The Age of Agile: How Smart Companies Are Transforming the Way Work Gets Done

The Age of Agile: How Smart Companies Are Transforming the Way Work Gets Done

by Stephen Denning


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An unstoppable business revolution is under way—and it is Agile. Sparking dramatic improvements in quality, innovation, and speed-to-market, the Agile movement has helped companies both large and small learn to connect everyone and everything . . . all the time.With rapidly evolving consumer needs and technology that is that is being updated quicker than ever before, businesses are recognizing how vitally essential it is adapt. And adapt quickly. The Agile movement enables a team, unit, or enterprise to nimbly acclimate and upgrade products and services to meet these constantly changing needs.Filled with examples from every sector, The Age of Agile helps readers:• Master the three laws of Agile Management (team, customer, network)• Embrace the new mindset• Overcome constraints• Employ meaningful metrics• Make the entire organization Agile• And more!Companies don’t need to be born Agile. With the groundbreaking formulas laid out in this book, even global giants can learn to act entrepreneurially. Your company’s future may depend on it!

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780814439098
Publisher: AMACOM
Publication date: 02/08/2018
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 798,397
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.80(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

STEPHEN DENNING is a renowned management innovator and popular columnist. A former World Bank executive, he serves on the advisory board for the Drucker Forum and is the author of several books including The Leader's Guide to Radical Management.

Read an Excerpt


An unstoppable revolution is now under way in our society, affecting almost everyone. The revolution isn't being launched by opposition political parties, or by terrorists in secret cells, or through espionage by some obscure government department. The revolution is being conducted in plain sight by some of our largest and most respected corporations. It's visible to anyone with eyes to see. It's a revolution in how organizations are being run.

The revolution is very simple. Today, organizations are connecting everyone and everything, everywhere, all the time. They are becoming capable of delivering instant, intimate, frictionless value on a large scale. They are creating a world in which people, insights, and money interact quickly, easily, and cheaply. For some, the revolution is uplifting and beautiful. For others, it is dark and threatening.

Dazzling examples of the new way of running organizations are everywhere apparent. Firms like Apple and Samsung offer devices that can be tailored to meet the individual wants and whims of hundreds of millions of users. Firms like Tesla, Saab, and Ericsson are upgrading cars, planes, and networks, not by physically installing new items, but by delivering new software to the products via the Web. Meanwhile, Spotify matches billions of musical playlists to individual users' tastes and delivers a weekly playlist tailored to each user's preferences, while Warby Parker sells high-quality eyeglasses for a small fraction of what traditional retailers charge by using a low-friction online model. Online services like Skype, Zoom, and WhatsApp are taking tens of billions of dollars away from old-guard telecom firms by giving customers free or low-cost calls. Amazon has demonstrated what can be accomplished when customer value is pursued ahead of short-term profits: It's not just the world's biggest retailer—it's bigger than all the other retailers put together. Google has become big and rich very quickly, by providing search capabilities that are offered free. The population of Facebook is bigger than that of China. Airbnb, Uber, and Lyft are showing how to unlock the value in existing assets that were previously lying idle. And so on.

At the same time, what is lifting some companies is killing others. The examples here are also abundant. "Market-leading companies," as analyst Alan Murray has written in the Wall Street Journal, "have missed game-changing transformations in industry after industry— computers (mainframes to PCs), telephony (landline to mobile), photography (film to digital), stock markets (floor to online)—not because of 'bad' management, but because they followed the dictates of 'good' management." In effect, the "good management" that these firms were practicing had become anachronistic. It simply didn't work anymore.

Spoiler alert. The difference between winners and losers isn't a matter of access to technology or big data. Both the successful and the unsuccessful firms generally have access to the same technology and data, which are now largely commodities. Traditionally managed organizations also use digital technology and big data but typically get meager results. In some cases, like Kodak, it's the firm that invented the new technology that has failed to exploit it. It's not access to technology and data that makes the difference. The difference lies in a different way of running the organization that deploys technology and data more nimbly.

Trying to exploit technology and data with the management practices that are still pervasive in many big corporations today is like driving a horse and buggy on the freeway. To prosper in the very different world that is emerging, firms need a radically different kind of management.

Some firms are embracing the new management paradigm with alacrity. They are happy to shed the traditional management practices of manipulating both staff and customers and instead follow their natural preference to treat people as people and engage in authentic adult-to-adult conversations. Some of them are generating inspired workplaces that create meaning in people's lives.

Other firms are getting on board more gradually. They reflect on the obvious anomalies of traditional management and feel frustrated that their efforts to fix things don't work. They find themselves having to run faster and faster just to stay in place. Yet they can also see the extraordinary gains of firms operating in the new way and begin to wonder: "Why can't we have what they are having?" There often follows a lengthy period of reflection and experimentation before managers finally "get it" and internalize the new mindset.

