Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Clarity of “Being Agile”

Agile isn't a process, it's a culture and a point of view.

Business agility is an ultimate goal the organizations pursue to reach their maturity. Indeed, we want to see teams and organizations being agile rather than doing agile. However, every business is different, every situation is different, and every organization is at the different stage of agile transformation, you have to fit the solution to the problem. So is the hybrid of traditional management and agile a business reality? Or is Agile the end state? What’re the clarity of “Being Agile”?

Agile isn't a process, it's a culture and a point of view. Most importantly, Agile is not a process. The Agile community should view the cross-pollination of at least parts of its philosophy into traditional project management as a win.Waterfall is a reductionist management methodology designed to maximize efficiency and ensure complicated projects can be produced to schedule and budget. Agile focuses on customer satisfaction and continuous improvement. Agile is a CULTURE, not a process. End-state thinking comes from confusing agile with some process or another. it's a culture within which those processes can flourish. There can be an end state to learning a specific process, but self-improvement is a significant part of the underlying culture. That culture says if something doesn't work, you fix it, and no practices (agile or otherwise) works perfectly all the time. There's always room for improvement, so the process is constantly evolving. Agile from a culture standpoint is often most uncomfortable for management because it exposes things that were previously ignored and demands that issues are addressed so that they can be fixed for the future.

Agile is not just a set of practices, but a leadership philosophy and management approach: Actually any approach to projects requires both leadership and management. The difference is that traditional approaches focus on management for doing things right. And Agile methods are about the team self-managing and business effectiveness. In that context, leadership is a key enabler. What 'agile' does is to divide the work that is traditionally done by managers because there is far less need to have one person making all these decisions. The responsibilities get distributed in ways that better suit the agile mindset. Without good leadership (provided by a variety of people) agile teams will fail. Agile frameworks and methodologies are intended for complex systems and problems in which reductionist systems fail because of the nature of complex, innovative, knowledge-based work. It values effectiveness in delivering value over efficiency in delivering schedule & budget. The simple agile assessment questionnaires include: 1) Are your employees / team members enjoy working? 2). Is your project financials healthy? 3). Does your customer smile after every delivery?...etc.

Agile is more about a direction, a journey: 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 on 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.

Agile is neither just a “waterfall-agile” hybrid reality nor an end state, it’s the set of principles and guidelines, the leadership philosophy, the management approach and engineering discipline. It is important to cultivate agile culture,  build a quality roadmap to speed up, develop the next practices, but not to be too rigid, and improve overall business agility.



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