Being Agile depends on mind, personality and organizational structure.

During the past years along with the advancement and integration of information technology and digital experience within the business processes of companies and organizations, a lot of management methodologies and definitions have been created. In order to form processes towards the goal of easing project management along with efficiency and successful results. It’s the golden era of certifications after all, expanding to a technical, non-technical and theoretical spectrum.

A lot of methodologies include the agile terminology. The importance of being agile is not something new but it is now being accepted and recognized by a wider group of professionals. The term Agile derives from Latin “Agilis” and the meaning is: “to do and act”. Throughout the years the meaning of agile has been also characterized by being quick or alert. Different approaches including almost every phase from business analysis to project closure and software development to quality assurance have emerged. Most of the approaches are very similar with comparable tactics, differentiating mainly on the new areas (business topics) of implementation. Being agile is not another new business process or methodology, it is a logical process of how things should be working. We can all retrieve agile implementation/behavior tactics and actions, before various methodologies became popular or recognized.

The success of any agile methodology requires the existence of specific personality quality assets and traits of the people that implement the methodology. A list of indicative traits follows:

  • Be Active and Resourceful.
  • Be Able to make Educated Guesses.
  • Have, share and Test ideas.
  • Research and Learn.
  • Elaborate and Analyze.
  • Communicate efficiently.

Specifically for the IT sector, Agile methods like Scrum can provide a framework, but:

  • It’s the programmer’s mind who creates software, write or do not write quality code.
  • It’s the business analyst’s mind that filters all necessary input from teh stakeholders.
  • It’s the project’s manager’s mind that keeps implementation aligned with the customer’s needs and within budget.
  • It’s the QA team’s mind that reviews and provides the necessary input for improvement and corrections.

There is need to train people for agility and help them follow agile methods but this is just a stepping stone within the organizational environment that should provide the personality and teamwork traits of agility. A provision that is not an easy and fast but an ongoing internal cultural change management process.

Another value point to mention regarding the success of being Agile is to know the form of Agility we implement. For example, we all know that the initial phase of requirements and design is an extremely important phase and the driving factor of success of any project. By omitting and not pay attention at this phase will lead 100% to an agile behavior (not agile good practices) that its goal is not to improve the product but to apply temporary fixes, correcting and hiding design mistakes and poor documented stakeholder requirements.

Thus we have to distinguish between agility that tackles and improves a project task and agility because of poor organization and design. These are completely different.

Another example is quality assurance, an integral part of every project’s implementation. A poorly executed QA means that the agile methodology implementation during development was either not efficient or overlooked. Again, we will be forced to take corrective actions with agile resolutions not towards a well-executed project but towards a project that will just pass the contract’s terms. The bottom line is that agility has many faces and we must try to “wear” the effective one. A lot of agile-inspired projects start out with great hopes and commitment to moving through projects in a fast and energetic way but they often end up embracing failure and unhappy customers.

According to Sutherland and his Agile manifesto the four basic tenets of Scrum that guide efforts to achieve quick turnaround of product development with high participation and quality assurance are:

  1. Planning Is Useful. Blindly Following Plans Is Stupid.
  2. Inspect and Adapt.
  3. Change or Die.
  4. Fail Fast So You Can Fix Early.

The Agile concept is cultural at heart and methodological on skin. It is impossible to apply any methodology within an organization if the general culture does not support it.  Agility should be applied to all functional levels of an organization. For instance in Finance, HR, Regulation, Production, Sales, Marketing not only IT. The reason is that every project within an organization internal or external is impacting parameters that are affecting more than the project itself. It is impossible to have agility in Sales and have an opposite attitude in Marketing.

Another major difficulty takes place through the usual scenario of involving more than one company in a project. For example the interaction between a software house using agile methods and a customer whose corporate culture puts more weight on forms, procedures, and meetings than on visible value creation that can be inspected at short intervals by users.

Work that does not produce real value is madness. The correct agile methodology of “working product in short cycles to allow early user feedback so we can immediately eliminate what is obviously wasteful effort” in this case becomes just a theory and Agile becomes another recent “cool” term to mention.

To summarize agility about culture, flexibility, attitude, personality and philosophy that leads to effective, beneficial and non-bureaucratic practices throughout the entire business.

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Frank Mangafas

I am a Delivery Manager in TBSCG. My goal is always to remove obstacles or blockers to progress (from the proposal concept to post production and support), constantly helping the team become more self-organizing by enabling and not imposing the work to be done

One thought on “Being Agile depends on mind, personality and organizational structure.”

  1. The endless and trendy topic of Agile :). Great job Franck but the key of the article is this:

    “For example the interaction between a software house using agile methods and a customer whose corporate culture puts more weight on forms, procedures, and meetings than on visible value creation that can be inspected at short intervals by users. Work that does not produce real value is madness.”

    Well pointed! A lot of companies claim to be Agile but they do not understand that the key is to know how agile can be your customer. On this scenario is when these methodologies start creating problems instead of fixing issues.

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