Thursday, March 10, 2016

Three Philosophical Clarities to Shift from Doing Agile to Being Agile

Agile is first about doing right things before doing things right.

Agile has become increasingly pervasive, it also became increasingly viewed as an "improvement" on reductionist management, The best way to fail is thinking that you will implement agile inside IT organization without taking into account the whole enterprise. Agile is neither just a methodology nor a set or practices, how to clarify the philosophy behind agile in order to shift from “Doing Agile to Being Agile”?


Agile is mindset and principles, not just methods or practices: Agile is a state of mind, not a process. The core of Agile is a set of basic underlying principles! You can not expect big bang mindset change so you need to start with some initial philosophy and some initial practices that pay off and reinforce, a mindset change is more difficult of a change and involves coaching/ training/ teaching and important discussions around what Agile is to the team/department/company. Focused on the degree to which an organization encourages an agile mindset - so the pertinent question to answer is "How agile are we?" Given that agility is largely about human relationships based on Agile Manifesto and Agile Principles. Values and principles are about what we believe and how we think. Neither of these is really amenable to direct measurement. And you will always have to tie these together to get the big picture of your organizational agility.


Agile is direction, not a destination: Agile is more about a direction, a journey. Transforming to “Being Agile” means the business knows the direction they want to go on, and as people start “putting on” the agile mindset, discover new ways of working, collaborating, delivering value, they inspect and adapt in that journey by overcoming the frictions and challenges. You have to keep things rolling, to make agile not just a methodology to manage projects, but a principle instilled into a healthy culture to run the business more effectively. To move from Waterfall to Agile is not an act of 1 day. It is a journey. And as long as the journey is coming to a place where we can call the organization actually Agile, Waterfall and Agile do co-exist. Some organizations stop moving and remain in the hybrid state and some just turn back to go to the previous state of the waterfall and few actually reach the destination of the Agile world. So, hybrid organizations are the reality. There are fundamental differences in philosophy that mean trying to hybridize Agile and Waterfall will not be optimal from the management perspective. However, many (but probably not all) practices can be used in both. The best way is to choose the next/best practices and make changes so it will fit your need. At the top level, Agile needs to be the philosophy to perceive multidimensional business values. Make the effort at the leadership and portfolio level to qualify and quantify value in terms of both strategic value and tactical value; direct revenue and indirect (mission/vision/values) terms is the first step to crafting high-level strategic intents. When faced with two or more alternatives that deliver roughly the same value, take the path that makes future change easier. Once benefits of agile are visible and understood, a domino effect takes over. Agile is more a "direction," than an "end."


Agile is first about doing right things before doing things right: Agile is about people and not tools and processes. Tools and processes are definitely going to be add on, in being agile, but they are not mandated to become agile. In practice: on one hand, organizations focusing on artifacts, metrics, ceremonies without ever understanding the why from the business perspective, will not get far. On the other hand, evangelists of agile who lose touch with business, do agile for its own sake, also, won’t be successful in being agile. Agile is really about constant renewal. Those who sell packaged practices demonstrate a tenuous understanding of the values and principles that underly the products they sell. Develop your own relationship with the values and principles - you'll recognize anyone who has not. Agile is often narrowly viewed as 'something for technology,' rather than as something to the business. Agility won't fix what being call "technical problems." It is a way to organize work. You still have to be good at doing the work. It takes more engineering and management discipline, not less. If problems happen, why not take some time to look into the root cause of the technical problems and late deliveries. Often agile practices are at odds with the overall corporate or environment. Agile practices up mean more about a mind shift and a set of principles to run an agile organization. Agile principles and agile thinking would be a better bet at today’s business dynamic with increasing speed of change and uncertainty.

If doing Agile is more about managing a software project which is still a business initiative to achieve the corporate goals, and then being Agile is to follow a set of agile principles to run a business with customer centricity, and business agility is the upper level characteristic of organization maturity.

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