The Energy of Thinking Agile

The organizations which figure out the true benefits of Agile are the ones who race past their competitors. I have found that most start-ups are about 5-10 times more efficient than larger corporations (though my experience with large corporations is limited). When employees spend the majority of their time creating value for their customer instead of trying to look better than their colleagues the net effect is that everyone gets promoted and the organization as a whole surpasses their competitors.

Some very experience people have noticed that it sounds very nice but in reality it just doesn’t happen. I would agree with this statement under the conditions that majority of the individuals in the organization do not truly understand what it means to think and Be Agile. The phrase “think agile” doesn’t mean to think about Agile. That context has been taught to us by many marketing campaigns instructing us to think all types of things without really explaining how to do so. Most of us have inevitably learned to equate “think xyz” to mean “think about xyz”. The way that organizations must “think Agile” in order to be Agile is the same way as think smart, or think fast, or think big.

When individuals in an organization learn to truly think Agile their perceptions change completely and political inefficiencies disappear. It is because the lack of politics that large organizations who are excelling in their industry can obtain start-up like efficiencies. So what’s the big deal about start-ups? Whether start-ups are utilizing Agile or not they, by nature, are forced to constantly think about value delivery in order to even exist. In their early years no politics exist because everyone is too busy staying alive. Over the past century the start-ups which grew to maturity gained some foundation and many lost the need for the incredibly high levels of efficiency they originally had. Thinking Agile means individuals believe their most fundamental reason for daily interactions at work each day is to not only provide value to customers but to understand how each action impacts that value.

When individuals in an organization understand how their actions impact value delivery and they believe their only function is to provide value to the customer they are then thinking Agile. The word “Agile” has gained much attention over the past few years due to high success within some organizations. This naturally has caused process-centric organizations to attempt to duplicate the success by mimicking the actions such as scrum, story boards, or daily stand ups. This is a huge mistake. Methods such as story point estimating and daily stand-ups are used in Agile with the intent on increasing awareness of the impact of individuals actions on value delivered to customers. To merely do the functions of Agile without increasing awareness on value delivered and the belief that delivering value is the primary function of individuals, the net effect can be nothing or negative.

In order for any organization to realize the benefits and energy that come from Agile is to “Be Agile” not to “do agile.” I have heard many individuals say that they are doing agile. Many which are struggling to understand what’s the big deal.

It has been described by many authors as a romantically exciting experience to observe the creating of high performance teams through Agile. Teams who are doing agile without thinking and being agile no doubt consider these to be exaggerations and fantasy. Project management as a whole is experience a shift in paradigms as many organizations learn how to be agile and many others are struggling to grasp the concept.

The benefits from an Agile coach who can properly train a team to be and think agile is so great and has such incredibly larger impacts than traditional project management that the Project Management Institute has created the Agile Certified Practitioner certification. Obtaining the assistance of someone who truly understands how to realize the benefits from a team that thinks Agile is worth their weight in gold.  The benefits of Agile is truly electrifying for those that understand it and mystifying to those who do not.

-Josh Woodcock, PMI-ACP

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