How Agile are we, really?

Around 2009 at Goyello we decided to implement Scrum. So, you could think we are really Agile by now. But how sure can you be without any external verification? And even if we would be really Agile, wouldn’t there be anything still to be improved? Assuming Agile is a never ending journey, there’s always something you can improve. Therefore, I decided to take up the challenge and let myself be inspired by experts and fellow users. I subscribed for the Masterclass Agile for Managers at Nijenrode University in the Netherlands. Seven weeks in a row a topic was discussed and I will share my main lessons learned through 7 posts of which this is the first one.

Agile is not for everyone

Let me start with a sort of a disclaimer. I am neither an Agile evangelist nor an expert. What I share is based on my personal experiences in running an Agile software solutions house and a multitude of Scrum based projects. Besides, I will share the for me most intriguing lessons learned from the Masterclass lectures.

Please be aware Agile is not for everyone and it will not be applicable to every situation. It’s not a magic trick that solves all your problems. Different lessons are applicable towards different situations.

Be ready for everything!

So, when are you Agile? To some extent, it is “Being ready for everything”, as David Allen the inventor of the Getting Things Done (GTD) method mentions. Having all your stuff packed on your bike when leaving the camping place where you stayed overnight, allows you to go straight or turn left or right, which was a personal experience of lecturer Rini van Solingen. Unfortunately, too often we do not have that flexibility. Partially, caused by our educational system. We have learned at school that things have to be ready. A child showing an unfinished drawing will hear to come back “ones it’s finished”. But a child doesn’t necessarily understand what “finished” means, they learn by trial and error, through iterations, which our society doesn’t allow because we no longer understand. But trial and error is the only way to find out what works. Children are therefore a lot more Agile than adults, up to the moment our system forces them to change.

A film worth watching: Benjamin Zander: How to give an A.

How to assess your agility?

Thinking you are Agile is one, being it is another thing. In today’s world, it seems you have to be Agile. But how to assess your level of Agility? The answers to the following three questions will show:

  1. How often do you deliver a really finished, potentially shippable product? If something is completely finished it makes you flexible, unfinished work slows you down.
  2. How do you secure to develop what the business needs most?
  3. How do you guarantee every sprint will be better than the previous one?

Movies worth watching: Spotify’s Engineering Culture Part 1 & Part 2.

Frequently delivering validated business value

Directly derived from the above list of three being really Agile means that you:

  1. Completely finish in iterations! It’s better to finish something in 25% of the estimated time and to show it than to spend all time before asking for feedback.
  2. Organize feedback to verify added value and stop once sufficient business value has been delivered.
  3. Improve the solution and yourself step by step.

Combined it basically means you will frequently have to deliver business value based on your users’ feedback.


Why hesitate?

Becoming Agile as an organization means you will have to give a lot of trust to your teams and that the individual team members have to be ready to take the responsibility. That’s sounds easier than the reality appears to be. Teams have to become self-organizing, working within the boundaries and strategic direction provided by the organization. That brings a lot of freedom, fun, challenges and at the same responsibility to the team.

The business will have to bring the work to the team to prevent they will have to start looking for it. Which means the business has to start planning as well. Frequent reviews will have to take place to define what needs to be done. More about that in following posts.

The process is not easy, but change in general isn’t. The transition challenges will be covered in a future post. The question is why to hesitate? Evidence shows that people in general love to work in more Agile organisations, costs potentially decrease, waste is being reduced, etc. There are many advantages, but not necessarily for everyone and every situation. Anyhow, I have already concluded we can still improve, because it is a never ending journey and the journey in itself if fun.

The 2nd post in line is about managing Agile transformations.

Feel free to ask questions, share your opinion, etc below! For more personal questions, please contact us.


Aspire Blog Team

Aspire Systems is a global technology services firm serving as a trusted technology partner for our customers. We work with some of the world's most innovative enterprises and independent software vendors, helping them leverage technology and outsourcing in our specific areas of expertise. Our services include Product Engineering, Enterprise Solutions, Independent Testing Services and IT Infrastructure Support services. Our core philosophy of "Attention. Always." communicates our belief in lavishing care and attention on our customers and employees.