This year’s topic for the 2016 Agile Australia conference was “Towards the Agile Country”. Australia moving towards an Agile country is a very relevant topic, given the current federal election campaign where Agile has been the key buzz word. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull can be quoted saying: “The Australia of the future has to be a nation that is Agile, innovative and creativeand “Agile is key”.[1]

A common theme between the political parties, as well as within Australian organisations, is the acknowledgement of a growing need for Australia to adapt to the current dynamic global environment. This ever increasing global competition is also met with the current challenges of the budget deficit, lower commodity prices, weak inflation and wage growth. [2] We also face rapid changes in technology, with the change over the next 10 years expected to dwarf the last 10  through robotics, [3] machine learning and artificial intelligence. This means that now more than ever, it is important for Australian workers and Australian organisations to adapt to remain competitive.

Some of the key ways Australians and Australian organisations need to adapt were also popular themes at the Agile Australia conference including:

 

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In this blog post, we will discuss some of the key themes spoken about at the conference, and how these can be used to address the challenges Australia faces to become an Agile Australia.

Robotics/Automation – This means more knowledge-intensive jobs

A recent report produced by the productivity commission has indicated over the next 10 to 15 years automation and machine learning has the potential to disrupt 40% of Australian jobs. This disruption has been seen at organisations internationally, such as Foxconn (the world’s largest manufacturing company which produces Apple’s iPhone and iPad, Samsung’s Galaxy phone line) where they have automated 60,000 jobs in one of its factories. [4]

Disruption doesn’t always mean ‘threat’ though. Opportunities exist for both organisations and individuals. While there may be an impact through workforce reduction and the loss of existing jobs, one of the key principles of DevOps and Agile is to automate manual and repetitive activities. This means workers can be freed up to work on higher value-add and complex activities, improving job satisfaction, and morale. [5] Workers will also need to be more creative and have greater empathic skills to be successful in these new roles. [6] The intent is to make workplaces and our people more productive and efficient. [7]  This would also create new jobs in developing these robots/automation tools and maintaining these capabilities. [8]

One of the keynote speeches at Agile Australia referred to human-robot interaction and the effects robots have on humans. While this is an important underlying consideration for any adoption, the immediate priority for organisations should be to:

  • Define an approach to identify activities to automate [9]
  • Understand how to implement and then scale the automation/robotics
  • Redefine policy, business roles and retrain employees to respond to these changes [10]
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Adopting Agile Principles across all industries (not just product/profit based orgs)

In our modern economy, the adoption of Agile principles such as fast customer feedback, rolling wave prioritisation, and simplification are not reserved, nor limited to organisations set out to generate customer profit through goods and services sold. With a budget deficit [11] of over $400 billion,  government and not-for-profit organisations need to start adopting these principles to become more efficient, lean and innovative.

One way of achieving this is cutting out excessive governance or “red tape”. Quite often, the financial cost of risk mitigation activities which take place exceeds the impact and probability of the risk it is trying to avoid. Organisations need to rationalise their rules, and nurture a culture of regulation built on what ‘must go right’, rather than ‘what could go wrong’. Government organisations in Australia have started to adopt initial principles, including scrum, lean and visualisation, but can take this another step further.

Examples shared at Agile Australia of international organisations adopting these principles were:

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  • City of San Jose took a gamified approach to adopting a community based budgeting and rolling wave prioritisation using the “buy a feature” game[12]. The council had a budget deficit and needed to find a way to efficiently and collaboratively determine which community initiatives to prioritise and which to not implement. This allowed them to reach a considered consensus quite quickly on what the highest priorities were for the city. By exposing that the city was in debt, sharing the competing priorities and impacts of choice, the community was able to prioritise choices that strengthened the city for longer term prosperity.
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  • Buurtzorg healthcare provider in the Netherlands [13] used a customer centric and lean operating model approach to providing healthcare services to their customers. They moved away from a quantity based model to a quality of service model which valued their customer’s feedback over anything else. This organisation was able to grow from 4 nurses to 10,000 nurses in less than 4 years.
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  • Foodbank NYC[14] leveraged lean and kaizen methods, through a partnership with Toyota, to improve their ability to provide meals to over 3 million of New York’s working poor, resulting in delivering 120 meals every minute to 400 families and 1,000 food pantries/schools. With a focus on continuous flow, they optimised the end-to-end process from packaging up the food into boxes, to shortening the line that families needed to wait in to receive their meals. They also focussed on decreasing waste of fast perishing items through supply chain optimisation.

