Why do we need to be agile?

Door Patrick Verheij

When Erwin Verweij writes a blog post, we’d better pay attention. In his latest post “stop met agile willen worden” (in Dutch) he writes about the misunderstandings around Agile and the observation that it has become more of a commercial vehicle than a people mindset.

I also sense that Agile is being misunderstood by varying degrees in many companies. And it is more than obvious that Agile has become a hype word to make easy money.

But I just can’t and won’t believe that bad Agile is happening on purpose.

In many companies people embrace Agile as a “thing” that is just there. They have some kind of understanding about it, which may be close or far from what was actually meant by the term “Agile” when it was coined in 2001. Truth is that since then, many people have been trying to figure out how this Agile thing works when applied to the real world.

Now Agile in itself isn’t that difficult to understand. Its values and principles have been drawn up in the Manifesto for Agile Software Development. It’s also not a secret that it is about people. About people who are craftsmen because they do the work, improve the work, help others do the work, and make the work meaningful and valuable.

That makes Agile about being the increasingly better version of ourselves with respect to the work and the people we work with.

So while we are actually striving to be enlightened work bees, we also have an eye for the environment we work in, and especially for the relations we build with our fellow human beeings (pun intended).

With respect to that, we’d want to ask ourselves what kind of world we are actually creating by doing “the work”.

When “being Agile”, we envision a world where value is co-created by people who are using their own hands and brains instead of just following orders. A world where transparency is valued over secrecy. A place where people experiment , learn, and adapt instead of blindly following a blueprint. An egalitarian world where people are respected and help each other instead of…well, the opposite.

And then we ask ourselves what is actually needed to create such a world. We must start looking at the situation that is.

What value is being created currently in the company we work with? Who benefits in what ways? How is that value being created? How much waste and suffering is being created and how could the time spent on that become value adding time?

We zoom in on those questions to become more specific about value, waste, and the processes of creating either.

Then we set ambitions to change anything we don’t like (or enhance things that we already like to like ‘em even better). All in line with the idea of the world we’d like to create.

We start working towards these ambitions with the help of different “stuff” we learn and improve along the way. Some of this may include backlogs, Scrum, pair programming, WSJF, retrospectives, release trains, BDD, jidoka, go see, working towards flow, and developing people and teams.

Suddenly we are recognizing the stuff we read in books about Agile and Lean. But those are not the purpose. The purpose is to be valuable and do meaningful work. To build companies that deliver value and create customers. To establish organizations that enhance society and create an increasingly better place to live. To look back at a life of contribution.

Think again when the term “Agile” is coined and be ready to explain dreams and ambitions instead of hiding under the in itself meaningless pile of “stuff”.

Patrick Verheij

06 59 443 447

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