When is a company truly agile?

Door Patrick Verheij

Ask many persons about what they think is an agile organization and you will get a multitude of answers.\r\n\r\nMost of the answers I get from people include terms like “continuous delivery”, “better time to market”, “devops”, “lots of transparency”, “business is highly involved” and even “if the company implemented Scrum, LeSS or SAFe”.\r\n\r\nThe main questions I ask leaders in companies are: “why do you want your organization to be agile?” and “how do you envision your company when it is agile?”\r\n\r\nImmediately I get answers that include “we are effective”, “we deliver what the business wants”, “we are more productive”, “people are happier”, “we attract talented people” and of course “to save costs”.\r\n\r\nBasically, the whole world is still discovering what it means to be agile.\r\n\r\nNow those companies that have the clearest vision on the agility they desire, that have the most tangible goals, they will probably reach their desired state fastest.\r\n\r\nBut…does being more productive mean that an organization is more agile? Even when that productivity is reached by “implementing” Scrum, Less, SAFe or generic agile processes? Even if also people are now happier and there is a lot less waste? Even if the market share increases and customers are happier than ever before?\r\n\r\nIs a company agile when everything we can label “agile” is attained, whether it be tools, processes, structures, results or even attitude?\r\n\r\nI doubt it.\r\n\r\nEven when a company, as mentioned, is able to sustain its state and result it probably isn’t agile.\r\n\r\nTo me, organizational agility means organizational adaptability: a company is agile when it is able to reach certain desired results while at the same time it is able to transform itself to something else when other results are required.\r\n\r\nLike Jim Highsmith states it like: “Agility is the ability to both create and respond to change in a turbulent business environment”.\r\n\r\nThat means that the most important characteristic of an agile company (or organization if you also include governments, charities, etc.) is its ability to change as a whole. Whenever it is needed and preferably before that time in order to stay ahead of everybody else.\r\n\r\nI believe this must be taken into account when you speak about an “agile transformation”. Otherwise, it’s probably more safe to talk about a “change program” or an “organizational make-over” 🙂

Patrick Verheij

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