Do you need to have everyone in the organisation understand, respect, and accept Agile and its practice to be successful?
A very topical and thought-provoking question given the prevalence of the words ‘agile’ and ‘business agility’ in the current marketplace.
Yes, in the ideal world, of course having everyone in an organisation first understand, then respect and accept agile would facilitate the success of agile practices in an organisation. Does this mean that suddenly everyone needs to become experts in Scrum, SAFe, XP, AgilePM®, DevOps or Kanban to name a few? No.
Consider ‘Cut the Jargon’:
“My finance department doesn’t expect me to be a CPA – why does my PMO expect me to be a PRINCE2® expert.”
PM-Partners PMO Trends Report 2015
Now replace “PRINCE2” with “Agile”. Understanding, respecting and accepting agile practices does not mean that everyone has to be a Scrum Master.
Ask 3 people in your organisation what ‘agile’ is. Expect 3 different answers. Ask another 3 people and yes, you guessed it, you will get another 3 different answers. Put simply, you will end up with an array of answers.
Agile is a very broad term and is defined and viewed in different ways throughout the agile community and the business. For some typical agile thoughts centre around flexibility, responsiveness and collaboration. Agile covers not only specific ‘agile methods’; it is about behaviours, concepts and techniques and is often viewed as a change of mindset, a way of thinking.
As per the often quoted ‘Agile Manifesto’, agile is about valuing the importance of:
- Individuals and interactions
- Working products (originally software but now extended to any environment)
- Customer collaboration
- Responding to change
Understanding that agile ways are often very different to what has been done in the past is the first step in appreciating its value. But be aware of extremes – don’t fall into the trap that agile is an on/off switch and that ‘traditional’ ways are now ‘wrong’.
“…it is a case of relative importance of values, and not a case of ‘good’ or ‘bad’”
If there is no credibility, how can we respect something? For some, a base understanding is enough for acceptance. For others there is a need to not just understand, but to respect something seemingly new or different.
Interestingly, agile approaches have been around and applied successfully for well over a decade so realistically we are not in the early adoption category. Some ‘agilists’ even debate that we have reached the ‘late majority’ time for agile practices; time will tell.
So yes, for agile practices to be successful, agile itself requires the right amount of respect. Respect that if understood and used appropriately, agile ways can and do add value. Remember agile behaviours such as collaboration can be used successfully in more conventional settings.
Agile practices are more likely to succeed long term only if supported and accepted by the organisation as a whole. In essence, if senior management does not embrace and act accordingly to an agile mindset then acceptance throughout the rest of the organisation becomes diluted.
Accepting agile ways is about being agile
Agile ways include:
- Being available for timely decisions, now and as required (not an appointment in a diary)
- Ensuring a no-blame culture – errors will happen but let’s learn from them…
- Facilitating an environment of trust at all levels – people closest to the work usually know best how to get the work done
- Being transparent – the more information that is out in the open the better
- Enabling true collaboration – a motivated team is greater than the sum of its parts
Consider actually being agile in your understanding, respecting and acceptance of agile ways. Start living and experiencing agile. After all:
“You do not have to see the whole staircase. Just take the first step…”
Martin Luther King, jr
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