Agile didn’t work, now what?

Reggie James
September 20, 2018

Every other TED Talk is about some new technology that’s set to disrupt the world and no industry is off limits.

The delivery driver will be displaced by driverless cars the same way that doctors will lose out to robots diagnosing patients and performing routine surgeries.

As computers become smarter through artificial intelligence highly skilled occupations in accounting and law will experience an erosion of their job functions.

The blockchain will decentralise and disrupt established businesses across healthcare, finance, insurance and legal.

Given the highly disruptive nature of these new technologies, companies are lost and wondering how to prepare and how to respond. It seems for so many organisations the first logical response is to hire a bunch of external coaches and consultants to transform their business and go “agile”.

Suffering from Agile Fatigue

I believe in the Agile methodology but this agile frenzy has created a bloated market of pop-up consultancies and each one is promising to make you agile.

Demand for agile is so strong consultants with literally no delivery experience are able to slap on the “Agile Coach” badge and charge rates sometimes exceeding $2000 a day.

You can always bet that these coaches are going to be “Coaching from the outside” rather than rolling up their sleeves and aligning themselves to the outcomes of the business.

Deep down you’re aware you need to be agile but you feel uncomfortable with your agile coach. Any sporting team that consistently loses sacks their coach. Most organisations rarely even measure the return on investment of a coach.

Consultants don’t build capability. Consultants build consultancies.

When you hire a consultant to build capability you expect your business to improve. You expect better people, more productive teams and ultimately to deliver better products and services resulting in a happier customer.

I’ve seen too many consultancies misaligned to business objectives. Building a consultancy requires consultants to find more work. They effectively need to embed themselves deeper into your organisation making you reliant upon their services.

Some of these businesses can be quite predatory; drafting complicated contracts that are difficult to unwind leaving you with unrealised goals on top of an unreasonable bill.

The hallmark of these consultancies are their certified trainings. Have you heard the complaints about the traditional education system in America or Australia where teachers are forced to teach so students pass a test? Well, we’ve copied that failed model and created certified training.

Certified training optimises scalability of the certification with maximum benefit to the consultancy with little to no tangible outcomes for your business except perception. And here’s a little secret; its wildly profitable!

In reality, these trainings don’t work. You go off to a two-day training, learn lots of new stuff only to arrive back at work to an environment that hasn’t changed. Within days you’ve forgotten 70% of the book.

Buyers beware.

The current model for consulting is broken. This has been well documented and others are starting to join the debate. In his article, Parasitic Consultants are draining Australia’s ability to digitally transform Sam Court concluded a need for more balance in building digital capability and delivery of the digital technologies that improve services.

For capability uplift here’s a list of alternatives to high priced consultancies

  1. Hire great people who want to learn. Despite all the hype around the coming tech revolution, no one knows what’s going to happen. Hire people who are eager to learn, curious and demonstrate an ability to re-invent themselves as necessary.
  2. Stop training and start learning. Learning needs to be on-going. Access to coaching needs to be just-in-time instead of 24/7.
  3. Develop learning programs that provide an immersive experience and are highly contextualised to your organisation.
  4. Incentivise and reward people for how well they integrate learnings into their day-to-day job and how well they share learnings internally.
  5. Invest in programs that bring coaching and mentoring capabilities in-house. Top-down directive leadership stifles growth and creativity. Coaching and mentoring ignite latent talent. Tip: you don’t need to be called a coach to coach someone.
  6. Create a space in your organisation that encourages working differently. If you can’t create a space take your work elsewhere. Co-working spaces offer cross-pollination of both ideas and methods of working differently.

And if you must hire consultants have a way to measure progress. Anyone claiming to uplift capability should develop metrics to ensure tangible outcomes. Align them to the business objectives. Make them responsible for delivery in the space where they are uplifting capability. And if you don’t see results, fire them.

Reggie James is a CEO / Sales Guy at Beaker & Flint where he helps organisations build digital products and guide them on their digital transformation journey.
Have some ideas or questions you want to run by Reggie? Reach out either via the comments below or start a conversation by email here.

Reach Out!

Ready to find the perfect fit for your project?

Do you need a world-class team to help you deliver your digital product? We’ve got just the people for you.

Let’s Talk!