Thinking Before Leaping to Agile

So, you think you want to “Go Agile”?  The very first question I have for you is:  Why?

Before you embark on a path as challenging as an Agile adoption be very sure, from the outset, of your goals.  And, let me be very clear here, the goal cannot be “To meet a mandate from our <insert title here>”.  It also cannot be “We just need to deliver more, faster.” There’s no doubt there are benefits to be had through an Agile adoption, but you will need to know WHY you want to take this journey.  More importantly, the people you will be asking to embrace, support and implement this change will need to know why.  If you’re not able to explain it – to put your goals out there – STOP.  Don’t take one more step or have one more conversation about it until you do.  Then, once you’re clear on those goals look to see if there’s anything about people on them.  The heart, soul and awesomeness of Agile lies in people.  If there’s nothing in the goals about people, STOP.  You will not realize the goals you have laid out without considering, paying attention to and cultivating your people.

What about people is important to an Agile adoption?  Well, all process and structures/frameworks depend on the people working within them to bring them to life.  In an Agile adoption, people and their ability to trust you and your ability to trust them is vital.  There will be things you learn about your company that will be uncomfortable and they need to be able to bring them up to you, their leader, to help change them.   Additionally, they will need an environment where they really can live the Agile Values.

When I reflect on the goals an Agile organization should consider they’re, actually, rather simple.

  • Are we delivering more value to our customers?  How do we know?  Your customers will tell you.  Ask your customers prior to your effort to tell you how they feel about the services and benefits you provide and, then, continue to ask them.
  • Are our operating costs going down?  Is your call center experiencing less call volume?  Is it easier to resolve an issue when they do call?  Do you need less and are able to deliver more?
  • Are our associates reporting a higher degree of engagement?  Do they feel empowered?  Do they feel they have real, true ownership of solving problems?  Do they feel their managers are, more than ever, focused on their development over their work?

Agile alone isn’t a Silver Bullet.  Maybe it seems that way OR someone is positioning it that way to you but just “doing Agile” will not deliver the results you’re probably looking for.  “Doing” Agile will get you some improvement – in the 25%-35% range.  “Being”  AND  “Doing”  Agile has the potential to deliver exceptional (400% improvement) results.  Being Agile depends on you, the leader.  When you announce the intention of an Agile adoption, you’re making an agreement to adhere, as closely as possible, to the Agile Values.  What’s more, your people will believe you and it’s critical you mean to live the values and you’re asking them to do the same.  Your actions from that point forward will confirm (or not) your commitment to those values and, essentially, your people.  So, WHY do you want to go Agile?

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