The Promise of Agile – How Do We Keep It?

Three persons looking at the contents of a treasure chest.

The promise of agile is impressive:

Those are some quite ambitious goals. And probably necessary.

The world and our insights about it are changing fast. We have a lot of needs that must be met now, if we want to survive. And we can't afford not being sustainable.

So, what stops us from doing this?

One blocker is when we can't see the answer to precisely that question. When we don't understand the nature of our problems properly.

The agile ways of working can bring that understanding to us.

Create More Value

Do we know what value is? If we don't, we can't focus on it together.

Surprisingly often, people in organizations have a very vague picture of what their own value creation is about.

They often know exactly what they do. But do they know what needs they meet?

If we want to be better at creating value together, we must be in agreement on what value is. We must know who smiles because of what we do. And why they smile.

Here, the agile ways of working can help. The tools help us be more specific together about what "more value" means in our world.

Sooner

Do we know what's stopping us? Why can't we have at least some of that value after only six weeks? Why do we have to wait until the end of the quarter?

Before we start to look at what the actual blockers to our value creation are, we tend to have a lot of beliefs.

We might believe that the problem is that some people can't write fast enough. That they are incompetent. Or lazy.

Once we start to look at the actual situation we see other things.

We see that slow progress could be an indicator of a lack of understanding between people from all over the value stream. Also that we can't prioritize, so we start too many things and more seldom finish them.

Or that it is a consequence of us being too vague about what value is, and what needs to meet. As we saw before. Not so much about "some people are working too little and too slow".

Here, the agile ways of working can help. The tools help us visualize our value streams and see what the actual blockers are about.

Sustainable and Empowering

Sometimes you can use force to make things go a little faster. But not forever. It will not be sustainable.

Instead, when we try to do complex things together, force will often slow things down. It makes the situation worse, and the value stops flowing.

As we see what our value streams acutally look like, we see that having too much on our plate at the same time is a cause to our slow progress.

We see that the blockers are in the mutual knowledge creation we need to create value.

Pushing for more things and adding stress will not help. Empowering people to make decisions about their own work will.

If we do it in a structured way, within a direction setting and transparent collaboration framework.

Here, the agile ways of working can help. By providing the transparent framework for productive distribution of authority.

When Change Comes

We should be able to handle change instead of following a plan all the time. That was the lesson the early agilists wanted to give us.

Because waiting for value is a cost. So for how long should we walk the wrong track? For how long should we go around understanding that the value we are after lies somewhere else?

How much will the inability to change cost us before we learn how to reconsider our decisions? And reconsider them often?

In essence, much of the agile tools, frameworks and methods, are about being able to replan. Every day, week, second week, month, quarter, and year.

And do so motivated by our evolving understanding.

Understanding of value. Understanding about how to create it together.

This is what the agile ways of working help us with.

Your Homework

Consider the promise of agile:

What abilities do you need to grow, in order to keep this promise?

Make a list of what you need. Talk to others in your organization about your insights.

And ask them about theirs.

I Can Help!

If you want to receive some help keeping the promise of agile, just let me know!

Be it workshops, trainings, self-study material, or something else.

Did you give trainings as well?