The startup story usually goes something like this. Someone or a group of people find a problem, and they realize they might have a solution for it. If the team is smart, they will start building a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) for their product. This MVP will get some traction and learning. Then they will try to sell and improve or pivot their product. This will allow them to look for investment, and with their good preparation and a lot of effort, they get it. Done! Even after that, 75% of startups fail.
So you got that investment, now what? Scale. However, “Somewhere around 25 employees, everything breaks.” That’s not good!!
To avoid breaking, what should scale is an adaptive startup. An adaptive company is not a set of processes but a culture guided by the agile. According to Peter Drucker “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” the Agile mindset aims to achieve the following:
Self managing teams: I was once in a retrospective with a team and one member said something that surprised me at the time, he said “I wish I knew what being a team means!” A month later the team understood what it meant. Putting employees in a group doesn’t make them a team, nonetheless, a self managing team. Trust, collaboration, focus on results while caring for each other is something teams can only strive for and achieve.
Focus on delivering and capturing value: Delivering value is the ability to understand how to do what is important and needed. We decide that based on what value we can add to our users that will get the greatest value for them and our business. Getting paying customers to adopt past the product market fit chasm is the proof of value.
Continuously improving processes: I was working with a client on the infamous quality vs. developers clash. The quality members got to a point to accept the clash as a part of life until I asked a simple question to everyone “is it bothering everyone? … Yes! Then why not fix it? … Don’t know how and no time to figure it out!!” The “too busy to improve” problem plagues many organizations. They avoid small problems that return to haunt them, sometimes as a tsunami. The structures and values within Agile brings problems to the surface and approaches them methodologically.
Bonus for technology startups: Some practices that started Agile in the eXtreme Programming (XP) impacts how the team delivers high value software. And these practices are evolving. Some concepts that fit great with Agile or are agile practices themselves:
Test automation (TDD, BDD)
Sounds great, right? Like everything else that is worth doing, it is not easy. I can attest to that from experience. The journey is long and difficult, however, it is totally worth it.