Some firms are actively resisting the change. For established organizations that have been successfully managed in a traditional fashion for many years with settled processes, routines, attitudes, and values, the new management paradigm can be difficult, even baffling. It is often at odds with the unspoken assumptions about "the way we do things around here."

Still other firms have sought to avoid the dilemma through financial engineering. They are pursuing ways of extracting value from the corporation through short-term cost-cutting, offshoring, share buybacks, tax gadgets, and other devices. While these expedients can create an appearance of prosperity for investors in the stock market, they are systematically destroying real shareholder value and genuine economic well-being.

When managers do embrace the new way of running the organization and the "Aha!" of how the new management paradigm is happening on a large scale, it can be an amazing and humanizing experience. Why would anyone consider doing things differently?

Excerpted from THE AGE OF AGILE: How Smart Companies Are Transforming the Way Work Gets Done by Stephen Denning. Copyright © 2018 Stephen Denning. Published by AMACOM Books, a division of American Management Association, New York, NY. Used with permission.

All rights reserved.

Table of Contents

Foreword by Gary Hamel xi

Introduction xiii


Chapter 1: More Value from Less Work 3

BOX 1-1: Manifesto for Agile Software Development 22

BOX 1-2: Glossary: Definitions of Agile, Scrum, DevOps, Kanban, Lean 23

Chapter 2: The Law of the Small Team 27

Chapter 3: The Law of the Customer 49

BOX 3-1: Paradigm Shifts in Science 67

BOX 3-2: Ultimate Customers, Internal Customers, and End-Users 69

BOX 3-3: Practices of the Law of the Customer 70

BOX 3-4: Aligning People Management with Agile Management at Cerner 73

Chapter 4: The Law of the Network 81

BOX 4-1: Agility Through Market-Based Approaches 94

BOX 4-2: Achieving Large-Scale Operations Through Platforms 96

BOX 4-3: "Big Bang" Change: Six Mistakes Salesforce Didn't Make 97

Chapter 5: Implementing Agile at Scale: Microsoft 103

Get the Right Balance of Alignment and Autonomy 106

Master the Role of the Agile Manager 108

Handle Dependencies at the Team Level 108

Ensure Continuous Integration 109

Keep on Top of Technical Debt 110

Embrace DevOps and Continuous Delivery 110

Continuously Monitor Progress 111

Listen to Customer Wants, but Meet Their Needs 112

Deal with Directions from Above 113

Use Self-Forming Teams to Encourage Team Ownership 113

Recognize the Team Is the Product 114

Build Quality from the Beginning 114

Use Coaching Carefully 115

Ensure Top-Level Support 115

Box 5-1: Flattening the Hierarchy Isn't the Answer 116

Chapter 6: From Operational to Strategic Agility 119

The Principles of Strategic Agility 122

Four Components of a Market-Creating Value Proposition 127

BOX 6-1: The Collapse of Sector Boundaries 134

BOX 6-2: The Path from Operational Agility to Strategic Agility 135

Chapter 7: Changing the Organizational Culture 139

BOX 7-1: SRI's "NABC Value Proposition" for Siri 155


Chapter 8: The Trap of Shareholder Value 163

BOX 8-1: The Unsound Legal Case for Shareholder Value 182

BOX 8-2: What Is True Shareholder Value? 183

BOX 8-3: Adam Smith and the Philosophical Origins of Shareholder Value Thinking 185

BOX 8-4: The Unanticipated Risks of Shareholder Value 187

Chapter 9: The Trap of Share Buybacks 193

The Challenge for Public Policymakers 199

The Challenge for Agile Leaders in Dealing with the Stock Market 199

The Challenge for Agile Managers Within the Corporation 201

BOX 9-1: Defending Share Buybacks 203

Chapter 10: The Cost-Oriented Economics Trap 205

The Case of Dell Inc. 206

The Urge to Offshore 209

A Permanent Loss of Expertise 211

Explaining Agile Management to a CFO 213

Throughput Accounting 213

BOX 10-1: Technical Debt, Regulatory Debt, and Brand Debt 216

BOX 10-2: U.S. vs. German Manufacturing 218

Chapter 11: The Trap of Backward-Looking Strategy 221

BOX 11-1: The Strategy of "Doing More of the Same" 233

BOX 11-2: Options Reasoning and the Portfolio Approach 234


Chapter 12: Nuclear Winters and Golden Ages 239

BOX 12-1: The History of Golden Ages and Nuclear Winters 251

BOX 12-2: How the Change Might Happen: An Agenda for Action 255

Acknowledgments 265

About Steve Denning 269

Notes 273

Index 305

Customer Reviews