It seems floodgates have been opened recently. Every organization with any name in the IT world wants to be agile.
I have been hearing from various associates about Agile being a target for 2015 in their organizations. Program managers have been assigned to the task of managing the Agile transformation. Endless millions have been committed to 'certifying' the teams to be more Agile. CSMs, SAFe Agilists, PMI-ACPs are being created in hordes and yes, almost every ScrumMaster/Manager has been destined to become a Coach at some point of time. Okay, I may be exaggerating a little bit, but as an accidental, still learning Agile coach, I have been thinking, Should I be happy or sad about this situation?
And yes, I quite literally feel amused.
Not by the incessant demand for coaches, Scrum Masters, trainings (that's my bread and butter, btw) but, by some of the interesting targets which the organizations are setting for themselves.
Frankly speaking, I am not sure whether most of the organizations/ individuals involved in setting up Agility, even understand what the 'Agile' is all about. Just because it is a buzzword/ told by the customer every other person in the IT world is in the Rat Race to become Agile. Well, I would also put the blame for this conundrum not just on the organizations but on the Agile coach fraternity too: Are we really coaching the organizations or trying to give them a silver, cure-it-all pill by 'prescribing' Agility (read Agile practices)
In that light, here is an open question that I would like to ask the Agile community: Can Agile ever be a goal??
IMHO, every business worth its while has only one primary goal: To maximize the ROI. If you are not focused on that, maybe you are a charity or a not-for-profit association, but not a business. So, that means, that each and every action, each and every associate in the organizations takes, has to be linked to maximizing the ROI in some way. All the processes, tools, change management techniques (even CSR initiatives) are enablers to chasing the primary goal.
So, where does that leave Agile being a goal. Well, to my understanding, it can at best be an enabler, rather than a goal. Enterprises need to identify what business goals they want to achieve and then, use Agile methods, practices, principles, and values to reach their desired goals. Now, the next question comes, which Agile method, framework or process is best suited to help large and medium sized organizations reach their goals. Well the answer, fortunate or unfortunate, is NONE or if may further refine it 'Not Just One.' Why so? because each and every part of the organization is different, their goals are aligned at a macro level but different at a micro level.
Each of the teams involved is unique and different in terms of behaviors, size, experience, even location. So, that means as long as they align to the same philosophy of Agility, their rituals (or do we call them Agile practices) can be/ may be different and that should be absolutely ok. There can even be some teams/ individuals who do not believe / align to this and as I see it, even that is absolutely normal.
Unfortunately, some-how I see the current Agile implementations more in line with 'Command and Control' (or shall I take a metaphor of 'forced religious conversions') rather than collaborative and inclusive.
I know I put some controversial words in the last line and I would shortly explain why I used that metaphor.
IMHO, Agile is not just a framework or process or a method but a Philosophy, A way of living.
Like any other Philosophy (Marxism, Confucianism, Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Islam et al), Agile has its value and principles which form the base and essence of its existence. In a philosophy, various interpretations / rituals are formed to make sure a practitioner follows the principles/ values in the right way. Similarly, in Agile, we have the practices, methods, and frameworks to help us align with those values and principles.
So, coming back to where I started, To me, saying we want to be An Agile Enterprise is akin to saying, We want our state religion to be ...... ". Yes, there may be no harm in that, as long the statement is not just limited to following the practices without understanding them, there is a tolerance level built in the system and yes, everyone has the freedom and the right to question and in turn do their bit to ensure we are all aligned to our primary goal as a business....
And before it ignites a long debate about which philosophy is good or bad, what works and what doesn’t. I guess I need to get back to my bread and butter...See you some time on the journey.