The Agile Recession Challenge – De-Bureaucratize!!!

Okay, global markets are in turmoil.  Consumer spending is dropping.  Economists are forecasting recessions or extremely small growth.  Businesses are adjusting revenue and earnings forecasts.  Bad news all around.

Actually, no.  This is the perfect time to be in business.  This time of crisis can actually be the opportunity that your business desperately needed, you just didn’t know it.

The way to get through this is simple: focus on value, remove waste and obstacles.  The trouble is, simple though this sounds, it’s actually very hard for many businesses.  Why?  Because one of the first responses to financial crisis is to cut costs, and the easiest, most obvious cost in most businesses is staff.  Cutting staff is not the same as focusing on value and removing waste and obstacles.  In fact, cutting staff is almost the exact wrong thing to do.  Why?  Because you still leave in place all the old policies, procedures, checkpoints, systems, role definitions, chokepoints, logjams and wasteful activities that were hidden because we were riding through “good times”.

It’s true, of course, that staff are a substantial cost for most businesses.  However, we sometimes lose sight of the fact that in any business where staff is a substantial cost, it also probably means that staff are responsible for a large proportion of the value your business generates.  Cutting staff therefore means reducing value, and that just puts your business into a vicious cycle. Cut staff, deliver less value, customers and clients don’t get as much value, they start looking elsewhere, you get more revenue pressure, you cut more staff, etc.  Not only that, but if you cut staff, but leave the bureaucracy in place, then the ratio of bureaucratic overhead to staff is increased leading to even worse productivity!

Okay, so where does agile fit in?  Simple: agile methods such as Scrum for software work and OpenAgile for business management are designed to help you find waste, remove it, focus on value, learn from both successess and mistakes, and do better next time all in very short cycles which allow you and your business and your teams to adapt to changing (market, economic, competitive) conditions very quickly, always delivering the highest value fastest and at the best price.

Recent case studies in the Scrum community are showing revenue gains of 200 to 400 percent in less than a year for companies that are rigorously adopting Scrum, not as a “solution” or a “methodology” but as a powerful, principle-based, learning framework applied universally.  Scrum and other agile methods, when used properly, cause substantial, deep changes in an organization’s culture and habits.  These changes all center around the idea of delivering high value, high quality, quickly, and always getting better and better and better at doing this.

Teams using agile methods become super-teams.  Organizations using agile methods become super-organizations.

Feeling the fear of recession?  Feeling the need to cut costs?  Anxious if your job, your team or your business is going to survive this crisis?  Use agile – Scrum, OpenAgile, Extreme Programming, Lean Software Development, Crystal – to not just survive the crisis, but to thrive while your competition struggles and succumbs to the challenges.

Some Other Reasons Agile is Good in a Recession:

“customers will start asking about iterative deliveries (to control spendings(sic))” – (

“Agile can drastically improve time to benefits, quality and efficiency, team morale, the relationship between IT and business staff, and responsiveness to change.” – ( – PDF)

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