Being Agile Must Include Everyone

July 25, 2012

Agility in software development will only get you so far, particularly if an agile team exists in the midst of a non-agile organization. The surrounding system and the expectations of that system will exert a tremendous amount of pull back towards old ways of thinking and working, and even the best agile teams will be challenged to thrive under these conditions.

Most organizations today are systems-heavy, with a great deal of effort and focus on systems designed to direct and monitor activities in an effort to keep everything strictly planned and everyone “under control” and working towards the plan. Unfortunately, working the plan with the requisite reporting and approvals required in control-oriented systems negate that adaptability and rapid response to changing business conditions that organizations desire.

Working the existing system faster will not make businesses competitive in today’s global business climate. We need to materially change our approach.
Improve a mechanical device and you may double productivity, but improve man and you gain a thousand fold. -- Khan Noonien Singh
While Khan is a fictional character – the quote above came from the original Star Trek series – Khan is right. A quote from the book The CIO Edge echoes this thinking: “Everyone has access to the same technology. It is what you do with it that makes the difference. And it is people who decide how that technology is deployed effectively.”

Lean and agile thinking embrace concepts that support improving the flow of value to the customer in ways that retain what is useful, discarding the rest, while continually seeking ways to improve – with improvement being measured by how the flow of value to the customer improves.

The trade-off is that management shifts from controlling to supporting and developing people more so than ever before. The goal is to eliminate or reduce overhead while using tools and techniques that drive long-term productivity gains through people, not systems. Being agile is really a quality and capability of the organization:
  • “Agility is a quality of the organization and its people to be adaptive, responsive, continually learning and evolving.” (Source: Scaling Lean & Agile Development)

  • “The primary task of Toyota’s managers and leaders is not to focus exclusively on improvement, but on increasing the improvement capability of people.” (Source: Toyota Kata)
As The CIO Edge tells us, we need to build people, not systems. Lean and agile thinking applied at an organizational level can help us do just that.

4 comments

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December 1, 2015 at 5:13 AM

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