Agile Strategy in China

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Agile Strategy in China

Why is Agile Strategy so important?

The first step into failure and disaster, e.g. when launching a new product or entering the Chinese market, is solely sticking to an earlier, commonly known path to success. Especially in a unique and dynamic market like the Chinese market is right now, obstinately following strategies that have shown success in the past, can be fatal. One example would be when many companies continue using the commonly applied New Product Development (NPD) model. This product-centric model focuses on identifying market opportunities and best practices. What sounds very promising, actually has a crucial point: to not purely focusing on identifying market opportunities and develop and produce a new product, but to not neglect the customers. One needs to have the ability to ask first “who are the customers and why do they buy?” as well as to say “stop” or “slow down” until the customers are fully understood instead of live to the credo “build and they will come”. In short, that means one has to have the ability to be agile in order to not develop and produce a product full-scale which ends up not getting purchased.


What is “agile”?

In order to be sustainably successful, companies should act agile. But what does this actually imply? At Daxue Consulting we define being “agile” as making a series of small, iterative refinements so that an organization has the flexibility to respond to unpredictability. This unpredictability is the reason why following to formerly or even currently successful strategies may lead to failure in the future. The Chinese market changes and so do its customers and their behaviors. Thus, while creating and following to a vision and long-term objectives is imperative, the idea of acting agile is to break those long-term goals into smaller iterative projects which the organization can quickly test and learn from. Interestingly, choosing agile strategy also means to fail on the road to success:

Daxue Consulting-Agile strategy model

The Iterative Customer Development Model as part of Agile Strategy; Graph Credit: Daxue Consulting.



Because failing is okay if one plans to learn from it. In doing so, through iterating the processes, each step can be optimized. Moreover, only if repeatable customers (the goal of the Customer Discovery is to understand the customers, their preferences and buying behaviors) with a repeatable sales process (the goal of the Customer Validation is to make customers loyal) that yields profitable business model appear, it will be moved on to engaging in heavy marketing. Creating and driving end-user demand into the company through marketing (Customer Creation) should only be done after the point where a company acquired its first customers and knows who they are. Finally, the focus can be shifted to building the organization to scale and execute the business plan (Company Building).


How to be agile and how can Daxue Consulting contribute?

In order to perform each of these steps as effective as possible, the organization needs to be flexible and agile. But how can a company ensure to meet the requirements? At Daxue Consulting, we have the required experience and expertise in the Chinese market to know which methods are applicable in China to act agile. The most common agile strategies are the following:


  • Scrum – the most common agile framework. It suggests three different roles within a team, which is supposed to accomplish several so-called sprints (iterations) within a fixed duration (mostly two weeks to one month):
    • the product owner (representor of the stakeholders as well as the customers’ voice),
    • the development team (responsible for delivering the shippable product increments for every sprint), and
    • the scrum master (who doesn’t act as a team leader but is responsible for the team to follow the scrum framework. Moreover, a good scrum master doesn’t drive but coaches the team, facilitates meetings instead of running the team as well as talks less and listens more to being able to encourage the team to improve

Most important aspect about Scrum is that the scrum team is self-organized within the framework, meaning that the team is responsible for scheduling and completing the work. Using Scrum will lead to a fundamental shift, which is why external help from experts can be crucial. At Daxue, we can help you setting up your first agile team. We suggest to start with a small team of maximum seven members (the core team) that understands how to act agile and is able to teach others in the organization later on.


  • Kanban – Kanban is less a fundamental change than scrum. Using this agile methodology, no specific team roles will be implemented but a Kanban board is followed. Different work items need to be identified that pass through the board. The board shows different work states from in progress to testing to released. The only management criteria is WIP (“Work in Progress”) – each Kanban work state should define a WIP limit to indicate how many items are allowed in the same state at a certain time. All in all, Kanban is about visualizing the work on the board and monitoring the WIP.


  • Extreme Programming (XP) – XP is the most specific agile framework regarding actual engineering practices for software development. Due to its complexity, there may be situations where it is not applicable in an organization. However, if so, it follows always five general values:
    • Communication
    • Simplicity
    • Feedback
    • Courage
    • Respect

At Daxue, we can enlighten you further about these values, whether this method is applicable for your organization and goals in China, as well as how it is connected to Scrum.

  • Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) – the agile software development framework consists of an online knowledge base of success patterns and intends to support lean product development. The framework was developed in field and is supposed to help overcoming scaling problems, too.


  • Lean – within the agile frameworks lays the idea of lean. This concept simply suggest to reduce/eliminate non-value-added activities (“wastes”) so that the customer value will be increased. In doing so, all agile frameworks try to lean as to be as efficient as possible.


Daxue Consulting-offices in Shnaghai-Daxue Consulting team

Our team is constantly working on agile solutions in the Chinese market to provide clear guidelines for your success; photo credit: Daxue Consulting.


Contact us now to discuss with our project management how you can be agile in China. Our project managers will work closely with your team to explain the different approaches in detail and collaboratively decide on which agile strategy suits you and your business the best in China.