The organizations journey becoming♾️agile

07 Feb 2022 02:11 PM By itSMF Staff

Reading time: ~ 7 min.

The organizations journey becoming agile

Decide timely, commit late, fail smart and learn fast, deliver bettersolutions and experience to customers, challenge each other to improve. 

These are some aspects of agility that attract more and more organizations that want to become agile. 

Companies recognize the benefits they can harness from implementing agile ways of working. But they often have practices at odds with and lack a culture that can sustain agility. 

So how can we help on this agile journey? How do we nurture an agile mindset and culture in organizations?

Mindset and modernity of agile manifesto

The Agile Manifesto celebrated its 20th Anniversary this year, so is it still relevant to the agile mindset and business agility?

Some details have aged, such as the reference to 2 weeks delivery cycle in the third principle when elite performers now deploy multiple times a day. 

The reference to projects in the fifth principle is also at odds with the Lean-inspired focus on Product/Solution, Value Stream, and Flow which now permeates agile thinking. 

Many things have changed in the last 20 years. However, the manifesto still feels incredibly modern, often giving a sense of premonition exactly because it focuses on the agile mindset.

«Imposing agile methods introduces a conflict with the values and principles that underlie agile methods.»

Martin Fowler, Agile Manifesto co-author

We actually need more reading, discussing and understanding of the Agile Manifesto. Because a critical problem the agile movement faces is the commercialization of " doing Agile", while ignoring the mindset and culture needed (and don't try to impose a mindset either... ). 

The manifesto is not there to guide the scaling of agility to the corporate world. Not even is here to guide leadership practices in the 21st century. 

So how can we help share the manifesto with the whole company and drive our agile culture? 

👉 The Agile Manifesto for Business Solutions

«True business value lies in solutions. A solution is the assimilation of everything: change, software, processes, hardware, marketing, etc. 

I call this full delivery.»

Arie van Bennekum, Agile Manifesto co-author

Following Arie  van  Bennekum's lead, replacing Software with Solutions in the manifesto makes it easier to discuss with the whole organization. 

It highlights that agility is best suited to unique and emergent types of work: evolving products, solutions and services

Agile development includes the entire cycle: Ideation, Pretotype (testing the business case), MVP, Minimum Business Increments of a solution until completion ( no longer used or changed significantly). 

It also creates a strong bridge between what happens 'in IT' and what the company needs to un-learn to evolve an agile mindset. It makes it clear that business agility is a team sport that plays across the organization.

👉Agile organizations: the invitation to a journey

So reading and discussing the Agile Manifesto is an excellent first step to get the basics of an agile mindset discussed across an organization.

Maybe try and display the Agile Solutions Manifesto poster and invite people to discuss and sign it!

«We are unconvering better ways of developing software by doing it and helping others do it

Agile Manifesto

It is also an invitation to share our respective agile experiences, reflect and share what we have learned so far and continue the journey. 

Beyond the Agile Manifesto

Before diving in, consider checking this animation from Barry L Smith, a great refresher on the origins of Lean and Agile.

👉Agile movement influences

In the Simplified History of the Agile movement influences shown above, the influence of TPS (Toyota Production System), Lean and Kanban on Lean Software and DevOps, enables a shift from teams and projects to organizations and products.

This evolution has brought flow and continuous everything (delivery, monitoring, control, experiment, etc) centre stage, underpinned by continuous learning and improvement.

👉Growth Mindset

«Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better

Samuel Beckett (1906-1989)

Agility is about adaptability and response to change, at the personal, team, and organization levels. The agile mindset is foremost a growth mindset that supports experimenting and improving.
As Linda Rising explains, our brain changes when we learn new things, so we need to support a mindset that welcomes and grows with change.By encouraging effort and learning, including failing better, you prime that growth mindset. But let's look at the theory of mindset building. 

👉Mindset building theory

«Mindset theory is about responses to challenges or setbacks.»

David Yeager & Carol Dweck

It is not enough to expect that «the brain is like a muscle—it gets stronger (and smarter) when you exercise it », or explain that «You exercise your brain by working on material that makes you think hard. »

Recent research by Dweck shows that building a growth mindset is a complex problem.
Intervention on growth mindset needs to be customized to the group and only makes sense in context using an experimental approach, it needs agility!

👉Be Intentional

As a leader, it is then possible to start building a culture aligned to your goals (including leadership here from team level to CEO!).

The relevant groups need to come together to work out values, principles, patterns, practices that will help them achieve their target outcomes.

This approach is called Intentional Mindset (Gil  Broza). Leadership needs to be intentional about the culture they want to create and be role models.

It is an invitation from the top and commitment at top and bottom to become agile and do agile in an environment fostering transparency, respect, safety and trust: Servant-Leadership supporting active engagement.

👉Apply agility to agility

Building this intentional mindset requires an experimental and incremental approach which, as described in Sooner Safer Happier, needs to « apply agility to agility» where you need to be agile  at becoming agile. 

Beware of planned agile adoptions or transformations. A big-bang planned approach to Becoming agile is, at best, creating awareness on conditions for agility.

But change needs engagement and commitment that only come from a journey of experimenting, learning and improving.

«The bridge from principles to practices is patterns. A pattern can be satisfied with any number of practices, resulting in freedom of choice in terms of practices selected.»

Daniel Mezick

Patterns play a critical role in this journey as they allow substantial freedom when applying principles.

They let you customize your practices for your context while being less divisive. Beware of context-free copying, practices need to be tailored to your organization based on proven patterns where possible.

Agile and organizations: the conclusion

Building an agile mindset to sustain Business Agility is a journey that never ends and takes many influences. It is a critical foundation for organizations hoping to become agile.

It starts with understanding the Agile Manifesto in the context of products and solutions delivered by the larger organization. Finally it continues by sharing the agile mindset through metaphors and stories. 

This agile mindset is a growth mindset to improve through experiments, which is based first on learning how to fail better. 

On the journey, you will need to learn by doing and hone your technical skills to sustain your agility. You will teach by coaching and apply agility to agility ( be agile at becoming agile).

Ultimately each company, department, team, you & I need to find their own values, principles and patterns, intentionally and in context, to enable Business Agility across the organization and optimize the whole. 

Building your agile mindset to support autonomous stream aligned teams that focus on outcomes is where Business Agility starts.

Becoming agile organizations: where to start

We can all strive to develop our teams and ourselves in agile ways of working, but how can we help the whole organization on the journey to business agility? 

Becoming agile takes many forms, particularly in large organizations; one size does not fit all. The need to nurture the agile mindset cuts across all initiatives and joining a Community of Practice is an excellent way to address that need across the organization.

Many directions are open such as building an online community, publishing articles or discussing Trust and Servant-Leadership, or sharing the experience of successful teams and leaders, or offering expert advice (coaching on Value Steam Mapping or Theory of Constraints..). 

Organizing events will help along the way. Popular formats include debates, book clubs, and inviting external speakers (or even setting up an internal conference!). 

Extending the community beyond the organization is critical for learning. You could join external groups or associations and support employees speaking on business agility at conferences. 

By joining the conversation, you will help nudge the organization towards business agility and give critical support to early adopters. And don't forget posters and stickers.

You'll soon be making videos and be well on your way to experiment with new approaches to Becoming agile! Indeed a CoP is a unique way to gather energy and engagement, identify and support your agility champions and innovators.

This can help the organizations become agile, providing a space for learning and experimenting at the grassroots. It is all part of Becoming agile!   

Post extracted and translated by itSMF. 
Author: Brice Beard, 2021.03.24 
Quote and copyright: Linkedin

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itSMF Staff