A New day, new people, and as is tradition new methodologies. I know everyone wants to show the world how his/her new approach will solve much of the lacking aspects of other approaches (The majority are not of these types, but I will do it to show the world I know). We have seen this in the technology stack and the movement from one dominant protocol/language/middleware to gazillions of others to solve that niche problem. I am in no position to discredit any, I neither have the breadth or depth knowledge in any of the what is hot today.
The thing that poked me to write about the Agility term, aside from the recent popularity, is a recent discussion with a CIO when discussing the business architecture and what is considered a capability. In that discussion, he responded to some of my comment that based on the definition “the ability to do something” implies that Agility is an enterprise capability. Well, that word caught me out of my guard! I am quite confident that Agility is not an ability but rather a “characteristics” of a system; I would claim it is actually a cooperate value driver, ones that define how the corporate acts to identify and deliver value. But never ever a capability. I can’t even imagine how to place it in the capability map. And more than that, the CIO’s belief that agility is a capability will translate to, being the tech-driven and tech-savvy, something related to tooling or software the tech people have to utilize just to hasten the delivery of changes. That alone is an indicator that the term is not well communicated or understood across the organization level.
I don’t blame the spread of such mentality, I have seen it in many places. Heck, even in my some of my previous employers who still throw their hands in the air, like a runner winning the first place, on how their new DevOps tools and scrum teams are ready to face any problem thrown at them. To eventually face the saddening fact that having the latest gizmos doesn’t equate to being prepared to deliver change on the fly (at least this is what agility means to them). And to worsen the matter, Big tech, and some consultancy firms shouting with their loudest sound in the megaphones on how their products or services can be the silver bullet for the old way of doing work and new birth on becoming Agile and fast to market. And hey, even if you have some difficulties on how to be Agile, then you can take this pay-for, closed behind paywalls, propriety methodology, pay, or you don’t get certified methodology that will jumpstart your dying enterprise heart.
So, what does Agility actually mean? Well, a simple search in Merriam-Webster returned the following definition:
the quality or state of being agile
Well, well, well. So agility is a state and not capability. And again through Merriam-Webster, the agile is described through as either:
marked by ready ability to move with quick easy grace
having a quick resourceful and adaptable character
Now we reached something!
So, Agility is an adaptability characteristic. It is how fast you can respond to change whether environmental, strategical, or tactical with ease and without losing so much in the process. And since it is a character in at the organizational level, then the change can happen at any layer whether it is the aspirational, strategic, or business operation to change in response to explore new arenas and becoming as a frontier or to respond to challenges by various reasons, like change in client behavior or market penetration by new startups.
Such characteristics require a complete change in the business design, operating and business models, and a stronger appetite to change by the shareholder and stakeholders, and a total buy-in by the organization. This characteristic requires more lean management practices the enable rapid change with minimum organization resistance. The organization culture along with all core capabilities and value streams must be redefined and readjusted for the company to become agile. This is an adaption and not adoption process, you just can’t take anything off the shelf and change your organization shoes to fit in. You must find the middle ground that enables the core principles of agility. The customers must be the middle of everything the organization does to satisfy the rapid and unpredictable behavior of the market.
This is much easier for small companies with only one value proposition, but for multi-dimensional and monolithic companies things become much much worse. I am personally eager to read some use cases, especially the one for Microsoft, on how to change the organization fabric and ontology to find the best fit to respond to change.
Until then, my only personal recommendation is this:
Please, please, don’t look at agility as a tool or methodology. It is a self-assessment on how ready you are to respond to change in the market landscape and customer preferences and how to adapt accordingly.