Being Agile in your Small or medium enterprise

What is agile consulting, really?

The word agile means the ability to move quickly and easily. As a result, agile has become the consulting industry’s new favourite word.

Like these birds, they don’t follow a leader. Scientists say that every individual bird makes autonomous decisions. Their alignment makes autonomy, and their autonomy makes them fast and flexible.

What do consultants really mean by Agile? And why is it so sought after?

Agility in consulting is essentially business flexibility with a rigid priority. It refers to the ability to evolve and to the requirements of projects and re-allocate resources. The agile framework is usually seen within many digital and technology services in the industry. But the framework has other uses as well. And it usually can be applied to many industries. However, people often confuse this straightforward definition of “agility” with corporate jargon.

Each firm has a few catchphrases about what agile consulting is for. The top consulting firms, for example, says it allows them to “focus on business values”, be “attractive to talent”, and have a “faster time to market”. Unfortunately, this particular explanation misses something. They open by saying what they think are the results of agile consulting, without or usually not explaining how they got there.

The fundamental goal of agile consulting is, as the term suggests, to be nimble. Agility means that a team moves and flexes as a project evolves. This allows them to offer clients an evolving set of services. As new opportunities appear and the client’s wishes change, a consultancy can realign with the moving parts of a project. It not only maximizes the opportunities for revenue generation but also means that teams can be autonomous.

Most of the time, 70-90% of innovation projects fail. Their lack of success is that firms set out resolutely to do something with very little room for manoeuvre. Two-thirds of the successful innovation projects did not end up doing what they did. An agile approach allows them to flex and move toward innovation. In this sense, Agile permits a business to continue to meet its purpose and strategy without having to rethink “how” at every intersection.

Agile teams must be minor, entrepreneurial and highly digitized to create this adaptability. In this sense, agile consulting often resembles the culture of a start-up in its push for novel solutions and new ways of doing things.

Agile has made way for an entirely new set of terminology. Things you may have heard of, like “sprints”, are products of this new world. Most of these new ideas revolve around the need to test new ways of doing things. Although things change rapidly, they are also more prone to failure or technical difficulties. Nevertheless, they must receive the testing they need, so this product design language has grown.

What are sprints? And why are they essential to Agile?

Agile sprints are a short period wherein a development team works to complete specific tasks, milestones, or deliverables. Sprints, also called “iterations,” essentially break the project schedule into digestible blocks of time in which smaller goals can be accomplished. Sprints break down a project into bite-sized chunks. Teams plan a single sprint at a time and adapt future sprints based on the outcome of the previous one.

While each sprint is planned separately, the number and length of sprints in your project should be determined at the beginning. Agile projects are broken down into sprints or iterations — short, repeatable phases, typically one to four weeks long.

For instance, if you have a website launch project, you might split three months’ worth of work into six two-week sprints. During sprint one, your goals might include hosting setup, WordPress theme installation, sitemap creation, and content interviews/research. Tasks like these can often feel like prep work that team members are eager to get out of the way so they can focus on the real meat of the project. But if you establish them as the goals of your first sprint, you’ll ensure the project starts off on the solid ground and help team members feel an early sense of accomplishment while ramping up for more intense work.

Sprint Cycles

A sprint cycle is a repeatable process you’ll go through every time you manage and plan a sprint. The steps of the process will stay the same—what will change are the insights you learn at the end of a sprint and how you apply them to make the next sprint even more effective.

How the process works

At Anima, we follow Agile frameworks very often. It helps us quickly understand our clients’ immediate goals and help clear those as soon as possible. Note that this isn’t rushed work; rather, the pace at which we would operate would be hyper-focused. This is how Agile helps our consultancy provide accurate and ideal deliverables for each client.

Agile methodology is commonly used by both Scrum and Kanban enthusiasts. They use this framework religiously as it has proven tactics to ensure efficient results: Results like

  • 2x – 4x acceleration in time to market and new project delivery
  • 15% – 20% reductions in development costs
  • Most importantly, 90% employee engagement

It’s easy to see why. Like organizational transformation objectives, achieving agile at scale requires companies to address their full operating model. They must embrace change. And they must support this agile transformation—completely and visibly—from the top.

Anima’s Approach to Agile at Scale

Taking agile beyond pilots and scattered initiatives requires great changes in processes, habits, and even mindsets. It also requires careful timing and coordination. We work with clients at every step of their agile-at-scale journey.

  • Understand the starting point. Our customized approach starts with understanding where an organization is. Proprietary assessments, such as our agile maturity assessment, help us gauge capabilities, competencies, and willingness to change—and benchmark against best-in-class peers. By understanding a client’s readiness for enterprise agility, we can shape recommendations and strategies to fit their unique environment.
  • Enable the organization. Enterprise agility requires catalysts to change and influence behaviour. Set up and execute agile pilots. Agile at scale generates value and lessons that help scale this new way of working when well implemented. We work with organizations to select visible and relevant pilots, establish agile processes, and measure results—building dashboards to track value delivery, squad performance, defects, and work progress.
  • Adapt the operating model. By feeding learnings into the operating model, we fine-tune methodologies and set the stage for agile transformation. We define how roles and responsibilities will shift, drawing on a database of more than 3,000 role charters that detail accountabilities across functions. We address all functional model components, including governance, culture, leadership and talent, and technological enablers. And we work with clients to communicate changes—reducing ambiguity, and tension, as they deploy agile at scale.
  • Build an agile playbook. Transforming to an agile organization won’t happen overnight. By building on initial projects, customizing best practices to a client’s context and culture, and enabling ongoing coaching, workshops, and pulse checks, we create a roadmap for enterprise agility—and a path for sustainable change.

What 10,000+ employees say about agile transformation

We surveyed nearly 10,000 employees while they were amid an agile transformation. About one-fifth of them worked in organizations with more than 100,000 employees. Slightly less than half worked at organizations with fewer than 5,000 employees. The rest were relatively evenly distributed between those extremes. The employees worked in the technology, telecom, and financial services industries, as expected, but also in the logistics, health insurance, automotive, consumer goods, and professional services fields.

The survey consisted of 51 questions that tested whether employees were enabled or hindered during the agile transformation. We averaged each respondent’s answers to identify the top and bottom quartiles. The top quartile had the most positive sentiment and reflected where workers felt more empowered to embrace agile. Conversely, the bottom quartile had a more pessimistic view and consequently represented where employees felt more hindered and unlikely to adopt agile.

Three conclusions stand out. First, successful agile organizations are learning organizations. They do not rest on past accomplishments and practices. Nearly nine of ten respondents who feel enabled by their organization’s agile transformation said that their culture and management encourage failing fast and embrace learning from mistakes.

Second, agile teams want data to help them prioritize their work and measure success. Data helps them learn. Unfortunately, too few teams have the data they want. For example, only half of the respondents said their teams could measure customer satisfaction, a key indicator of team effectiveness.

Third, agile runs into trouble when it rubs against the conservative practices and behaviours of traditional organizations. Agile becomes the square peg struggling to squeeze into a round hole. For example, more than half of respondents said their organization’s standards, risk processes, and control requirements slow their work.

At its core, agile requires responding to change more than following a plan. Teams continually test and refine what they create based on feedback from customers and end users. So it’s no wonder that agile team members value learning and smooth interactions with the rest of the organization and want to take advantage of the insights data can provide.


Organizational change is hard. Most large change efforts do not meet their objectives. If you lose the support and engagement of your people, you will almost certainly fall short. Our survey suggests a winning approach: be a learning and data-driven organization, and anticipate that you will need to adjust the operating model to match agile ways of working. None of that is easy—but it is all achievable.