Are you transforming the right things, for the right reasons?
What many are calling Agile is not Agile. This misunderstanding leads to misapplication. The result: true Agile transformation remains elusive.
What you do matters; why you do it matters more
Learn from the mistakes of “common wisdom” and discover a proven path to organizational agility – where Mindset Transcends Methodology™.
Pursuing Timeless Agility: the Path to Lasting Agile Transformation
The Book’s Introduction
Agile transformation is hard to achieve. Amen? It is especially difficult when the common notion of what that means is misconstrued. When someone says they are Agile, we can no longer take for granted that we know what they mean. Ask ten different people to define Agile and Agile transformation, and you will get at least a few different answers. Many organizations believe that Agile is the answer to something, yet many are misaligned with the true meaning and intent of Agile. Once upon a time, the struggle was to get Agile in the door. Today, the struggle is to correct the unbridled distortion of Agile and to help undo the damage that misunderstanding has inflicted.
Teams have flocked to Agile to do software development better, but are they really delivering better products? Is your organization always working on the next right thing? Are your teams learning how to deliver the right things more effectively and efficiently? There are many ways to achieve the goal of delivering the right things, and then to deliver them more frequently, yet few achieve it. Some become better at the more frequently part, but fall short on doing the right things. Others continue to struggle in all facets of product development. The “Certification Economy” is partly to blame. In order to get the proverbial Agile foot in the door, early compromises were made to make Agile more palatable for traditional organizations. These compromises have become the norm – despite the divergence from the true intent of Agile.
Organizations love to buy neatly packaged “solutions” that promise to fix their problems. Many believe that merely implementing standardized tools and practices will bring a whole new level of success. Frameworks and certifications around structured methodologies come and go and have been changing as long as I can remember. The “silver bullet” keeps changing.
The more I think about that previous statement, the more convinced I am that it sums up the perpetual problems we face in our organizations. I have come to believe that organizational obsession with buzzwords, frameworks, and certifications are ultimately the reason why organizations fail to achieve true organizational agility in whatever they do. Agile is just one of the more recent topics that touches all three.
Rampant distortion and misuse of Agile has led some coaches to say that Agile is dead. It is not so much that they no longer believe in what Agile represents. Listen to the values and methods these coaches embrace and what you hear will be Agile. Rather, they believe that the word “Agile” is so abused, misunderstood, and misapplied that the term is no longer effective – confusing. It is true, what many call Agile today is not Agile. I do not believe running away from the term is the solution. The values and principles of the Agile Manifesto are timeless – when would you ever not prefer what the Manifesto recommends? When would an empirical approach ever not be the best way to iterate on and produce the right things? Maybe you cannot answer those questions just yet. That is ok. I will expound upon these in the first chapter when I explain what Agile really is, and why it is timeless.
What you will learn in this book is that Agile is NOT dead. What you think Agile is, however, may be challenged or expanded. If I do my job well, you will approach concepts you think you understand from a different perspective. The way I think may not be right or best, but hopefully it helps you to get better in your quest for Agile transformation.
I believe that Mindset Transcends Methodology™. Your understanding impacts what you do and how you do it. What you believe and value is the foundation from which all else derives. How you do your work will change over time as you learn and grow, but why you do what you do transcends all of those changes. Until your organization collectively bases everything it does off of that foundational mindset, it will never achieve true organizational agility, or Timeless Agility.
Timeless Agility is the outcome of a mindset that transcends methodology. It consistently allows you to effectively and efficiently identify, produce, and deliver the next right thing.
To attain Timeless Agility, that elusive organizational agility, your entire organization needs to think differently. Agile transformation, therefore, is going to be more about transforming minds than practices. Some will say adopting new practices leads to new mindsets. That can certainly happen in parallel within development teams. However, non-development teams do not follow the same practices. Organizational agility requires everyone working from the same mindset. I will dig deeper into being enterprise-aware in Chapter Three, What is Timeless Agility?
The first half of this book focuses on what Agile really is, what much of industry thinks it is and how they do it, and then aims to help you see where your current thinking and activity fits within all of that. I believe you must first recognize what problem you need to solve before you take steps in a different direction. As I hope you will see in Chapters Four and Five, the “do then become” Agile argument is not always a sound approach. What many organizations are doing does not align with what Agile intended in the first place. Teams cannot become Agile if what they are doing is not Agile.
The latter half of the book provides practical advice for how to move your organization toward Timeless Agility. Pursuing Timeless Agility is about establishing the foundations that will stand the test of time, outlive the latest “best practices,” and allow you to roll from one paradigm shift to another without losing your organizational agility. I will provide some insight on how to begin, and how to progress. The guidance includes both approach and tactics. Lastly, the final, and largest, chapter focuses on how to measure success. What I suggest goes against the grain of “common wisdom.” Like anything else in this book, consume it with an open mind and evaluate it accordingly.
A slight shift in perspective changes everything.
I assume you desire organizational agility and transformation, but there are obstacles keeping you from realizing that vision. Rest assured, you are not alone. Very few organizations have actually achieved organization-wide transformation. I think many are on the wrong path altogether. Certifications are not a guarantee of success. Despite the Project Management Professional (PMP) ® certification having been around since 1984, many organizations still fail to perform traditional project management really well. The path to Agile transformation is no different. I tell you this, not to diminish your hope, but to highlight the fact that transformation is challenging. Perhaps the common approaches and thought processes taught are not necessarily what you should emulate. To get over that proverbial hump, it is time to look at this from a different perspective. This book will show you Agile through a different lens than you may be wearing right now. Embrace it and evaluate for yourself.
Before You Begin
- Write down the problem you are trying to solve by reading this book. We will refer back to this later.
- Find three to five other people to read this book with to strategically tag-team on transformation. A team pushing change is stronger than you alone.
- Keep an open mind. Never say, “that will not work here.” Consider how every idea could be applied.
I encourage you to think very carefully about what problem you are trying to solve by reading this book. Put some solid thought into it and write it down somewhere that you can reference back to later. There are two primary reasons I am asking you to write this down. For starters, I am a firm believer that before you spend any time, effort, and money on something, you should have an understanding of what problem you are trying to solve, or what opportunity you are trying to capture with that effort. Secondly, one of the goals of this book, and something I do as a coach, is to challenge whether or not you are focused on the right problem, or opportunity. If you are not focused on the right thing, for the right reason, what you do cannot achieve your desired outcome. Later in the book, I will ask you to revisit that problem statement to see if you would write it differently.