Defining agility

Agility Jun 19, 2021

Over the years I have worked with many a large organizations in various shapes and sizes. In the last two decades the language of work has introduced the extensive use of new concepts like Lean, Agile, DevOps, Six-Sigma, Scrum, SAFe and others.

The recent fads include terms like Design Thinking, Business Agility, Pods (that I wrote about yesterday) and other team structures and labels borrowed from the so-called Spotify model. There is no end to the use of such terminology.

Like reflected in the "theme" of this blog, I believe in "Small moves" that bring "Big Payoff's".  So, what is the smallest move that makes one "be agile"?  The answer is simple. Over the last 50 to 70 years most large organizations have become extraordinarily plan driven. There is a belief that a detailed plan of action that could be faithfully executed upon is feasible. The need for order, structure and predictability is pervasive.

The move to agility is based on a simple premise. Continuous adjustment to reality. Whatever the reality may be - customer validation, market revenues/profits, your competitors, the external environments, government rules and regulations, technology changes, etc. etc. And the list goes on. The quicker one adjusts to reality, the more predictable the work is.

So a simple definition of an "Agile" organization would be an organization that is "Reality driven" rather than "Plan driven". Each and every day. Yes, plans are certainly important and a minimal amount of strategic planning is certainly part of working with reality. But once a strategic plan is in place and the necessary resources and people are assigned to solve a challenge, then being agile means that one is truly adjusting to the reality on the ground as quickly as possible all the time, in order to realize value from the work.

But wait, is it so easy? No, it is not. Simple is hard. Agility is hard work. Once you start with the requisite values that allow you to enable your people to constantly address and adjust to current realities, the journey to constantly learning and improving on how to do the work gets better at a rapid pace. And the necessary systemic methods, practices, tools and techniques that are required in support of doing this work have all been around for a long time and can be leveraged upon.

Agility comes from starting with a challenge, and then constantly allowing your people to quickly adjust to reality as they create responses to those challenges while continuously realizing the big payoff's


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