Agility has been THE topic for our customers in Western Countries for the last 2-3 years now. In our learning journey, we wanted to dive deeper into the topic of agility in China: How is agility perceived in China? Is it a topic at all? Or is it even a similar hype as in Europe and the US, practiced everywhere – as China is known for its speed in bringing new technologies to the market?
To explore this question, we met representatives of 2 companies: The managing director and some key experts of Perficient – a software development company based in the US, with a development team of around 200 Scrum certified software developers in Hangzhou; and 1 consultant from odd-e – an international consultancy for Scrum and agility. Here are our key findings of the inspiring exchange with these experts:
- Scrum is suitable for the Asian / Chinese environment
- Agility is still growing in its importance in China
Scrum is suitable for the Asian/Chinese environment
From early childhood on Chinese are taught a lot of restrictions in life (e.g. rather rigid school system and learning methods, parents decide on their studies, powerful government, …). We learned that this is why employees traditionally rely very much on what their manager would tell them to do. Management decisions are usually not questioned, and new directions are accepted quickly. Taking these aspects into consideration agility can work very well under the following conditions: a) a manager wants the employees to work in an agile way; b) the manager sets a suitable framework for agility (e.g. mindset, support in introducing agile methodology); c) employees have passion for their work and see value in working with agile methods. “Agile is returning to nature”, one expert quoted, as people all over the world do have a natural drive for self-expression.
Under these circumstances, Chinese employees can work very well in a more self-directed world.
Agility is still growing in its importance in China
Like all over the world agility in China most likely started with Scrum methodology in software development. This holds still true today – there are international companies whose software development departments in China have been using Scrum since 2004/2005. And now, as they are more experienced in this field, they would teach their Western peers to best use Scrum.
Experts in China also observe that there is a growing desire to work in an agile way in other departments than IT, i.e. in the back office, in supporting functions or in product development. So it seems that the hype on agile will still last for some more years worldwide – not knowing yet what will come next.