There is a very serious misconception that doing agile means being agile. Such a misconception impedes organizational attempts to pursue the part of agility. By equating being agile with doing agile, it is assumed that when agile practices and routines are undertaken using the scrum methodology, the transition from the conventional way of working to a new, better way of working is occurring.
Being led by this assumption, the tendency to upskill employees in agile practices and routines so that they begin to “do agile” overshadows the realization that doing agile does not lead to being agile over time. Hence employees learn what to but do not internalize the need to do so. They are merely doing agile, not being agile.
Being agile essentially focusses on empowering employees to harness knowledge assets to acquire and create new knowledge. The primary focus is on developing a culture of knowledge sharing that is premised on a Sense-And-Respond mindset. There is a heightened level of sensitivity of changes and the ability to respond appropriately is emphasized. Such a culture is premised on a mindset attuned towards navigating the trials and tribulations associated with turbulent business environments.
Doing agile occurs when people have been given the mandate by management to adopt scrum methodology in accordance with agile principles. They “have to” change what they do and follow strictly scrum approach based on agile practices and routines. This leads employees to believe that management knows best and they oblige blindly. The command and control mindset predominate and the culture of subservience continues albeit in a different tone. In this case, the organization may be doing agile but is not being agile.
Having a heightened state of awareness that agility essentially means developing a new way of thinking and doing is a good starting point. This awareness should be directed towards developing a desire to empower employees to seek out new innovative ideas around new problems. One effective approach used is called question storming, a session aimed at encouraging people to ask as many questions as possible to encourage them to be inquisitive. By creating an environment where being inquisitive and seeking alternative options is encouraged, more innovative ideas emerge.
How they do so in a structured and systematic way would be by adopting certain principles and practices of agility that suits them best.
When emerging problems are solved using agile practices such as updating physical planning walls for increased visibility, these practices become ingrained in the culture of the workforce. These practices serve as instruments that are used to facilitate quick decision making, encourage collaborative interaction and developing flexible processes that increases an organizations resilience. Resilience against in the face of challenges posed by volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. This develops over time when an environment that nurtures agility and transparency is fostered by management who willingly shed the notion that “they know best”
Over time, agile practices become the norm and this facilitates the process of harnessing knowledge assets to remain ahead of the curve. When this happens, an organization is said to be agile, not one that just does agile. This should be the primary aim and focus of organizations pursuing the path of agility.