With the Agile Manifesto celebrating its 20th anniversary, it’s worth asking the question… is agile still a thing? And if agile is still a thing, is agile transformation still a thing?
I think the question about agile being a thing is pretty clear. I can’t imagine a world where we want to go back to large batches of requirements, siloed organizations, sequential handoffs, and perhaps most significantly… delivering all the work Big Bang style at the end of a project. We might end up calling agile something besides agile at some point, but I don’t see us going back to Waterfall.
It seems to me we have crossed the chasm. Incremental and iterative product development is here to stay. Regardless of what we call it.
That said, there are still a lot of companies that haven’t meaningfully adopted agile, and a bunch who have that are still struggling. I have to admit, it blows me away a little… that agile is still a thing… when so many agile implementations aren’t really getting the bang for the buck they signed up for. My guess is that folks hold out hope because they don’t see a viable alternative. I think they also hold out hope because they can kinda see the problem. Even if they aren’t quite sure what to do about it.
Which begs the question… if we can see the problem, but we aren’t sure what to do about it… is agile transformation still a thing?
In my experience… and at this point, I’ve got nearly 20 years in the transformation space… we haven’t seemed to collectively crack the code on what to do with dependencies, and we haven’t quite figured out what to do with all the other parts of the organization… the ones that haven’t adopted agile and probably aren’t ever going to.
The net effect of all these dependencies is that we have teams that can’t reliably and predictably deliver working tested software. The net effect of teams that can’t reliably produce working tested software, is companies that won’t let go of their traditional governance models and the myriad of stuff that get in the way of meaningful agility across the enterprise.
To us at LeadingAgile, and all the clients we work with, agile transformation is clearly still a thing.
But that thing isn’t training people on how to do Scrum or SAFe and calling it a day. It’s about creating a path forward so that we can stabilize the delivery system, deliver in small batches, to break dependencies between teams. To get to a place where we can achieve team-based funding and ultimately free teams to interact directly with their customers and innovate great products.
Organizationally, the trick is to teach it to leverage this new trustworthy system of delivery, help it make better bets, align around value streams, drive continuous market feedback, sense the needs of the market and disrupt its competition. It’s about making incremental and iterative delivery the new normal and not the exception.
This is business agility. This is enterprise agile transformation. It isn’t about teaching people how to hold a daily standup meeting. It’s about aligning systems and structures to markets and customers and creating better business outcomes.