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Being vs. Doing

Updated: Sep 22, 2023

Agile Digital Transformation

Agile methodologies have been widely adopted and appreciated for its flexibility, adaptability, and focus on continuous improvement. First introduced in software development (2001), it is now applied and used across all departments of a business. Often seen as the “silver bullet” and something that would transform their business, people implementing “Agile” have often not understood the fundamentals and the underlying spirit of Agile. Values and principles are the foundation of Agility - not the methodologies and as such, they need to be understood and embraced before even thinking about implementing anything. And it needs to start at the top. That is why we say that “Agile is something to be and not something to do”.

Recently, the perception and people’s opinion has shifted and Agile has started to get a bad reputation. Is it justified? Where does it come from? Let me give you my opinion of why this perception and opinion has started to arise and spread.

  • Poor implementation: As stated above, Agile requires a cultural shift. In most cases that I have observed where Agile supposedly failed, companies have implemented Agile in name only without actually adopting its values and principles, leading to problems that were blamed on the methodology. Agile also requires an environment where collaboration is encouraged and competent people are given autonomy to form self-organised teams.

  • Lack of upfront design, planning and documentation: Agile promotes evolutionary design and refactoring, but some interpret this as an excuse not to think about design upfront at all. This is a big mistake and will lead to “technical debt” (software development) and rework and most likely a significant waste of time. And while Agile encourages responding to change over following a plan, and values working product or service over comprehensive documentation, this doesn't mean that Agile projects should lack any planning or documentation. In fact, without a solid plan, don’t even think about Agile. The plan and the way to go about planning is just different then traditional projects and allows you to go to market faster and deliver value sooner.

  • Overemphasis on speed: Agile's emphasis on speed and continuous delivery can sometimes lead to burnout and quality issues if not managed properly. Also, the pressure to deliver can cause teams to cut corners. Agile is not a silver bullet and it's not suitable for every project. Sometimes it is misunderstood and misused, leading to frustration and unsuccessful projects.

  • Agile transformations: Last but not least, many large organizations attempt to transform their entire business Agile all at once (see the irony?). This can cause a lot of disruption and can be difficult to manage, leading to negative experiences.

With proper understanding, implementation, and management, Agile can be very effective. If Agile is receiving negative feedback in your specific context, it would be important to understand the specific circumstances and reasons why. From my experience, issues with agility are generally not due to the Agile methodology, but rather how it's implemented and managed.

References & Interesting Read:

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