Why agile can’t stay at surface-level practices

A culture of collaboration

Many organizations adopt agile practices but often miss the true essence of agility; being nimble, flexible, and adaptable. Bureaucracy, comfort and fear of change have hindered necessary changes, resulting in missed opportunities for growth. Instead, organizations need to see beyond rigid forms of agile and fully embrace agile principles, with a culture of collaboration, psychological safety, and high-performance expectations. Those organizations are better positioned for leveraging data, automation, and AI to gain a competitive edge in today’s fast-paced business environment.

Today, agile has in many contexts become synonymous with daily stand-ups, big room planning's, teams with their own backlogs and central offices trying to uphold a beat and coordinate dependencies.

Unfortunately, many organizations have not reached what agile means; being nimble, flexible and adaptable. How flexible is it to lock the teams’ work for the upcoming quarter? Or how adaptable will you be when major bets must pass multiple phases before actual testing and learning happen? Not so much. But why is it like this in many organizations?

Bureaucracy and comfort have won in those organizations. People that put control and structures above all else have undermined and replaced what agile practitioners have advocated for decades. To top that, many organizations have succumbed to one of our most fundamental instincts; fear of change. Together, this has resulted in necessary changes being pushed back, or reduced in scope, in favor of smaller and more secure changes that won’t challenge certain people’s power or stability. Such changes will not increase the chances of surviving or growing.

So, what do we need moving forward? It does, of course, depend on the organization, context, strategy, and so on. However, there are those who dare and manage to see beyond the rigid form of agile and embrace the agile principles fully. They do it with the understanding that nothing will or can remain static. Therefore, they have high demands on individuals’ collaboration skills so that every new constellation around a problem or opportunity achieve productivity quickly. Adding to this, they nurture a culture that promotes high psychological safety, and both expect and allow for everyone to do their best in every given situation. This might seem overwhelming and far away for some, which it is, but the alternative is worse. We are now seeing organizations that increase their market shares and making great progress by leveraging their data assets, using automation to free up valuable time and utilizing AI more and more by the day. Many of today’s organizations that are unagile or rigid agile will not get there, if even a little. They will try to fit these things into their structures and when they fail, they will be put in small boxes and be treated separately rather than integrated. This approach is contrary to that of modern organizations that have taken agile to their hearts, and they will win.

"Do you want to win? And are you ready to roll up your sleeves to get there?"