In a past blog article, we learned how an Agile mindset can support you dealing and responding to complex challenges.
While the Agile Manifesto is still young, the foundations of Agile are not new. They are based on over 100 years of Management Science. You find a comprehensive overview on Niels Pfläging’s slide deck illustrating the “heroes of Leadership”. While those individuals are not the inventors of Agile, they are certainly the inspirations behind the Agile values and principles.
Nowadays, many companies believe, if they follow Agile techniques, frameworks, or processes (e.g., SAFe, LESS, Scrum@Scale, Scrum, etc.), they will become Agile. This is why many consultants and coaches specialize in training a certain way of working. But SAFe, for example, became such a monstrosity of a framework, that it needs an armada of consultants. The Agile principle on “Simplicity” is certainly not fulfilled. The idea was to become Agile, but most of the implementations are more about imposing certain ways of doing things.
This might be controversial, but many companies using the word Agile in their marketing to attract customers or talent are often not really Agile. They use words like tribes, squads, or have Daily Stand-Ups for their teams. But their management methods (Pay by performance or MBOs) are antique. They use words such as “empower” or “motivate” their teams (or worse: individual team members), but then dictate them how they can be empowered or motivated.
Let’s look at some companies not following a particular framework, but living the Agile values:
None of those companies are famous for using the word “Agile”, but apply its values and principles daily.
One problem, we usually run into, when working with Non-IT Teams, is the wording in the Agile Manifesto itself. Coming from Software Engineers, they are using the words “software” or “architecture”. This alienates individuals not familiar with those words. Many people devalue the Agile Manifesto right there.
Therefore, in our workshops, we are investing to unlearn the software wording and help the participants to think about it organizationally. As mentioned already in this article in detail, the following 7 principles might be more appropriate towards Organizational Agile:
The above principles do not tell you, what to do. But they enable each individual in an organization to ask questions for further improvement of the work environment, such as:
As a consultant, the answer to the question can only be: “It depends!”
In an in-house workshop of a pretty Scrum-competent organization, I asked participants, what words or terms they connect with the word “Agile”. One participant said: “Timebox, but it is unclear to us why we do it.”
And this is revealing. If you do Scrum and everybody complains about its terms, then they might not understand, why they do it. Then this team might follow an Agile intended framework by the book. But they might not be Agile and will not get all the benefits from it.
As I discussed with a Mentor many years ago: “If you are doing Scrum by the book, chances are high that in Sprint #2 you are not doing Scrum by the book anymore.” This is because you found a better way which fits the purpose and context of your team better. You enabled a Continuous Improvement Cycle. If you are still creating incremental value within your iterations, then you might be Agile – regardless if you are doing an agile Framework such as Scrum or not.
Agile is not a framework, but rather a state of being. But for that, we need to look at it as an organization. As the examples above show, Agile is more about the way we make decisions, than just about following a framework. We need to invest into the values & principles. If you are doing Scrum, but the review is your User Acceptance Meeting, you might follow some guidelines on doing Scrum. But the real feedback comes from customers & users. And this is where the benefits of agility are.
By emphasizing the above mentioned principles, organizations equip themselves better to handle complex challenges successfully.
This is basically all you need to know about Agile. If you are wondering, how to get it started and what to do, when you are confronted with resistance, then stay tuned for our next article. If you want to start bringing Agile to your organization, then consider our Academy for Agile Coaches.
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