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Doing Agile vs Being Agile

Agile’ and ‘Digital Transformation’ used to have a connotation of excitement and held a lot of weight. Unfortunately like anything when something is misused or misinterpreted, it has begun to lose some of its magic.

Agile methodology is actually about new ways of working - and that is at the core of any successful business transformation (digital or not). The challenge for many businesses is distinguishing what is doing agile’ and what is ‘being agile'. And to be clear from the off-set, these are very different things.

“Being agile focuses on team and leadership mindset, as well as behaviors and adoption. Being agile is more about living the principles and values of agile while doing agile is more about following the processes established by methodologies like Scrum, Kanban, or SAFe.” - Zenergy Technologies

The tricky part about agile is that it’s actually a “theory” and as such there isn’t really a way to measure“how much of an agile company you are”, often the only real way of knowing is when you’re put to the test.

And it’s been quite the test for some businesses, with many learning that perhaps they weren’t as adaptive or responsive to change as they thought (or would have liked to be).

Based on this, it felt like a good opportunity to share some learnings from customers, and ourselves, and outline some of the key differences between ‘doing’ and ‘being’.

The change in management behaviour

The term empowerment is huge here - and it’s much easier to say than it is to do. In a truly agile environment, managers have to give it and people have to accept it, and trust that they can make decisions without getting into trouble.

The need for true transparency

Working so collaboratively demands a new level of transparency, and an open approach to change. Any organisational change can be incredibly fragile, and it only takes one person to derail or halt it.

Alignment on what constitutes value

This is at the heart of being agile. Often people can say they agree but they still work to their own agenda, and if you aren’t aligned it can often end up with the most senior person in the room making the decision, which is the opposite of what should be happening.

Agile is everyone’s job

Everyone in the organisation - from CEO to intern - needs to be onboard and accept the change in their role and to others. Agile can’t just be delegated out.

a sprintWagile/Agile theatre

What we’re talking about here is when everyone is using the language (talking about sprints, squads etc)but not adopting the ways of working. Often we see this with waterfall projects being broken down into sprints. A core element of agile is that you change direction based on what's happened at the end of a sprint, not just work through the motions of a project plan.

At the end of the day - our biggest learning has been that agile is a mindset, not a posture. It is an ongoing, ever-evolving, journey that must be constantly worked on.

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