A common question I get when I work with people new to Agile as a way of working is ‘Why Agile?’ A question that I love – because we should always be asking Why rather than What or How – especially at the start of something new or unfamiliar. This question is often followed up with ‘Why now?’ Another great question! Of course, there are many answers – each unique to the organisation, teams and individuals involved. My response is always ‘Why do YOU think Agile is important right now?’ Because your answer is infinitely more valuable than any answer I could give. While my answer comes from training and coaching hundreds of people, your answer is what will either drive ownership and action or not. Only by having a clear Why that makes sense to you will change really happen. Having said that, over Christmas I collated the many whiteboards I photographed where rooms of people contributed to the question of ‘Why Agile?’ and made a word cloud. Check out the big words! Here’s a quick summary of the discussions that ensued:
Speed of Delivery
Many participants believed working in an Agile way means fast delivery. ‘Fast’ also featured highly in the context of ‘fail fast’ or ‘learn fast’. It’s great to hear this from people new to Agile, as it means they are seeing results elsewhere in their organisations and want to get in on the action! It is worth noting that many of the people I train come from the ‘business’ and are receivers of fast delivery. And they very much appreciate it. There is more evidence than ever to support improved speed with Agile. But as I caution teams before they take off: Start slow to go fast!
What participants also appreciate is being involved in the delivery of change – from a new product to an improved service (and everywhere in between). Through collaboration they are no longer waiting ‘until the end’ to see value for the work done. Collaboration was also discussed in relation to engagement – people connecting with each other means more productivity AND happier people. The Agile framework supports a number of collaboration opportunities, and it was agreed they made a difference in getting work done and people being engaged with the work. Psychiatrists refer to connection between people as ‘Vitamin C’ – an essential supplement we all need and suffer when we don’t get it.
The pace of change is faster than ever. Most participants acknowledged that they need to get better at change, and that working in an Agile way will help – through feedback loops and opportunities to leverage positive change and get on top of negative change as it happens. In the training we talk about the logical levels of change, and how much influence we have in our day to day to get the outcomes we are working for. The Agile framework of regular planning, checking in and reflecting means that change can happen fast and keep up with increasing pace.
In line with the Change theme, there was strong support for the need for us to ‘respond rather than react’ in order to get results. When we work in an Agile way, we increase our ability to be responsive through fast feedback cycles, collaboration to share ideas and empowering people to make decisions. Also, technology has equipped us with tools to respond to new demands and issues at a rate we could never have imagined ten years ago. Which in turn raises expectations. The reason payments took a while to clear in the past? That’s how long it took for the ink to dry. Take away the limitation, and everyone has to step up.
How about you? Why is Agile important to you right now? What words come to mind? Are they similar? Or do you have something different? Let’s build the 2018 word cloud together!