Agile is at risk. The Agile Industrial Complex values prescriptive frameworks for quick bucks over sustainable change. The role of Agile Coaches are often seen only as lackeys to implement the frameworks. And all this is based on several misconceptions of Agile. So, what is the Future of Agile?
The world is more complex with every day. Thanks to our advances in technology, society, economy and politics, it is becoming less and less predictable. When Taichi Ohno started at Toyota to create a more lean way to build cars (based on the works of W. Edward Deming), he was in a complex environment and found a Toyota-way of building cars with lack of access to resources and the right people within an isolated market. Agile for Software Development adopted some of that mindset into the way, they wanted to change the way of working.
As mentioned before, Agile is a proven concept. When the signatories came together in 2001, they brought together decades of experience on applying their frameworks (e.g. as a collection of good and emergent practices) such as Crystal, Scrum, eXtreme Programming or The Pragmatic Programmer. Agile was then the lowest common denominator of what all of them believed in. At the same time, it matches with scientific principles of Systems, Complexity, Game Theory and Motivation.
Being based on actual proven frameworks was blessing and curse at the same time. The blessing was the proven practicality. The curse was the focus on the frameworks, which followed later. Selling and changing an organizational mindset to decentralize decision-making is difficult. Introducing some different meeting formats and roles is still hard, but much easier.
But, if we are not constantly changing the way we look at our work; if we are not constantly looking on how we organize our work and improve collaboration, we will never achieve the Agile way of working. After a PI Planning (from SAFe) you might be rightfully proud to make all team’s dependency visible. But too many teams stop then and do not make a hard question: How can we reduce the dependencies by the next PI Planning?
Scrum, SAFe, LESS, Kanban, Scrum@Scale, etc. are irrelevant. Even the word “Agile” itself is irrelevant. Important for you is not to find a framework, which helps you to achieve a transactional state. Important for you is to have a “coping mechanism“ when unplanned and unforeseeable events will happen. The framework helps you to prescribe a certain way of working for your organizations. Some of them might help you to feel better because it feels controllable. But none of them actually helps you to build structures, which are resilient to overcome any unplannable changes in the future. It might be possible, but it is not guaranteed. Because in the end, the framework is not relevant; the mindset and how you approach the future does.
The word “Agile” in itself might not have a future. Too much imposing, too many structures, too many sales pushes and too much frustrations are connected with the words. However, the principles and foundations lies on only will get more important in an increasingly complex environment. Therefore, do not focus on any framework – if they ever work, then only if you are understanding and applying the underlying foundations and principles.
If you are interested in learn to more or in an assessment of your current way of working in your current context: We are happy to help you out. Contact us here.
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