Adopt The “Spirit Of Agile”—Beyond Software Development

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There are two types of Agile people in the world:

  • Capital “A” Agile people equate “agile” with Agile software development methodologies or frameworks. Agile requires specific roles, processes, and deliverables. You have to do Agile, to be Agile.
  • Lower case “a” agile people subscribe to the underlying values of Agile development, but most often use the term by its dictionary definition. Businesses can be agile.

Because of the two interpretations, the word tends to trip people up in conversations. From both types of people, I hear “that won’t/doesn’t work for us” frequently from interviewees for anytime I mention the word in research.  I hear it even more often now that my research is more focused on tech services buyers.

For the record, I’m a lower case agile person.

When I hear agile, I think: thinking quickly, being active and aware, and being coordinated enough to make quick adjustments to changes in your environment. To me agility is a critical skill in sports, at work, and in life. Anyone can be agile.

And so I believe the most important lesson business functions should take away from the software development world is the spirit of Agile.

Jeffrey Hammond and I published a report last year, Dealing With Development Team Dysfunction, that talks about Agile maturity in terms of being Agile by process, practice, and spirit. We encourage software development teams to strive to embody the spirit of Agile, rather than exchanging one set of strict processes for another. So maybe you can’t push out new releases every day, but you can and should still build a shared purpose for centered around your customers and focus on learning fast.

Likewise, making the sourcing of software and services more agile doesn’t require aligning contract terms to sprints or trying to hold daily standup meetings with vendors. It means adopting the values of Agile development, like learning quickly by testing ideas early and understanding the needs of your business customers better through more frequent interaction. I edited the original table published in our “Dealing With Development Team Dysfunction” report to take out any development-specific references and highlight the Agile by practice characteristics that you should still apply at the spirit level. Regardless of your role, take a look at the table below and see if you can place your agile maturity:

We’ll cover capital “A” agility and lower case “a” agile at next month’s Forrester’s Digital Transformation Forum in Chicago, with sessions on the digital ecosystem and improving digital customer experience. If you’ll be in Chicago and want to talk agile outside of development or the growing role of the digital ecosystem, we’d love to see you there.

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