AGILE DNA - The Genetics of Digital Transformation

August 28, 2020
Click To Access The Replay

On Friday, I attended this webinar by Atlassian on Enterprise Agility and Innovation at Scale.

The event highlighted how a bank of 160 years with processes embedded deeply into their core business is transforming itself. Through changing its leadership mindsets, teams formation, focus on customers, process improvements and usage of Agile tools, etc. It showcase how they embrace the concept of AGILE effectively and partially highlight their digital transformation journey.

As AGILE concept is not new in Technology. For many traditional enterprises and small medium businesses (SMBs), their business has been product driven, industry focused, service oriented, margin driven, etc. As the market evolves and changes digitally (accelerated by the pandemic), these traditional businesses are being disrupted by new entrants and more innovative business models.
It inspired me to represents my thoughts pictorially and create the concept of AGILE DNA. This simplified DNA Sequence shows the inter-connected sequences between Teams, Customers, Products and Culture. Which form the basis in adoption of AGILE in your business.
NOTE: It is arguably NOT a complete representation but an abstract form of the AGILE Concept.

First, Our Teams

The diagram reads from left to right, starting from Teams (leaders, co-workers and partners). The fabric of a company is its people. How the 'mission' of the company should focus on their teams. How leadership embraces AGILE is an essential piece of the puzzle. Their ability to rally the teams, break norms and leading the change helps overcome the stigma of change. Change is always difficult, even AGILE thinking, changing mindsets across teams is not a trivial task.

These points were validated In the event by the panelists. They shared the importance of team's being open-minded, being self-directed, having purpose and having management commitment, etc.

Next, the AGILE DNA connects Teams to Customers

Why Customers first and NOT Products?
We emphasize on Customers before Products as our focus is to 'build with' Customers. Focusing on Customer's needs (i.e. being Customer Obsessed), empathizing on their business objectives and requirements, thereby putting theirs in ours.
Where the business may serve a variety of personas, demands and requirements. Having a 'build with' approach towards these personas (collectively where possible), setting up processes to capture these demands/requirements early, and improve customer satisfaction. This customer centric approach helps to objectively align the Teams focus when they build their product.
Referencing  #1 of 12 Principles of AGILE (See below). The focus of satisfying the persona your product is build for, is essentially being AGILE.

One of the panelist in the event also share how Objectives key results (OKR) of their product are aligned with their customer's metrics (KR) and other aspects of customer satisfaction i.e uptime/etc. It is also highlighted on the Bank's website under Innovation Culture here.

Link from Standard Chartered website (update 29 Aug 2020)

Thirdly, We Move Our Focus to Products

What the differentiation of a great Product?
Obviously, there are lots to cover about this topic and we believe there are experts (within/outside) who are more qualified to address your product development. However, we want to highlight certain essential qualities that product development through AGILE's 12 Principles should try to achieve.
Principle #2 - Changing Requirements. Product evolves around customer requirements more so to enhance the competitive advantage.
Principles #4, #5, #11 - Diverse, self-organizing Teams working on the project. Motivated to look at the problem (1/2 full, instead of 1/2 empty).  Having a trusting and supportive leadership.

This again was reiterated by the presenter during the event. He shared how Atlassian allows employees to cross-pollinate creatively without restriction during a special day of the year, trusting them which leads to improvement in products quality and new innovative ideas across different business units.

Principles #3, #7, #9 - Delivering a working Product frequently with good design principles will help the Product evolves to greatness.

Courtesy of

Culture = The Sum of All

Company Culture through Wikipedia was first conceptualized in 1951 by Dr. Elliot Jaques. It defines organizational culture, encompasses values and behaviors that contribute to the unique social and psychological environment of a business.
For AGILE DNA the Culture that the company needs is the sums of the parts; Collaborative Teams, Customer Focus, Product Agility and most importantly Company leadership, an open and "walk the talk" leaders.

The Arrows represents the interplay of directions in the diagram. It also signifies the iterative loop or feedback nature of the AGILE concept.

Atlassian Team Playbook - Agile Team Play
Click To Access Team Playbook

How should company get started? There are so many ways to learn in this journey. One I think is quite useful and easy start is Atlassian's Team Playbook. The playbook gives short bite size play to strength AGILE knowledge and team collaboration.

In summary, the concept of transformation through AGILE DNA is guidance to companies who are trying to tackle this disruption. By prioritizing their focus to strengthen their teams and leaders within. Through open and committed leadership, they put a relentless focus on the customers. Building products by design to cater to such focus and feedback. Lastly, summing them as part of their company culture and permeates the vibes through the company.

Hope this article provide a spark for company who aspired to transform in this disruptive situation.

About the author

Stephen Chan is the founder of ASIA Technology Ventures. As a creative and entrepreneurial thinker with deep knowledge in both business and technology, he has accomplished more than 2 decades of high-growth businesses, developed revolutionary Go-To-Market strategies, led & built teams across Asia Pacific. He also has strong understanding of technology like SaaS/Cloud infrastructure, mobile apps, developer tools, blockchain, artificial intelligence, etc. Asia Technology Ventures was founded to help Asia's businesses transform, scale and compete beyond their comfort zone.

This is driven by his personal belief that "Success is a journey, not a destination", in-line with his pursuit of helping others as the foundation for true, happy, and meaningful living.

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