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What Is Agility, Actually?

DZone's Guide to

What Is Agility, Actually?

Agility takes a lot of time, the work is usually unpredictable, and it ultimately starts and ends with people.

· Agile Zone
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Agility is an organization’s state of high responsiveness, speed, and adaptiveness. Agility is an organization’s state of continual adaptation and optimization, a state in which each status quo is challenged, by our own will or by external turbulence.

Agility is a state that is a natural fit for the unpredictability so common to the work of complex product delivery and to the markets that organizations operate within. However, it requires accepting that the work is unpredictable, a mental barrier to overcome. Agility is why teams and organizations adopt Agile processes. From that adoption agility increases, a new of working emerges, new organizational ways of learning, improving and constant adaptation, and restored respect for people, re-humanization.

Scrum helps. The distinct rules of Scrum help. Scrum is actionable. Agile and Scrum, actually, are two inseparable ingredients in a complex product delivery ecosystem. Scrum can be your foundation for agility. Sprints are at the heart of business agility in generating a regular flow of improvements, updates, learnings and various other sources of value. Organizations discover, experiment, and deliver on opportunities from an end-to-end perspective in the fastest possible way. People develop new ways of working; through discovery, experimentation-based implementation, and collaboration. They enter this new state of being, this state of agility; a state of constant change, evolution, and improvement. Re-humanization takes place. Innovation surfaces again.

The path of increasing agility via Scrum is inevitably bound to be a cobblestone path. It might take some time to accept that agility starts and ends with people, not with procedures or tools. It might take some time to accept that agility takes time, that agility need not be analyzed, designed, and planned. It might take some time to accept that agility occurs:

  • Agility can’t be planned.

  • Agility can’t be dictated.

  • Agility has no end-state.

A time-planned way to become (more) agile introduces unfavorable expectations. Introducing Agile methods to increase agility causes significant organizational change. Several existing procedures, departments, and functions will be impacted. There is no way of predicting what needs will be encountered at what point in time, how these will be dealt with and what the exact outcome will be in order to control next steps. It is a highly complex and unpredictable journey. There is no way of predicting the pace at which the state of agility will take root and spread.

Scrum and agility are much more about behavior than about (following) a new process. A decision to adopt Scrum is a decision to leave the old ways behind. It is not only about accepting but about celebrating the fact that agility is living the art of the possible. It requires the courage, honesty, and conviction of acting in the moment, acting upon the reality that is exposed by iterative-incremental progress information. Agility is about doing the best possible at every possible moment, constrained by the means we have and facing the constraints. A time-planned way ignores the essence of Scrum and Agile, that of dealing with complexity via well-considered steps of experimentation and learning. Time-plans simply extend the old thinking. In general, a plan will even slow down the overall increase in agility because serious delays and waiting times are incorporated.

Time plans create the illusion of deadlines and a final end-state. Agility has no end-state.

Living the art of the possible engages people and accelerates a transformation as it shapes the future, thrives upon the future and what the future might bring. It’s a bright future for organizations that have the vision, the determination, and the dedication.

These basic truths must be in the hearts and minds of every person managing, guiding, facilitating, hoping, or striving for agility. Even then, it takes time for agility to settle in the hearts and minds of the people impacted. After all, people have been instructed in the wrong behavior of the industrial paradigm for 15 to 20 years (or more). Agility starts and ends with people, not with tools, procedures, or games.

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Topics:
agile adoption ,agility ,scrum

Published at DZone with permission of Gunther Verheyen, DZone MVB. See the original article here.

Opinions expressed by DZone contributors are their own.

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