Back to Blogs

Agile's Dirty Little Secret

  • Publish Date: Posted about 4 years ago
  • Author: Robert Woods

Agile's Dirty Little Secret

I have a secret to tell you. used to be a secret. But, as more and more companies go from "Agile as a nice thought" to "Agile as how we operate", the secret is getting out...and fast!

Agile's Dirty Little Secret

You see, it used to be that when we needed to create products faster we would simply go down into the basement where the people who create those products dwell and tell them to go faster. We even get them training and bring in someone called a "coach" (qualified or otherwise) to show them how to be faster; more nimble.

Some companies succeeded in seeing a certain increase in speed to delivery and adaptability. But, a dirty little secret arose on the journey to displaying agility.

An IT team cannot be truly "Agile" unless the rest of the organization is Agile. Which also means Agile isn't really an IT thing. It's a way of doing business.

I propose this as an analogy:

In order to make a car faster and more fuel-efficient, we may make some adjustments to the engine such as increasing cylinders, air intake, fuel dispensation, etc. This makes sense as the engine propels the vehicle forward. But someone who knows cars will tell you the engine will only do so much. For max effectiveness, you need to decrease car weight, decrease wind drag, streamline, get specialized tires, reduce movement needed for steering adjustments and shifting. The list goes on...

All of these items will then complement the adjustments to the engine and create max effectiveness. The same is true for any organization wanting to apply Agile methods.

It's not a bad investment to help your technology teams learn to adapt and deliver with greater efficiency and effectiveness in a technology-driven world. Consider it time and money well spent, like upgrades to the car engine that get greater power with less fuel.

But if you're going to be serious about this, don't just tweak the engine like a teenager toying with their mom's old it right!

To see the greatest advantages and benefits, we have to take the time to make real changes in places that will enhance and complement the IT changes we're making. This includes each aspect of an enterprise. Making improvements to Human Resources, Finance, Marketing, Operations, Sales, the Executive team, just to name a few, are like the weight and body enhancements that allow you to see the maximum benefits of the changes you are making to the corporate engine.

It doesn't make much sense to upgrade the engine on a vehicle when we know the rest of it has features that completely contradict, and fight against, the engine upgrades. You might be a little faster but you are wasting an enormous amount of potential.

What do you get through applying Business Agility? It's not just a matter of creating a more streamlined and effective interaction with IT. It's about having an entire enterprise that displays the traits like that of a fully customized car whose design and architecture complement one another.

HR understands better who to hire to support the inherent cultural changes in addition to creating a more streamlined hiring and onboarding process. Finance adjusts the funding models to support the iterative and value-based nature of the work while creating greater adaptability and effectiveness in AR, AP and payroll processes. I've seen Audit departments use Agile methods to create a better customer experience, tax departments create small, cross-functional teams for better coverage of large local, county, state, and federal tax-based initiatives.

These are the traits of a company that wants it done right and are not just upgrading their mom's hand-me-down.

No, IT using Agile methods isn't enough anymore. Sure, it's a nice thought. But, if you really want to see the benefits as a company, you have to make more holistic changes. Perhaps it used to be a dirty little secret as consultants were content with convincing companies all you needed was a single business level representative to see max benefit. We know now that's simply not true.

The secret's out...