It seems like there is a certain buzz word that is engulfing workplaces these days and that word is Agile. And, while Agile conjures up utopian visions of speed, exceeding client needs, and increased revenue, it also brings an inherent risk and one that is not discussed enough – exposing an organization’s areas of dysfunction.
Let’s start with an assumption that no organization is perfect and has some level of dysfunction somewhere in the company. Even Apple, a darling of Silicon Valley and Wall Street, had Steve Jobs fired by the person he brought in to run Apple, that person was eventually fired, and then Steve Jobs returned to lead Apple to become the most valuable company on Earth. That is quite a level of dysfunction. For most companies and teams, however, dysfunction presents itself that is not quite at the level of making headlines on CNBC. Rather, dysfunction looks like inefficient meetings, lack of trust, poorly performing teams, lack of decision making skills, and rapidly adapting to change. While you may have just read that and asked, ‘how does he know so much about our company?’ the items just listed are commonplace at even the most admired organizations. Here is the bigger issue, however – they are critical factors that will determine if a company is ready to embrace the Agile philosophy, and, more importantly, if embracing that philosophy will lead to great success or some very serious unintended consequences, specifically making things worse, not better, for teams.
Take a look at the Agile Manifesto (http://www.agilemanifesto.org/). Individuals. Interactions. Collaboration. Responding to change. These words are all related to human dynamics, not necessarily projects or software development. Therefore, if your company has issues with these items - and self-directed work teams, setting priorities, and giving and receiving feedback - introducing Agile could be like handing a bad driver the keys to a Porsche. It is not a matter of if he or she will cause an accident, but rather how fast will the person be speeding and how much damage will he or she will cause when the accident happens. The person was already a bad driver (team member). The Porsche (Agile) simply helped us see just how bad.
The question becomes what should a company do? Should Agile be abandoned? Absolutely not. What needs to be done is to provide special attention to ensuring teams have the tools they need related to interpersonal skills and human dynamics first and above all else. If not, there is not one project tool or software development approach that will be prepared to face the challenges that will inevitably appears as Agile takes hold in an organization.
Take a look at our new, two day course - Agile - A More Human Approach at this link. This course emphasizes the human dynamics necessary to be successful in an agile work environment.
Remember, when it comes to introducing something as big as Agile to your team you need to be all in, especially when it comes to training your teams. As Yoda said, “Do. Or do not. There is no try.”
Contact us and we can help your team and organization realize the full benefits of moving to Agile.