Big Agile is Coming
Since 2016, General Motors, the Department of Defense, Health and Human Services, Fiat Chrysler, and other large companies have begun to adopt agile within their software organizations. Along with their combined $100 billion IT budgets, they are bringing their biases, bureaucracies, documentation, and leadership infrastructure with them. What will be the effect on the agile community?
“Big Agile” requires leadership at all levels, just not the kind we are used to. Simply working with an agile coach to implement well-known ceremonies is not enough. Metaphorically, the leadership “operating system” needs an upgrade.
In today’s corporate hierarchies where command-and-control structures, low trust, long-term planning, and risk management reign supreme, the skills required to thrive and survive are anything but agile. This leaves agile teams to push the culture uphill, leading to unpredictable results once business operations expand beyond the boundaries of the core agile team. This creates a “cultural type-mismatch” due to information technology, operations, marketing, infrastructure, business development, sales, and end-users not being on the same cultural page.
Performing agile ceremonies and techniques without self-organization isn’t agile at all. There is nothing inherently wrong with adopting ceremonies and techniques identified as being agile, and many companies have found some success with that, but the power of agile values and their associated frameworks grows exponentially once self-organization is perfected.
An “Agile Transformation” where the scope is hiring an agile coach, and the adoption of basic ceremonies or techniques, is doomed to failure. Agile isn’t a process or a framework like scrum, XP, or SAFe. It’s a collaborative, transparent, and self-organizing culture where the operational model is high-trust, empirical, and calibrated for relentless improvement in the pursuit of high quality and increased speed to value. Jim Bouchard, author of The Sensei Leader, sums it up for leaders: “Don’t even attempt to transform your organization until you can transform yourself.”
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