I don’t normally spend much time listening and/or reading about Agile specific stuff these days but I found myself tuning in to The Agile Revolution podcasts on the bus this week (http://www.theagilerevolution.com/), mainly because I’m know a few of the presenters and had only just stumbled across the podcast.

Anyways, one of the episodes I listened to included a discussion along the lines of “what would a perfect agile company look like?”, which I’ve found myself mulling on over the last couple of days.  Craig, Tony and Renee make a lot of good points about factors they would expect to see in this mythical organisation:

  • No hierarchy
  • Small team sizes
  • and possibly others that escape me at this time

To this list, I would add:

  • A privately held company rather than a public one.  Any company which focusses on maximizing return for shareholders is not going to engender the passion in it’s employees that I would imagine we’re looking for… which narrows the list down quite a lot
  • Not just small team sizes, but a small company itself.  There will be a tipping point around company size where maintaining the correct culture and ensuring there aren’t people there with divergent goals and ambitions becomes statistically highly improbable, if not impossible.  With zero science behind it, I would imagine the maximum size of such a company would be less than 50 people and probably more likely 20-30 or so.
  • Not a consultancy.  I just thought I’d throw one in here that would discount my own employer (ThoughtWorks) before someone accused me of  nepotism.   But the reality is that the nature of consulting means that we work in a lot of different industries and organisations and it’s impossible to be equally committed to the success of every client I work for.  In some cases, I care very deeply about the health of my client’s business, but in other my own level of involvement is intentionally capped by that of the employees I’m working with.
  • Not the market leader or in an uncompetitive market.  You need that sense of urgency to focus on the really important stuff that Agile and it’s good friends Lean and Continuous Delivery give you.  If you’re in a monopoly position or leading the market by a comfortable margin, you won’t be feeling the need to continually refine the way you do things.

I cannot think of anymore big ticket items here, so my best filter for finding these companies is to start looking for small (20-30 people), privately held (presumably) product companies that are struggling for success in their market.  This is probably still a medium-sized haystack to find the hypothetical needle in, but it’s a start.

Oh, one more criteria just sprung to mind: if the company is striving to become the world’s exemplar of Agile stuff, they’re off the list immediately 🙂