For many businesses and leaders, “Agile” has become synonymous with any flexible working arrangements. Working from home? Thats an Agile Work Location. No chairs in the boardroom? That’s an Agile Standup. Sticky notes on the wall? That’s kanban, baby!

I was talking to a friend the other day who has just started consulting for a firm in the UK. She called me and said “It was so strange, when I arrived they showed me to a locker and said that they didn’t use desks ‘because we have an Agile Workplace’…. Is that a thing?” she asked.

If you are short on time, here is the rest of this article in a nutshell: No. That is not a thing.

For the rest of you who want a bit more detail (thanks for sticking with me!), let’s look at what Agile is NOT.

  1. Just a noun. It is like saying that you are a tightrope walker, then showing up wearing lycra and soft shoes. You are implementing some of the process, you might cross some balance beams and the occasional thick rope. But you don’t understand the principles of aerobatics. None of your colleagues do either. Then one day you rock up and find that it is highwire day. This is some serious stuff, no nets, between two buildings over a busy highway. The stakes are high (okay, pun intended) and failure is devastating. The company concludes that “tightrope methodology doesn’t work”. #AgileFail
  2. A way to manage productivity. From time to time I see companies that want to have the transparency and visibility of Agile frameworks, without committing to the cultural changes that give Agile teams autonomy and ownership over their work. That’s code for – they want to see what their employees are doing so they can screw them down on efficiency. Without the vision and culture that comes from an executive level, your business just became even more rigid. #AgileFail
  3. Can not exist without the people. Without understanding the transformational complexity of becoming an Agile organisation, businesses might roll out process without collaborating with their people. They don’t allow the time for the natural progression of change, and view negative feedback and pushback as failures, instead of how the feedback is intended – feedback to improve. That leaves a whole bunch of people feeling marginalised and more resistant than ever, pretty much the opposite to the intended outcome! #AgileFail

Flexible work arrangements? Awesome! Consultative management practices? Rock on! Funky desk alternatives? Great! Is it Agile? Nope.

Don’t get me wrong, I heart Agile principles, and it is wonderful when I see them adopted even in part into a workplace. What concerns me is that Agile is designed to work as an integrated whole, and that adopting only some of that process leaves fundamental elements lacking.

A business who believe that they are implementing Agile principles and methodologies without having a good understanding of the delivery and governance frameworks, are going to find that one day the stakes are very high, there is no net, and they’re just wearing silly shoes and lycra!

Did this article resonate? Feel free to share with someone who could do with a bit more agility in their life! As always feel free to contact me for more information or help implementing Agile into your organisation.