of teams—delivery teams, program teams, and more—that deliver significant value to the organization. We also follow a methodology called outcomes-based planning that enables us to measure specific business outcomes through well-defined activities every couple of weeks.
From an engagement perspective, we generally begin with an alignment workshop with key leaders in an organization to understand their business principles and patterns, the factors that can lead to success and failure, cost of dependencies, and other aspects. Next is the Transformation hypothesis, where we decide the starting point and the area of focus. This is followed by the final stage, where we conduct deep-dive assessments by looking at the product strategy, organizational design, current governance models, metrics, and tooling. In certain instances, we also bring in a product and a technology specialist to understand the roadmap and analyze our clients’ technology architecture. We define and scope a pilot and then put together a detailed plan to move the initial set of Expeditions to its target Basecamp. We also help tailor a Playbook that defines the system of delivery for an organization, their Transformation strategy, and continuously monitors the overall improvement of the business process.
Could you cite a case study wherein you enabled a customer to overcome their challenges and attain desired outcomes?
We assisted an auto manufacturer in the U.S. who had been attempting Agile Transformation for about eight years. Before they approached our company, the organization brought various consultancies, mostly at the departmental level. They faced a major setback when the different leaders and consultants couldn’t find an effective way to bring about the agile transformation mainly due to conflict of opinions and divergent views. This ultimately pushed the company into different directions, and because of the lack of consensus, they were not operating as a single unit.
We started with building a consensus across the organization and spent six months with a single leader on the ground to develop a shared understanding of the principles of transformation across the entire leadership team. We then ran a pilot with one of their key groups and started building their Agile Transformation Office. Through this, we tried to get them to a unified point of view on how they formed teams, managed backlogs across teams, and dealt with integration issues and dependencies. We also enabled them to put explicit controls around their Agile teams to make sure that not only the value was coordinated across different teams, but also the sequencing of work, the dependencies, and cross-cutting concerns were also managed between the teams. This overall business Transformation allowed them to make commitments to their stakeholders and meet them efficiently. The company is now using (Application Lifecycle Management) ALM2 software that enables them to benchmark their performance against industry averages. Additionally, because we had the instrumentation around their metrics, they could demonstrate a significant improvement in their performance in comparison to their competitors during the COVID-19 shutdown.
What does the future hold for your organization?
Our business Transformation models are well planned, metrics-driven, and based on repeatable processes. Due to the current pandemic situation, LeadingAgile is looking forward to engaging with its clients globally via remote consulting. We have also noticed that often in large organizations, once they have improved their operating model, they discover that their business strategy is fragmented, and they need reliable product management capability. As such, we are putting our efforts into developing a more Agile method to empower our clients to build the right product. We are also investing in top-tier development and scalable technology coaching models to improve their delivery capability as they go through the Agile Transformation process.