Agile or Not?

How many times have you met a company owner who claims his company is Agile and you do not see the Agility?

“Agile” and “Business Agility” and “Agile Project Management” are big buzz words. But how many of the companies using them are really Agile?

What is needed?

True Agility actually starts with the mindset, the mindset of the Senior Management to be exact. Unless the Senior Managers have truly moved away from traditional top-down approaches and trust their staff to make decisions and are willing to let go of decision making, you will never reach Agility. So when your boss claims he wants Agile, look at the changes he is implementing in Finance and Procurement. If you do not see any changes there and you do not see decision making being decentralized, you will not see true Agility.

But remember it is a process. If a boss wants to call his company Agile, but is not yet there, then work with him. Take the bits and pieces of Agility he is embracing, run with them and keep spreading the news about how to make a business fully Agile.

The Beginnings

This is how most companies begin their journey to Agile:

  1. The boss reads up on it and maybe sends someone else for training or shares articles
  2. They will start doing “Stand-up meetings”, but they are not true stand-ups. Often you stand for 45-60min and simply stand through a normal update meeting.
  3. There will be attempts to define sprints, but they will often be sequential and the team has no real decision making powers.
  4. An Agile approach practitioner may or may join the team. He will have the position of “Agile Project Manager”, which in itself is a misnomer.
  5. Projects will continue being run mainly in waterfall, with some hybrid elements.
  6. Teams will be way too big to be Agile – remember an Agile team should be 5-7 people

If you see any of the above symptoms or all, don’t despair! At least you have started the journey into Agility. Usually the team members will start reading up on Agile, Training will be offered by the company. Then slowly, as more and more employees start preaching the Agile gospel, things will start to change.

What can you do?

You can play a big role pushing the Agile journey forward. Here are a few tips:

  • Don’t block the development – don’t complain
  • Keep preaching the gospel of Agile, in a kind and friendly way.
  • Keep discussing with your colleagues. Focus on the good parts
  • Read up on and understand Hybrid – it can be a stepping stone to fully Agile
  • Some projects can never be fully Agile – they have elements that have to follow each other in sequence and / or build up on each other. Embrace it!
  • Bring up suggestions about taking decision making to the team. Try to introduce it slowly. Remember your boss needs to unlearn old habits and still needs to fully understand that Agile needs to apply to all parts of the company
  • Keep in your mind, that Finance & Procurement will most likely be the last departments to change. They have the hardest learning process and the most to unlearn. And Senior Management needs to understand first that certain decisions can be made by junior people
  • Help your Senior Management by showing them that you and your team can make responsible decisions. Start by bringing them as suggestions and being part of the solution finding. Your Senior Managers will learn slowly
  • Suggest a pilot in Agile projects. They will not be fully Agile, but you can showcase how it is done
  • Practice with your team how to do Stand-up meetings, and teach them the difference to normal reporting meetings
  • Define which projects are suitable for an Agile approach and which are not
  • Help all stakeholders to move from thinking of deliverables to thinking of benefits. What do you want to achieve with this deliverable? What is the aim, what is the end goal? It will help all in their individual journey to Agile
  • Help people understand that Agile is about people, working with people, understanding people, empathy and working as a team. It is not just about outputs.
It is a Journey

The road to Agile and Agile Business is a long journey, we all need to keep learning new things and unlearning old habits. Make it fun and sit with your team / your colleagues challenging each other to move forward.

Take every little step the company makes in the right direction and embrace it. It may be frustrating and minuscule, but you are 1 step closer to becoming Agile. Do Retrospectives with your team and analyze where you have reached. Look back and admire how far you have come, then get ready for the next step forward.

You will eventually reach a much more Agile place and you will start enjoying the benefits. You will also learn a lot yourself and grow in Agile.

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