What is Agile

93% Of business units that fully adopted an agile approach before the Covid19 pandemic did better than business units that hadn’t

Agile is so much more than project management. It’s a set of principles that help your organisation transform and adapt to change in highly disruptive markets. It’s collaborative, responsive and values people and interactions, over processes and tools.

The Agile MEthod

Debunking the Myths of Agile

The following myths are actual comments heard over many years of working with clients. It is vital to debunk these as they can disrupt how you transform your organisation.

Although the Agile Manifesto clearly states that one of its key values is to deliver working software, Agile is now much broader. In a modern Agile organisation, Agile principles is used in every area of the business.  

Agile is not a prescriptive methodology. It is about the cultural behaviour and mindset of an organisation not a step-by-step guide to delivering projects. Some of its practices and techniques can be used in the management of projects, but in a world where teams are under pressure to deliver value continuously, the age of project delivery is rapidly going out of fashion. Modern Agile organisations will be structured with Product and Service Value Streams, where cross functional teams get as close to their customers as possible and keep feedback loops tight. 

This is the greatest myth of them all. And one which causes the most frustration for coaches and consultants. Time and again when working with organisations going through transformation, the onus is on the teams. Their middle and senior managers tend to continue doing what they have always done. And it doesn’t work. Transformation must start with management, because to change the culture of the business, the way of working across all departments, and the way that value is delivered to your customers, everyone must be on board. 

On the contrary, planning is a crucial activity in any Agile team’s work. But instead of large scale timeframes and rigid plans with fixed milestones and dates that are more than likely to change, Agile relies on short incremental planning for the short term with a variable road map for the long term. This means accurate estimates for project delivery, less risk and the ability to be adaptable and responsive to changes in needs.   

Not quite. Of course Agile is flexible and responsive, but there still needs to be a level of control to protect the sustainability of the team and also the quality standards for the work. Rather than changing scope at will, we lockdown change during a sprint of circa 2 weeks. During this time, teams concentrate on the work in the sprint. Should there be an urgent change in need that cannot wait, then we negotiate that a lower priority item will be dropped out. This gives the team the confidence to push back on any work that should not be in the sprint and stops unnecessary delays in delivery.  

Documentation and Governance is absolutely necessary, especially in complex product development. The Agile manifesto describes the need for documentation as important, but not as important as working products. Therefore, we suggest doing just enough without the need to have 100s of pages of specifications that are likely to change. The team can build it up as they go along once a user story has been delivered.  

Just because Agile creates flexibility, it does not mean that time and costs cannot be set. Agile teams will work with a prioritised backlog, ensuring that their users receive the highest priority items first, operating at a sustained pace to deliver as much value as possible within a fixed time frame. As mentioned though – the age of project delivery is rapidly becoming outdated, with the onus instead in creating a continuous flow of value to your customers. 

Agile teams are not necessarily capable of working faster. Instead, we help to identify the sorts of delays and waste that are prevalent in product and service delivery to enable the delivery process to move faster. But this does take time, and once the motivated team can get into a state of high performance, their capability to deliver faster will increase. However, they will require the support of leadership to help clear the way for teams to thrive. 

Well, not exactly. Agile cannot fix all the problems in a team or organisation. However, what is can do is offer good visibility of the work, show transparency and uncover the problems to allow for positive change. But this requires the support of leadership to be fully aware of what is preventing this change and be motivated to do so. 

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