Being active in today’s business world, you may find that there is no buzzword cooler than “Agile”. Most of us are unlikely to have a break-room conversation, sit through a board meeting, or read a blog post without running into Agile. But, why? And what impact is that popularity having on our businesses and customers?
Growing up, everyone wanted to be one of “the cool kids”. There were many different groups — those that excelled in sports, academic kids that set standards for success in their respective subjects, and those that were too cool to care about school or sports and focused more on appearance or social influence. With that said, WHO considered you cool had a lot to do with what social circle you were in.
Looking back on the past 20 years of Software Engineering, I think the development world used to be more like this. What was cool had a lot to do with CONTEXT. What are your clients’ needs? What is your organization good at? What type of services do you provide?
Then one day the ultimate cool kid walked through the door…
This kid was so cool they made everyone around them feel inferior and insignificant, no matter how important they once were or how well they were currently meeting the needs of those around them. Naturally, as people got word they began asking the question, “How do I become THAT cool? How do I become AGILE?”
At face value, it’s not a bad question. Agile is pretty great. On a good day, I might even go as far as saying Agile is “cool”. A new pair of Cole Haan’s are pretty cool, but not if what I need right now is a pair of cleats for my summer softball league. Enter my concern with that most popular of questions – “How do I become Agile?”
Over the last 10 years, I’ve helped lead Agile rollouts with companies ranging from 20 to over 100,000 employees, and I can confidently say that most companies asking this need to pause and ask a few more questions. Some might even want to BACKUP and ask these questions, despite already being miles down the Agile rabbit hole.
Now, we won’t pretend to know every single detail necessary to set you and your organization up for a successful Agile Transformation (Happen Technologies would be marketing ourselves much differently if we did!). My hopes, however, are that by taking a few minutes to pause and ponder these questions, people might save themselves (and potentially a list of employees and clients) some significant headache. Because one thing I can say with complete certainty, is that trying to address these questions retroactively is a very difficult road.
- WHO is Agile for (and who isn’t it for)?
- WHAT is Agile (and what is it not)?
- WHEN does Agile succeed (and when does it fail)?
- WHERE do we start?
If you (and most others in your org) can’t answer all or at least most of these, I highly recommend you stop practicing Agile, immediately. There is a fair chance your Agile practices are doing more harm than good. A bad process can be worse than no process. A new bad process is almost definitely worse than whatever process brought you to this point in your company’s success. Don’t replace that process with something unless you have a clear vision of how and why you are doing so.
If, however, you made it through all of those questions fairly unscathed, that’s great! Sounds like Agile is likely the right choice for your team/organization. One last question: Are you READY for it?
I have more to say, but first I’d like to hear from you! Have you ever been a part of an organization as it transitioned to Agile? What was your experience? Did you feel like these questions were relevant to the process? If not, what do you think would have been more helpful? Let’s connect and talk about it!
I’ll begin to dive deeper into these questions (and maybe a few others that you throw at me) in my next post. Thanks for taking the time to read and share your feedback!