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  • Writer's pictureAnubhav Berry

The agile sandwich (part 2)

So you want to have your sandwich and eat it too... I'm assuming you've read the first part of this 2 part article. If you haven't I would recommend having a quick read through it. We should now be able to empathise with why the organisation is the way it is and what transpired to get it to the point where it has so many sandwiches.

The sandwich at this stage looks more like the image on the right. Maybe I'm exaggerating here - it may not look that messy on the outside, but let's be honest it is quite messy if you look at the insides of it from a balanced and a rational point of view. For starters, it wouldn't be standing if it weren't for the skewer. (image ref:

Everyone wants a bite, some have it too, but either have a look of disgust on their faces or feel sick after having the bite. Some actually like it that way because they're too drunk on the KPI ale.

Agile sandwiches will hinder your path to agility because "almost all of them" exhibit one common trait - they are "Highly coupled - Loosely cohesive".

How to avoid agile sandwiches

Small, niche and minimalistic aren't bad words anymore. As long as there's focus, you know what your organisation stands for and your customers love you for that you're going to win provided you execute your strategies well. Gone are the days of creating behemoths by rationalisation.

I read a news snippet today stating that Netflix is now more valuable than General Electric (GE). I mean c'mon who would think that was possible - an online content provider being run out of an office somewhere becomes more valuable than a company that makes almost everything that has the word electronic associated with it out of humongous manufacturing facilities and offices located in every corner of the world.

What's going on here - it's the customers love and affinity to the brand and scalability of business guided by the right mindset of it's leadership and people that is at play here. There's an element of VC (venture capital) fuelled inflation in market capitalisation as well. But the former is more likely the plausible cause. So small and niche isn't bad.

If you're serious about adopting an agile way of working you need to genuinely transform your organisation. If you are ready to genuinely transform your organisation then create smaller organisations that are part of the larger organisation. These smaller organisations should each be a master of their own destinies to as great an extent as possible, obviously within the larger organisational construct and vision. Go small, let's call them "micros", but with one extremely important goal in mind - independence from each other. Make them "Loosely coupled - Highly cohesive".

No, this does not mean you start selling parts of your business to make a smaller organisation - well, sometimes that's not a bad idea. If those micros are "Highly coupled and loosely cohesive" then you're at best a sightly better agile sandwich because work will not get done due to dependencies on each other.

For e.g. if you're a bank that has departments for personal, commercial, institutional, retail, etc... with departments like ledger, risk, finance, etc... spanning across the departments then you need to find a way to make them independent, especially the latter. Sharing code doesn't mean you're not independent. You can share code and still be independent. Will explain this in another article.

To create the "correct" micros you need to:

  • Make a clean sandwich - have a crystal clear organisational vision and allow for each micro to have their own vision albeit aligned to the organisational vision.

  • Listen to your customers - each micro should have their set of customers and should do what the customer want them to do. These are all, at the end of the day, customers of the larger organisation.

  • Make a platter of small sandwiches with an assortment of dips rather than one tall sandwich with all the dips smashed together - many micros working together independently and complimentarily is better than the current departmental constructs. These small sandwiches need to have their own ingredients and the customer can choose their dip of choice. This is called personalisation and is a very powerful customer advocacy technique. (image ref:

  • Empower the junior and sous chefs - the leader (junior and sous chef) of every micro needs to know how to run their business successfully and how to cooperate with other leaders to help them run their businesses successfully. The organisation must trust them to deliver.

  • Listen to your staff - happy teams make happy products.

  • Make the sandwich together - collaborate and communicate with everyone in the

The journey doesn't end with just creating the "correct" micros. It's just the beginning. How to take the strategy home from a business, technology, people, customers, leaders, etc... point of view is what's more important. Remember there's nothing called 100% agile, it's a myth.

Let's get in touch if you would like to discuss your agile sandwich and what you could do to do away with them and what strategies you can adopt to consistently produce amazing sandwiches. If nothing, we could end up sharing a sandwich over a healthy discussion.

I'm now going to leave you with this video of a set of chefs working in perfect harmony to produce something beautiful at the end. Enjoy !!!

Happy days and happy learning and sharing :)

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