An Introduction to Becoming Agile


You do not do Agile, you are Agile. Agile is not a process or methodology. There is no one-size-fits all recipe for becoming or being agile. In fewer than 700 words (with the aid of illustrations), the author offers advice on how to get started in your journey to become agile.

You do not do Agile, you are Agile. Agile is not a process or methodology. There is no one-size-fits all recipe for becoming or being agile.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, the world of agile is chock full of new vocabulary or terminology which sometimes may get in your way. It is important that you, your team, and organization come to a common understanding of the terms and vocabulary.

Available evidence shows most individuals, teams and organizations can become agile, but that we often make terrible mistakes when we try because we simply are not prepared for the amount of change it requires with respect to our beliefs, understanding, and perspective.

Becoming an agile organization takes wisdom, passion, courage, a desire to be better and openness, especially to change as we plan a little, do a little, study/check how we did and adapt; while we collaboratively and adaptively develop and deliver commercial or operational value iteratively and incrementally.

Where to start
Start with a vision or roadmap (see Figure 1.0) that is embraced and realized by the entire organization from the top down and bottom up.

Figure 1.0 – Roadmap to Being Agile

Steps to take along the way

1. Develop a vision and roadmap to “bcoming agile” (see Figure 1.0) - it should be broad and not prescriptive and serve you as your north star guiding you down the path to success of collaboratively and adaptively developing and delivering commercial or operational value-added system-software iteratively and incrementally.

2. Create an Agile team of individuals who: 

    • Work as one
    • Are highly collaborative amp; self-directed
    • Work in short iterations
    • Deliver something of commercial or operational value each iteration/sprint
    • Focus on business priorities
    • Inspect and adapt

3. While people are motivated from within, an environment must be set-up in which people are able to motivate themselves

    • To set up an environment that enables employees to be motivated, leaders need to understand what the motivational needs of individuals and groups are
    • Determining the “what's in it for me” for individual employees and workgroups that is consistent with goals and strategies of the organization is the key to improving motivation for individuals and groups of employees 

4. Adopt the Plan, Do, Study/Check, Act quality improvement cycle as depicted in Figure 2.0 and a product/project development and delivery cycle based on a framework like Scrum depicted in Figure 3.0 or a Kanban workflow as depicted in Figure 4.0.

Figure 2.0 – Deming’s Quality Improvement Cycle


Figure 3.0 – Scrum Framework

Figure 4.0 – Kanban Workflow

5. Continue to expand your knowledge by reading (see recommended reading below) and networking with others traveling the path of being Agile.

6. Frequently, inspect and adapt how you, the team, and organization are doing adding commercial or operational value as you do so collaboratively, iteratively and incrementally.

Danger signs to watch for on your path to agile

    • You think and act like you are the smartest person in the room
    • You are doing more talking than listening
    • You are doing things right, but not the right things
    • Your are doing the right things, but are not doing those things right
    • Taking verbatim and then acting on the words in the Agile Manifesto
    • You are task-driven not value-driven
    • Measurement-driven management instead of management-driven measurement
    • Your definition of “done” is not based on the Customer’s conditions-of-satisfaction
    • Your emphasis is more on the definition of “being Agile” than the actualization of being agile or the collaborative development and delivery of a value-adding increment of the product iteratively

Recommended reading
Scaling Software Agility by Dean Leffingwell
Bridging the Communication Gap by Gojko Adzic
Agile Estimating and Planning by Mike Cohn
User Stories Applied: For Agile Software Development by Mike Cohn\
Implementing Lean Software Development: From Concept to Cash by Mary Poppendieck and Tom Poppendieck>

About the Author
Russell Pannone is the Founder of We Be Agile and the Agile Lean Phoenix User Group, as well as the Agile-Lean Adoption Lead. With almost 30 years of system-software development and delivery experience, my focus is on working side-by-side with folks on real projects helping them deliver valuable system-software to production early and often, giving those I collaborate with the best opportunity to beat the competition to market, realize revenue and discover insights that we can use to help us improve.

About the author

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