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Reimagining Agility

Recently, I was facilitating a Business Agility Meetup in which I brought in some different viewpoints from a typically “non-agile” vertical – construction. As I introduced this talk, I used the adage that many of us who have spent the majority of our time in the digital/IT space use when we are talking to folks about agility – “if you are building a bridge or a building then you want to use waterfall, but if you want to build digital products use agile.”

Reimagining Agility

I apologized virtually to all of the folks I know in the construction business because I was wrong. You don’t have to stay with legacy thoughts and approaches any more. It is time to reimagine what agility means and looks like in our world.

When I say reimagine, some of the agilists I know will come running out of their colorful open spaces with large printed BVIR’s (big visible information radiators A.K.A. posters) of the agile manifesto yelling, “blasphemy!” but please let me be clear: the principles and ideas of agility are solid and I believe are solid and applicable. We have gotten ourselves stuck in a proverbial quagmire with how we envision, implement, and innovate, however, and need to “reimagine agility.”

I’ll also gladly state that I don’t know all of the answers, heck, I barely know the right questions! But what I do know is that there are many of you out there that do have the right questions which can and will lead to the right answers.

Envision

Envision – “to picture mentally, especially some future event or events.” When I’ve spoken with clients, friends, and even fellow agile colleagues, there is oftentimes a collective surrender about moving agility before execution. Many large organizations have stated the need for heavyweight requirements revolving around strict compliance or their own clients pushing system-oriented solutions. Others talk about how the need for procurement management and portfolio management are birthed from out of control development of less-than-valuable products. Whatever the reason, many (including myself in too many cases) have believed that success was simply reducing the number of projects in the “big idea” column or measuring our portfolio better. We need something different. We need to look at how we are coming up with new ideas, improved concepts, and innovative practices! What if we just decided not to merely modify the SDLC but blow it up? What if we decided that thoughts around lean have actually led us astray? What if, and this is a big if, we actually started thinking smaller and in smaller ways as Fortune 50 companies?

Implement

I love this word. This word comes from the latin word “implere” which means “to fill up.” How are we “filling up” our organizations with agile thought as well as practices? How are we implementing agility itself? Several months ago I posted a somewhat “click-bait” and vague comment on LinkedIn. I said that I believed “agility” was a crossroads and that we as professionals need to figure out which way we were going to go. I didn’t go into details but what I meant was that we have started applying agility in legacy ways – we develop plans, we build checkboxes, we focus on the process as the measure of success. We should be completely focused on what “filled up” with agility looks like at our organizations by setting goals and objectives and seeing those come to pass! Are we going to be a community that even focuses our measures for success on what tangible improvements that our organizations can make? I think it is time to reimagine how we see agility fill up our companies, our people, and across our communities!

Innovate

When you read this word, do you think about radical ideas such as the internet, the iPhone, or even better yet, coffee? (I had to get that in there.) But if you dive into innovation, we find that most of what is considered some of the greatest innovation was taking something mundane or a difficult part of life and creating something to improve the situation! Many times new clients will mention that they need to “transform” their organization. As we dive into the “why” of this, we find out that what has happened is that they have stopped truly iterationally innovating! They have spent so much time in keeping the lights on or focused on the tradition of their work that even improvements to critical methods haven’t been implemented in years. 

Are we constantly and consistently looking at ways to improve even the mundane or have we accepted the premise that we can only improve parts? Are we ready to consider risks that provide great reward?

Let’s Wrap Up

As I stated earlier, this was not a post to provide tangible and tactical concepts to improve your agility. Rather this was meant to get each of us to think – “am I accepting the way things are too much right now? Am I living in constraints based on where I am rather than where I want to be?” Everyone reading this is meant to be a change agent and is meant to use his/her creativity to reimagine what agility looks like to them. Go be creative!

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