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No nonsense Agile: Why true agility is simplicity

October 30, 2020

I read a lot of discussions on social and professional media about the idea that “Agile just doesn’t work,” or “Agile is misunderstood,” or even that “Agile has become too commercial” with all its certifications and maturity levels.

I can agree with the charge that Agile is something that’s commonly misunderstood. Agile is not a method or a certification – and it’s not an organizational structure or a mindset. You can be Agile as a person or organization. A jaguar is Agile. You can have a mindset that helps you be Agile, but Agile is not an “instruction” – it’s a quality.

Agile is – according to the dictionary – “the ability to move quickly and easily.” If we translate this to business terminology, it means that organizations are able to move quickly and respond to changing circumstances. New regulations? We can adjust our systems in a matter of days. A new feature on our platform? We can implement that in a few weeks. A new app? We can develop that in a matter of weeks or months.

The bottom line of most internet discussions boils down to what we need to do to achieve agility. Which method should we use? How do we tailor that method to our unique situation? How do we change our culture and mindset? How do we scale?

Several scaling methods have received criticism as being overly complex, with too much terminology and too many roles and prescriptive measures. There’s also criticism that many Agile methods focus too much on soft skills and organizational aspects – and not enough on developers’ technical skills.

In this article, I am going to make “Agile” really simple and take you back to the basics. In order to achieve true business agility, I recommend that you:

  1. Work with small, multi-disciplinary teams of skilled developers
  2. Give them the right tools and environment
  3. Make sure the teams can work as much as possible – independently from each other
  4. Have visionary decisionmakers on a team level who can devise what to do next.

The struggle for organizations is how to get there. If teams are still dependent on each other, you need some sort of coordination structure. If they are working in a monolithic legacy system, it might be difficult to have them work independently. If management requires extensive upfront planning, teams will be held accountable for results they cannot promise to deliver. In order to achieve points 1 to 4 mentioned above you should look at:

  1. Rebuilding your IT architecture and software design so teams can work independently. Building in the cloud often facilitates this
  2. Implementing DevOps principles and practices
  3. Making sure you hire and retain the right people
  4. Having managers that understand and practice the Agile mindset
  5. Supporting transformative leaders who enable cultural change.

Many organizations are inherently complex – and this diminishes their agility. The simpler your organization is, the more Agile you can become – simplification is the key.

Contact me here to discuss how we can help you tackle complexity and simplify your teams to become the truly Agile organization you envision.