What is Agile?
Some people call it an approach or a method.
Whatever you call it, it is about people and results.
…we could move away from command-and-control. Stop telling people what to do and how to do it but rather give the client-facing people and teams that are doing the work more autonomy to approach problems and plan solutions as they see best, simply because they are closest to the client.
...we could encourage people to get continuously better. Often there is too much to do. People believe that they cannot afford the time to improve and they lose their sense of mastery. We need to allow people to become masters of their work, to become really good at what they do because it matters to them.
...we could encourage people to delight their clients. People often do not know why their work is truly important to those who will benefit from it: In other words they have no sense of purpose in that they want to know that their work is important and valuable. By the way those clients can be internal or external...basically we are talking about the recipient of the result of our work.
And What if...
...people could do their job without fear and had the chance to admit and learn from mistakes instead of trying to find excuses or blaming each other.
This is how working in an Agile way can feel. And turn the “what-ifs” into reality. Let’s take a step back though and look at what is the reality in a lot of organisations.
How a lot of organisations work today
If we take a look into today’s knowledge and service organisations we see, feel and hear frustration. This is typical of command-and-control hierarchical organisations, where the thinkers are at the top and do-ers at the bottom. Where central targets and plans are made and distributed for others to execute.
This results in a spiral of demotivation and poor teamwork which all leads to a greater sense of fear and “gaming of the system” which all paralyses the organisation, demotivating even more.
From Current to What-Ifs
In 2001 a small group of IT professionals working independently throughout the globe discovered that they had adopted a way of working whereby the teams had autonomy, people had a sense of mastery and they had purpose. It was this small group of thinkers that crowned the term “Agile”. (By the way – if you are interested in learning more about these elements of motivation, have a look at some material or the famous video of Daniel Pink
But not only did this Agile way of working help with autonomy, mastery and purpose but it also encouraged something else. With the world moving faster and faster and opportunities coming and going, organisations, teams and people need to react to change not just rapidly but also positively. So rather than resist change, Agile approaches encourage the opposite: They embrace change.
How is this Done?
Agile ways-of-working require organisations to:
Products & Projects and Daily Operations
Yet, there are two fundamental ways for knowledge workers to work in an Agile way, depending on the nature of the work being undertaken:
The Management needs to Lead
Both approaches require management to support the change. Management must lead people, not manage them. They do this by:
If the management team can “let go” then they will become leaders and they will have more quality time leading their organisation into new areas of growth, with little red tape and less “gaming” of the system. All of which will highly likely lead to new opportunities and even greater success that is only possible when organisations fulfil their client’s unrecognised desires. And that is about Results. Delivered by People.