What is Agile? It is revolutionary. A completely different approach to work in the 21st century. It introduces different rules to what we’re traditionally used to. Pre-defined plans, processes and hierarchical control mechanisms can often be thrown out here.
What is Agile?
Agility is the ability to move quickly and easily. The Agile movement was founded in 2001, when 17 people put together the Agile Manifesto. They share a sympathy for the lightweight approach to software development. In their own words, they have a somewhat anarchistic attitude, they’re not so fond of organisation rules. Rules often get in the way of achieving actual results. Agile in the organisational context thus has two core meanings:
- A quality: being able to move quickly and easily. The organization can adapt to a changing, complex environment.
- An attitude: a no-nonsense focus on achieving results and thus scrapping unnecessary rules.
Providing a service to a client is not a standard process. It takes an empirical approach. Learning by
doing, in short cycles, with concrete results. Just look at the Agile Manifesto. The items on the left are values that belong to empirical processes. Steer towards results that work by trusting people and their forms of cooperation. Build relationships of trust with your clients and suppliers rather than drafting specific contracts that keep you in a stranglehold. Base them on an environment in which changes are always taking place. Making plans is very useful, documenting what you’ve done is too. However, all the items on the right must serve those on the left. The defined processes are summarized on the right.
Ask your client
Defined processes are great for standard products. If we were to make products that are the same each time, like on a conveyor belt, then the right side works perfectly. Companies in industrial society have grown by setting up standard processes. In the 21st century, the majority of our work is providing services. People don’t buy a hotel, but an overnight stay. This can be done much cheaper with Airbnb because existing homes are used rather than hotels. The same applies to Uber, they don’t provide a taxi, but a way of getting from A to B.
Then listen to your client
The Manifesto shows that it’s not about that one perfectly outlined approach. However good a hotel or taxi is, it must meet customer demand. This also applies to banks, insurance and the government. If you listen to clients and you can constantly adjust your product or service to them then you are flexible, Agile. So if you want to learn Agile, it’s not about a certification, method or trick. Unfortunately no company can apply standard procedures in order to be successful in the 21st century.
This is why we talk about an Agile mindset. You make a difference not by doing Agile methods or frameworks, but by being Agile. Many large organizations want to be more versatile and flexible, but in the way they have always worked. In other words:
- with plans that are clearly defined beforehand.
- with control by means of contracts and overly long agreements.
- with the help of work descriptions and specific processes.
But unfortunately this is really the opposite of Agile. Being flexible is a form of letting go, getting away from the clutches of control. When companies want to get the full benefits of Agile working, they need to study the left side and apply it. The benefits are endorsed by many, and they include:
- Adaptability to changing priorities (88%)
- Increased team productivity (83%)
- Accelerated time to market (81%)
- Team motivation and involvement (81%)
People are key
For too long, organizations have considered people as a means of production. Agile puts a stop to this and says: ‘Hang on a minute, people are at the heart of the organization’. Organizations are thus almost forced to make more room for people and interactions. Simply discussing things more often, giving feedback and creating valuable products for clients.
Join the revolution!
Why is this really so difficult for us? Why don’t I know how I contribute with my work? Continuous learning from actions is far from easy. And yet every month or less, delivering something of value to the client is infectious, almost addictive. Thanks to Agile working, people are key again. The compelling social component that makes Agile revolutionary!
Want to know more about the different Agile roles?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: ABRAM JANSE
Abram Janse is a trainer and coach at Gladwell Academy. He supports the development of social innovativeness and specializes in interactive Agile & change management training courses. In order to do this he uses serious gaming, gamification and online learning platforms to convey knowledge and skills playfully and in an enjoyable way.