April 26, 2023 | Product Management

How product managers can help move their organization to true agility

How product managers can help move their organization to true agility

Every organization I’ve worked with over the last decade has struggled with the “right” way to work. This conversation often plays out as a reinventing of the wheel—there are many ways of working, and to define a one-size-fits-all approach feels impossible. But is there a way to consistently deliver value without overcomplicating the process? 

For decades, leading companies found success by following management principles developed in 1909 by an engineer named Frederick Taylor. Simply put, Taylor’s Scientific Management movement wielded the scientific method to find the one “right” way to complete a workplace task.  

Taylorism might work when the tasks are repetitive and there are more knowns than unknowns. But what about when complexity arises? In other words, what happens now, in our era of significant digital disruption, new and nimble competitors, evolving regulations, unstable markets, and an increasingly chaotic Mother Nature (see: pandemics, climate change, etc.)?  

To thrive today, product leaders need true agility: the ability to react and change rapidly amidst uncertainty, while minimizing chaos and reassuring stakeholders.  

Defining agility

In 2001, a group of 17 software development enthusiasts met in the mountains of Utah. They had one goal: to unify disparate approaches for delivering software products. What they quickly realized was that their methods and goals reinforced similar ideas. Eventually, they summarized them into the Manifesto for Agile Software Development

We are uncovering better ways of developing 

software by doing it and helping others do it. 

Through this work we have come to value: 

Individuals and interactions over processes and tools 

Working software over comprehensive documentation 

Customer collaboration over contract negotiation 

Responding to change over following a plan 

That is, while there is value in the items on 

the right, we value the items on the left more. 

Organizations that still promote Taylorism can fall into a trap of valuing the non-bolded items on the right more than the bolded items to the left—or at the very least holding them equal. As a result, the focus is less on humans and more on checklists. This can inhibit the flourishing of agility and fundamentally slow down value creation and speed to market.  

Reacting fast to opportunities and weaknesses requires a different way of being, and, more importantly, a different way of doing. By focusing on how organizations work in the present—and acknowledging the past—we can define a better way of working tomorrow.   

Finding agility by being digital

At West Monroe, we help our clients not only Do Digital, but also Be Digital. What we do in our Product Experience and Engineering Lab is create industry-leading strategies for the digital age—we imagine, design, and build lovable products and experiences to make those strategies real. 

We do this by embracing change and navigating through volatility with skilled and intentional leaders who are set on revolutionizing how organizations think about the humans they serve. It’s this mentality that truly brings to life the art and science of adding value through product management. 

Reach out to our team to see how we might help your organization into the future.  

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Mzati Kapalamula

Mzati is a principal product manager in West Monroe’s product experience & engineering practice.

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