Traditional organisations have traditional structures and teams.
Traversing those teams can be difficult at the best of times. The resulting hierarchal split between the business and product teams is inefficient and old fashioned.
And a mentality of "us and them" can really fester.
How business communication works
Communication trickles down from the top in a formal manner. The human aspect of doing business is lost behind copy and paste requirements, formal meetings and “kind regards”.
We are operating in a time of mass information.
To navigate our way through this information archipelago, we need to interact effectively. To do this we have to first acknowledge each other as people.
We have to increase social engagement at all levels of the business.
And then start to dismantle those traditional barriers.
Only then can we accelerate digital change.
The Agile Manifesto
Agile was born in the tech space.
But for the full benefits to be realised, the principles surrounding the Agile Manifesto need to be adopted by all layers of the business.
The very first value in the Agile Manifesto is “Individuals and interactions over processes and tools”.
We’ve replaced human interaction with email - and Jira.
I’m not saying those tools don’t have their place, but they shouldn’t be replacements for the social element of a business.
As for the fourth point in the Agile Manifesto ...
“Responding to change, over following a plan”.
Sounds good, right?
Yet what we actually have in most organisations, when they "respond", is top-down communication.
No feedback going back up to the top.
Rigid requirements are sent down by the business and the product teams feel a need to appease this oracle force.
Rules and management are the imposition of distrust.
Ownership is true empowerment
But how can you achieve this in a corporate environment?
We need to do more to involve each side of the fence in the journey of continuous improvement and communication. In fact, we need to tear down the fence, throw the wood on a bonfire and dance around it together.
A collaborative effort between the business and product teams is the approach that’s good for the customer. This is the foundational truth of Agile.
So is "Agile" all doom and gloom?
We need a cultural shift which begins with small and truly agile teams working from the bottom up.
As a developer and long-term member of the product side, it would be easy for me to point the finger at the business teams.
However, communication is a two-way street.
Both parties have to be passionate and motivated to change.
Otherwise we will be left grasping at straws.
Drop jargon and acronyms
Anything that required an explanation is an inefficient way of communicating.
We need to be speaking one language.
Not some weird subset.
If either side needs to swallow a glossary in order to participate we are doing something wrong.
An assumed hierarchy got us in the mess and it’s that same hierarchy that has been hindering communication.
Communicate directly, irrespective of hierarchy.
Pursue a culture of free-flowing information
Let's say that on order to get something communicated or actioned between teams, an individual has to hop through their manager.
Who raises it with their director. Who talks to their VP.
Who talks to another VP. Who talks to their director. Who talks to someone who actually has the answers.
Then, once again, we are doing something very wrong.
This isn’t something that will happen overnight and it certainly can’t be forced. We need a cultural shift. It starts with a seed.
A single team which becomes the catalyst for change.
Good culture catches, like wildfire.