Attitude..... At excutive level is there the desire, commitment and birning need to build an agile business?
Without it there will not be the support, funding, understanding, foregiveness, training and tools to change the company to make it agile.
As users realize that their ideas really do matter and can be implemented easily without "old IT" barriers to change then the Agile game really will move forward. With this comes real empowerment of people as "command and control" systems and management slide into history. The support of truly Adaptive Software will ensure there is no turning back.
“Move fast and break things. Unless you are breaking things you are not moving fast enough”
Number One - well that has to be not calling yourself Agile.
You must have seen it... if a company writes "Best" or "Quality" on its products, they're not. The fact they've felt the need to write it is because they feel the disconnect between themselves and the true Best or Quality products and, since they can't or won't make up the difference, they try to fudge it with marketing.
Any company which decides to brand itself Agile is a slow organisation which recognises the need to go a bit faster than it is currently - giving its staff the hurry-up. But usually this is a 10% improvement when a 1000% improvement is required.
But actually being Agile...
Well that is about abandoning the idea of a fixed state altogether. Creating a dynamic company.
Creating a constant flow of data from customers, supply chain and financial metrics.
And not a constant benchmark, but an ever increasing one in each area to measure against.
This creates a company which is forced to move forward simply to stand still.
A powerful set of figures on which to apply the "make them go up" methodologies.
And a constant AB test/winner stays on way of working which becomes second nature.
This is a system-driven approach but just with an evolving system - modern process, if you will.
Because Agile simply means moving fast, not moving effectively.
"The best way to change the world is to “create a new model that makes the old one obsolete.”
Basically: Embracing the fact that we're at the beginning of a whole new era and start doing something about it. See "Reinventing Orgnizations" by Frederic Laloux and "Holacracy" by Brian Robertson.
E.g., hierarchical structures (e.g., the classical level of authority) worked for not too complex situations of the last era, but we're facing faster pace of change and complexity. A really great example of an initiative that completely got this is actually a Dutch organization in the healthcare space:http://www.buurtzorgnederland.com/.
I had a discussion recently with a company in which they expressed a desire to be more "agile", and then went on to explain how they needed to limit releases to twice a year (with a goal of once a year).
So I suppose the "number one key" would be: know what the heck you're talking about. For most large firms, agility gets a lot of lip service, but when the rubber meets the road it's all waterfall, all the time. Such organizations are just too risk averse, and frankly undergo too much regulatory scrutiny, to really buy into a "fail fast" model. To them, failure is simply... failure. So, steady as she goes, straight on till morning.
...which is why smaller, more agile companies (like the one that pays my salary) will eventually take their lunch money.
In my opinion it isn’t a matter of technology, or business structures. It’s a matter of attitude, positive criticism, and sane stress to detect what it is improvable and improve it.
Because of this, it’s so hard to turn a non agile company into an agile one. Because it is not enough to buy technology; you have to change people’s mind and it takes time.
Example: We are building a very easy to use, fast to deploy, SaaS BPM tool (Flokzu). And when I mean fast, I say really fast: have a process running within minutes. So, you could think that it could be very useful to add agility to your organization. Well, just in part. If the manager who tracks his processes using Excel is not ‘stressed’ about replace the endless spreadsheets, he will not use a new tool. If he prefers to keep on doing what he is used to, no matter what technology you offer, his company will never be agile.
Here’s a more specific BPM example of attitude being the key, as others have already noted. The key to agile process management is to recognise that process models require continuous improvement and that they are not set in stone. After all, a key benefit of a BPMS is being able to deploy new versions of a model for a process that is in use, with ongoing cases.
The key to agile BPM is to get past the idea that process models have any kind of permanence. To borrow a phrase from Alphonse Karr, the more a model changes, the more it models the same process.
Good question on a critical topic at the intersection of business and technology.
Let's examine the question itself: One could say that the question assumes that "agility is good". Which is not an unreasonable point of view.
However, there is some evidence that agility can easily become a random walk to oblivion. The remedy for this risk is easy enough: the traditional management activities of leadership, identity maintenance and strategy. Especially strategy.
Otherwise, agility too easily becomes lipstick on the pig of opportunism.
So my answer is that "the number one key to success as an agile organization is that agility is practiced in the context of a strong strategy."