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Agile Is For Life, Not Just For Transformation

I have an addiction. Like all addictions, it’s never sated, no matter how much or often I feed it. I always want more. But this is an addiction that I’m happy to have, and actually hope I always will - I’m talking about personal development.Something that I come across often on this journey is people who are 'sorted', which is to say they’ve done their stint of seminars and feel that they can now sit back and relax.The truth, however, is that this work is never done.It’s a constant visiting and revisiting of one’s self; making changes and improvements, seeing the results of that, and then revisiting it again, possibly using different “tools”.Sound familiar?So, the other day I was feeding the personal development rat by listening to one of my favourite podcasts during my Commuterversity ( "Becoming Superhuman" Podcast Ep.240 interviewing David Hauser ). David was talking about making his tracking templates available publicly, with the caveat that he is editing them because what he needed to track, and how he needed to track it, will not make sense for everyone. "One size does not fit all."This was timely; for some time I had been working in an organisation that was going through a digital transformation. All the pieces were in place: a fantastic Scrum Master department, multi-discipline Scrum teams with all the relevant roles, sprints being planned and iterations of how the squads were approaching Agile.The focus on a team level was on not settling into a groove; questioning “Is what we are doing and how we are doing it still working/relevant?""Are we creating the value we want, is everyone feeling valued and engaged?"

In my team, in particular, it was amazing to see the journey over a period of 12 months;

More and more confident and self-organising.

Able to discern when things needed to be revisited.

Less and less afraid to call out when things were no longer as effective as they had been.

Here’s the thing, this self-awareness and reviewing just didn’t seem to be operating at the top level of the organisation. The self-organisation of an Agile team should be reflected on a broader level in the wider organisation.All the way to the top.

What struck me as I was listening to this podcast was that this was not the case here; it was very much top-down. When the people at the top have a certain vision of how Agile will improve what is already there, you run the risk of ending up with an apparently Agile structure that simply serves to support a fixed, waterfall vision.“Hey guys, can you get this Agile thing sorted, that should nicely support us in seeing through our vision of how things are going to be.”

In this case, it felt very much that Agile was being used to support a long-established waterfall. This appeared to be true at the top of the organisation, as well as at a departmental level: “once we’ve gone through the transformation this is how the I.T. department will be structured, these are the processes that will be in place, and everything will need to conform with that.”

This is the heart of the matter.Agile asks that we continually iterate over everything; this is not just about delivering products, it’s about delivering value; it’s not just about iterating over deliverables, but also processes; perhaps above all, it’s about iterating over ways of thinking, it’s about asking "Is this still relevant?""Is what I thought was true yesterday, still true today?"Enjoyed this blog post? It is also available in our signature comic strip style for easy reading and sharing. View and download the pdf here.

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