Saturday, March 19, 2016

Three Aspects to Improve Agility

There are two related drivers to real agility: autonomy and trust!

The term ‘Agile’ is derived from ‘The Manifesto for Agile Software Development’ which describes a collaborative way of working based on a set of twelve principles that has come to mean early delivery of business value. The problem is people do not have a profound understanding of Agile principles and philosophy behind a set of Agile framework or tools. Most of the times they use the word "agile" when in fact they are talking about agile software development. So how to differentiate "being Agile from doing Agile"? How to improve business agility from practicing Agile methodology?

"Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist," despite not being known for his martial arts”  -Pablo Picasso. The processes and frameworks (Scrum, SAFe, XP to an extent) are the means to the end, not the end themselves. Often, most of these processes and tools are treated as rigid sets of rules that must be followed to the latter. There is too much focus on methodology and frameworks as a silver bullet, under-emphasis on the tailored organizational needs to occur in many situations, loss of focus on "agility" and that there are real big barriers to knock down if any organization that is not agile wants to be agile. Don't be a slave of tools, mix and match the tools as you need. Pay attention to the constraints of each tool. What most organizations lack is the ability to step back, inspect and ask questions to what is going on. They blindly make a plan and land up in a rut where nothing changes, even when everyone is talking at the water fountain complaining how bad it is. In order to improve agility, in the experimentation of mixing and matching tools to uncovering better ways to define a culture and a mindset so that:
-aligns with the manifesto and 12 principles for developing solutions by doing it and helping others do it;
-allows the customer discover what they need, how to build it, and to be adaptive (move quickly and easily to think and understand) as things change along the way.

There are two related drivers to real agility: autonomy and trust. If a team is not truly autonomous---and that includes making up its own processes to suit its members, members self-selecting the team, etc., it can't move fast enough to have real agility. Teams can't be truly autonomous unless the organization trusts them to do the work. Everything else follows. Whether you can change an existing organization to support true autonomy is another issue. Usually not. It's far more than getting the basics started (collaboration, collocation, better skills, etc.). It really comes down to getting really good technical people in a trust and autonomous relationship with the corporate strategy. Organizing the company around hiring really good people and then trusting and enabling them to do their jobs. The very jobs they were hired to do! To allow them to weed out the wasted associated with the production of value. The shift from always asking permission to getting stuff done. The encouragement of inspection/transparency/adaptation is the heart of empirical process control and agility. It promotes face-to-face conversations.

Being agile is about continuous improvement: Agile is about doing, we learn by doing, we change as the output of that doing. A cohesive set of insights and thinking is often given a name. In this case "agile" is the name. Sure, if that name is redefined, the movement associated with that name is effectively redefined too. Always have the plan to be getting better: Enterprises, departments, teams, individuals. If you don't know more and have the capability to execute better than you did 6 months ago, there is a good chance one or more of your competitors can. A combination of really good leadership and the fact that, once they get past the chaotic start-up phase, they immediately go in a truly agile direction in an organic way, without going through a command/control phase.
1) Knowledge and understanding of what is appropriate to the context.
2) Desire to do what is appropriate in the context
3) The ability to remove impediments to doing what is appropriate in the context
4) Genuine teamwork

Agile is the mind shift. Agile leverages the wisdom of the masses to scale up and drive success. One main factor, though, as in any development project, Agile or no Agile, you need good decision makers, who can bear the risk, and drive everyone towards the common goals. Every situation is different and you have to fit the solution to the problem. From doing agile to being agile, it is the transformation from methodology adoption to mind shift, from process toning to culture refining; from an industrial business model jumping into digital enterprise dynamic.


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