Developing Agile Competencies To Assist You/SAAS Achieve Greater Results

Written by: Shishir Mishra, Author & Business Consultant, Software as a Service (SaaS) Industry, India

How the Personal Agility Lighthouse ModelTM (PALH™) helps you to develop agile competencies that assist you/SaaS achieve greater results?

The importance of agility is very well known to anyone who is working in the IT industry. The Agile principles used in software development projects ensures that a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) that delivers greater business value is released in a short period. It also allows getting customers' feedback and response early on in the product life cycle. The validated learning helps to build a product that is closer to the customers changing needs. The Scrum framework is an implementation of agile principles, promotes innovation, collaboration, and productivity in projects.  

The success of the implementation of agile methodology has led to a need for scaling agile at an organizational level. For this, the Scaled agile framework (SAFe) of proven, integrated principles, practices, and competencies for Lean, Agile, and DevOps that came into the picture. SAFe is a configurable and scalable framework that guides organizations in scaling agile and lean.

The agility at the project level and organization level has created many success stories. I believe applying agility at an individual level has far-reaching benefits. The Corona pandemic has forced people across the globe to work from home independently. To thrive in an unprecedented situation, being agile is very much required.

I am fortunate that Raji Sivaraman introduced me to the Personal Agility Lighthouse Model™. The 7 competencies described in the model serve as a guiding light for excelling at personal agility. Here are the 7 competencies and how I have used them in my professional front:

Educational Agility is to be able to understand other's challenges and perspectives by stepping into other's shoes in a situation.  While handling a team, it is always easy to get carried away with your way of doing things. Educational agility has helped me understand that different team members have different motivations and styles of working. The creative team members may not always adhere to the timelines. The highly skilled team members may not always be willing to collaborate with others. 

The educational agility helps to align with your team members to boost productivity, collaboration, and handle challenges more effectively. In one of my projects, I had to work with a website developer who was good technically but had a casual approach towards timeline. He always waited till the last day of delivery to make the final changes. I wanted to know what was his challenge in delivering quality work within timelines. Through my conversations with him I learnt that he at times find it difficult to balance between his personal life and professional life especially working from home as he has a 3-year-old daughter to look after.

I understood his situation and started to help him organize and structure his work. I invested more time with him in creating task estimates and frequently followed up with him on progress. Gradually he started taking ownership of the work and timeliness. He also became more transparent in his communication. This helped us as team to be consistent in delivering quality releases on time.

Change Agility requires you to have the readiness to change as the situation demands. Working in the technology industry demands you to adapt to the changes in technology, customer requirements, competitive forces, and to stay ahead of the curve. 

I transitioned from the role of an individual contributor to a manager role. As an individual contributor, you are responsible for your work and the results you create. When you manage a team, you are responsible for the results your team creates. Being an introvert, I had to change 360 degrees to keep my team inspired and aligned with the targets that need to be achieved. 

Political Agility inherently postulates that no team or organization is free from politics. Politics emerge when people with conflicting beliefs have to work together.  

I believed that if I should focus only on my performance and deliver at a higher level of excellence. I should not be bothered by politics. My belief changed when the politics at the team level where underperforming people were getting favored by my project manager. This was impacting the overall performance of my team. I countered the politics by creating greater transparency in front of my client and management so that the underperforming team members are held responsible. Navigating politics without getting affected by it has helped me to reduce my stress levels and focus on my performance. 

Emotional Agility in other words means that emotional intelligence helps to understand and control our thoughts, moods, and behaviors so that we make critical decisions rationally without being impacted by emotions. 

At times, you have to deal with a situation when you have to deal with a difficult client or a manager. Their negative behavior may be driven by their inability to keep a check on their emotions. Initially, I faced a challenge with a client who had a short temper and anxieties. I used to get impacted by his behavior but as I started to work on my emotional intelligence. I learned that I have to control my emotions and not give my control to any external entity. This helped me remain calm in stressful situations and deliver at the same levels as in normal situations. 

Cerebral Agility is to have thought clarity and feed your curiosity to get new ideas. As a strategist, it is expected from me to always come up with some good ideas that are coherent. My thirst for knowledge and learning new things has always helped me to look at things differently. I believe curiosity is a fuel that fires innovation.

I work in Software as a Service (SaaS) industry, it is very competitive space where technology is a game changer in the way brands target and engage with their customers.  Artificial intelligence is the latest technology trend which is changing the industry.

One of the critical factors in the SaaS industry is the continuity of service which means the software should be always available and failsafe against any unpredicted downtimes.

Cerebral agility helps a team to prepare and plan the course of action in any critical situation such as software failure due to a bug.  How well a product engineering makes critical decisions in high-pressure situations defines the quality of the software. A simple example is when multiple services of Google went down on 14th Dec 2020, Monday, that included YouTube, Google Assistant, Gmail, and Google Docs for nearly an hour. It was a global outage due to a fault in the identity management system.

The businesses using Gmail, Google Docs, and Google Meet were affected as their employees could not conduct meetings, couldn't access their emails and important documents. As most of the employees are currently working from home due to the pandemic, the outage meant a loss in crucial business hours. The people using Google Assistant at their home had to face a problem with their devices connected to Google. Some users also reported that their lights are not working due to this outage. There were many hashtags related to the Google outage negatively impacting Google's reputation.  A classic example of wherein Cerebral agility for a SaaS company such as Google could help restore the situation to normal.

Learning Agility stipulates that continuous learning helps you to enhance your skills and maintain a competitive advantage in a changing environment. In one of my current engagements, the strategy of my client has changed from focusing on US markets to focus on the Swedish market. This requires that I should learn more about Swedish culture, people, and the Swedish language. Learning a new language can be difficult but it is the need of the hour and it will also open a lot more opportunities for me in the future. 

In 2020 due to lockdown, a large workforce started working from home. This transition led to an increase in the use of mobile phones for personal and professional use.

The SaaS industry due to its learning agility shifted from desktop-only applications to desktop and mobile-friendly applications. Some companies even custom-built mobile-first SaaS apps to boost efficiencies and streamline operations.

Outcomes Agility is to be able to raise the bar every time with the results you create. Outcomes agility means to strive for excellence and constantly moving in the direction of your best personal self. With every goal that I have achieved in my life, I got confirmation that I can achieve more and this gives me the motivation to commit myself towards my goal. 

 In conclusion, you have to increase your level of these 7 agility competencies throughout your life. The greater the degree of excellence in any of the competencies, the greater results you will achieve in life. I personally try to increase the degree of proficiency in all these 7 competencies; (PALH™) has helped me to achieve a greater degree of excellence in my professional and personal realm.

Shishir Mishra is the author of the book "From Starting Small To Winning Big: The Definitive Digital Marketing Guide for Startup Entrepreneurs". His book has been selected by Harvard Business Publishing, for their education website.

Related: Is Personal Agility Lighthouse Model, A Tool For Adaptive And Agile Leadership?