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What Agile Is and What It Isn't

What Agile Is And What It Isn't

Yet another definition of Agile

'Agile' has become a buzzword across many professions. Advisors, analysts, and random strangers tell us what it takes to become agile

Expectedly, this hype covers up the lack of generally accepted definitions and standard concepts, so for some advisors, ' agile' means 'resilient,' for others – 'flexible.' 

Some advisors suggest differentiating 'agile' and 'Agile' (the adjective vs. the one following the Agile Manifesto). Still, most of them provide explanations along the lines of 'to be agile… procurement organizations need to have the knowledge and ability to move quickly.'

Let us increase the entropy by suggesting yet another 

definition of Agile – the shortest sustainable lead time between the business requirement formulation and benefits realization. 

Intuitively, this is the spot-on formulation of the critical competitive advantage of any business – being able to turn time and money into value ASAP.

10-step journey to Agility

There is no single path to Agility. "The journey of thousand miles begins with a single step." 

We suggest the start this journey in 10 baby steps.

Agile doesn't replace Waterfall but complements it

It is one of the operating modes, which complements (not replaces) the legacy' Waterfall one. Core business functions and systems would still require the traditional stability, quality, and reliability approach. 

Therefore, your control panel must allow switching modes depending on the nature of the business requirement.

The path to Agility starts with the horizontal alignment  

One cannot be agile within their cubicle only. One weak link breaks the entire value stream. Agility is a fluid that freely flows through the inter-functional and departmental borders.

Agility means incremental value delivery.

Every iteration must have a measurable outcome. Define the project roadmap, split it into equal increments, and request deliverables at the end of each. 

Do not start a new cycle before assessing the outcome of the predecessor.

Do not think technical terms. Think business requirements

Agility does not favor specifications, as there are different ways to deliver value. 

Whenever you want to buy something, think of its value, rather than how it has to work or look. Trust suppliers to suggest the realization of what your business demands and let the value measure success.

Agile means trust and collaboration 

There is no agility in the corporate red tape or twisting the supplier's arms for endless discounts.

Agile is the time-to-market

Once you have rushed for another round of negotiations, extra scrutiny of supplier's offer, a new cycle of legal reviews - think about the cost of delay of a new product market entry. 

You need to weigh the additional discount value at stake or the magnitude of a risk not fully mitigated vs. delayed revenue. 

Agile means unconventional

Think and act differently, be creative, find unusual methods to resolve typical problems.

Agile is not afraid of failures. 

The faster you fail, the cheaper it is for the business, as long as you have made the correct conclusions and set your team for success.

Agile is an open relationship, not a marriage contract 

Boilerplate contracts, precise specifications, all-purpose RFPs are not suited for Agility. 

You cannot train Agile mindset; you have to live by it

Agile is the change of culture and mentality. It is not a topical cure for minor itching. It assumes the revision of daily habits.  

We only wanted to persuade you that becoming 'agile' is possible with these proposed steps. Our existing processes already contain the means for Agility, and you do not need to wait for the corporate big-bang change management program to run your first sprints. 

Try to apply the agile methodology to the process of becoming agile. Create a vision, specify a roadmap, and identify an MVP – the best level of Agility you can reach without significant changes to corporate processes – and start reaching out increment-by-increment. 

You would not believe how much it can achieve with a will, method, and consistency.

The dynamic nature of Agile comprehension

In this blog, we went into all tiny facets of Agile transformation:
  • customer value and competitive advantage;
  • heroic and post-heroic leadership;
  • negotiations with an Agile mindset;
  • Agile vs. Lean;
  • Organizational ambidexterity, and so many more.
Still, some typical delusions remain out there as to what Agile is, when it appeared, and who's capable of implementing it.

Apologies if this post came late for some readers or seems oversimplified for others - the logical framework is dynamic and keeps changing as the subject knowledge develops.   

What Agile is and what it isn't (no dogmas!)

Herein, we tried to summarize some popular frames regarding Agile. 

Agile is the software development method.

Agile is the philosophy and methodology using the core set of values and principles from the Agile Manifesto. 

Scrum and other Agile methods of software development are the applications of Agile in that particular field.

Similarly, Agile can be applied to HR, Finance, procurement, negotiations, and other business functions and processes, where the core methodology will enable efficiencies and improvements. 

Agile is better than traditional methodologies.

Agile isn't better than Waterfall or Lean as such. It's better suited for particular environments and attributes of a process or a product.

Agile works perfectly for emerging needs, unclear technical requirements, custom made-to-order products, high risks with undefined returns.

Regular replenishment, systematic elimination of waste, tireless cost optimization, long-term supplier development - all of that is not suitable for Agile. 

Agile isn't an answer to every need. It is a tool, which works well when applied topically.   

Agile is about doing things fast.

This statement misses one crucial adverb - "sustainably," i.e., regularly, usually, consistently.

When the big boss orders and people throw apart all tasks at hand to make sudden miracles - it's not Agile. 

"You're only as #agile as your ability to ship frequently and without drama."  

Agile transformation requires heroic leadership.

There's still a belief that significant transformations need to be guided by epic heroes. 

Agile transformation requires shared leadership and change management via the network of motivated and empowered volunteers. 

John Kotter mentioned in his bestseller "Accelerate: Building the strategic agility for the faster-moving world" (2014):

"The existing structures and processes that together form an organization's operating system need an additional element to address the challenges produced by mounting complexity and rapid change. 

The solution is a second operating system devoted to designing and implementing a strategy that uses an agile, networklike structure and different processes."

He defined eight attributes of that new system, which he called the Strategy Acceleration Network:
  1. Urgency on Big Opportunity
  2. Guiding Coalition of Volunteers
  3. Change Vision and Strategic Initiatives
  4. More and more volunteers
  5. Barriers knocked down
  6. Wins Celebrated
  7. Relentless Action 
  8. Changes Institutionalized.
As you can see, volunteers are the driving force of transformation, not superheroes.

Agile is the new concept recently invented by consultants

Looks pretty much so, especially considering the hype wave around the topic and blanket prescriptions by all consultancy powerhouses to go Agile in every direction.

Agile Manifesto was created in 2001, but Agile-like ideas, concepts, and even realizations have been floating around since the 1940s (or maybe earlier):

1991 - James Martin published the book "Rapid Application Development." 

1948-1975 - Toyota Production System development (just-in-time production).

1943 - Lockheed Martin's Advanced Development Works, aka "Skunk Works."  

Despite everyone's knowledge of these programs and their incredible results, Agile still selling out as the ground-breaking modern development. 

Agile teams are the same as working groups.

Once Agile hits the corporate transformation agenda, some companies believe that good old working groups are the way to go.

Hefty program taskforces assembled chaired by influential executives, top-down hierarchies established with multiple workstreams, and working groups get together to produce tons of progress reports feeding into the PMO trackers.

This approach won't work, as Agile building blocks are different. We explained that in an earlier post and will only provide the summary slide here.

Agile is something you are, not something you do.

This post wasn't meant to celebrate Agile - it's got enough troubadours already.

Agile is the preparedness of mind and the will to exercise it. It's not better or worth than other methodologies. It's one of not so many that actually work. 

Don't think Agile was made for software geeks. It's for everyone who wants to try something different.

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This post first appeared on The Good Spending, please read the originial post: here

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What Agile Is and What It Isn't