As the case studies above showcase, there are obvious benefits to continue the adoption of these ways of working in Australian government and not-for-profit organisations.

Embracing Diversity – Not just in your teams

To be more Agile and innovative, organisations need to embrace diversity within their teams and in their approach to market. This includes providing an inclusive workplace to support the diverse team members. Ensuring team members who don’t deal with change well or are faced with technical challenges have the support they require. [15]   

Embracing diversity doesn’t just apply to gender diversity, this means age diversity (which we have a long way to go in improving, as technology-related age discrimination in the workforce is an issue) and ethnic diversity. [16]  Start-ups in the U.S.A have started to see benefits of cultural and ethnic diversity and now 70% of people at start-ups in the United States are expatriate workers.

Not only do we need to embrace diversity in team members, but a key change for organisations is embracing the diversity in identifying new market opportunities. Organisations cannot remain servicing the same market and opportunities and not be impacted by disruption. An example is the Australian car manufacturing industry which has recently been on the decline. These manufacturing organisations will find themselves needing to diversify across types of markets/opportunities. [17]

Summary

While there were many key callouts from the Agile Australia conference, these were some that really resinated with us and what it means to be an Agile Australia. Now more than ever, the adoption of these principles is important to put Australia and our organisations in a good stead to compete in the global market. As we’ve seen at the conference, these changes are being embraced in the United States, Netherlands and many other countries. We look forward to the ongoing adoption of these principles by Australians, Australian organisations and government and playing Deloitte’s part in moving towards an Agile country. To quote our Prime Minister of the day, “It’s never been a more exciting time to be an Australian.”

 

 

 

References:

[1] Turnbull Confident An Agile Australia’s Agile Agility Will Agile Agile (2016) http://www.sbs.com.au/comedy/article/2016/01/20/turnbull-confident-agile-australias-agile-agility-will-agile-agile

[2] http://blog.deloitte.com.au/greendot/2016/05/25/pefo-vibe-wary-treasury-warns-debt/#.V2ouW_l96M8

[3] Daniel Petre – Towards an Agile Australia

[4] http://www.theverge.com/2016/5/25/11772222/foxconn-automation-robots-apple-samsung-smartphones

[5] http://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/pages/operations/articles/a-guide-to-robotic-process-automation-and-intelligent-automation.html

[6] Daniel Petre – Towards an Agile Australia

[7]  The future of work: http://www2.deloitte.com/au/en/pages/economics/articles/future-inc-adapt-survive-thrive.html

[8] http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-06-15/digital-disruption-could-threaten-40pc-of-jobs/7512778

[9] http://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/pages/operations/articles/a-guide-to-robotic-process-automation-and-intelligent-automation.html

[10] The future of work: http://www2.deloitte.com/au/en/pages/economics/articles/future-inc-adapt-survive-thrive.html

[11] http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-04-26/federal-budget-deficit-likely-to-keep-blowing-out/7355404

[12] Awesome Superproblems – Luke Hohmann

[13] Simply Buurtzorg: adaptive agility for individual and local needs – Nicole Koster

[14] Creating a kaizen culture proves transformative for Food Bank of New York – City Margarette Purvis

[15] Towards a more inclusive workplace – Jane Burns

[16] Australia’s digital pulse http://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/au/Documents/Economics/deloitte-au-economics-digital-pulse-2016-acs-110316.pdf 

[17] Defence opportunities last-ditch for some Australian manufacturers http://blog.deloitte.com.au/greendot/2016/05/19/defence-opportunities-australia-manufacturing/#.V2otqfl96M8)