What Is Meant By Being ‘Agile’?

Are we talking about big ‘A’ or little ‘a’?

A lot of organisations in Australasia appear to be ‘doing’ or ‘being’ agile, however, when you ask the people concerned what this actually means within their organisation, they cannot always provide a succinct, clear answer!
Enterprises and organisations of all sizes are faced with a far more volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) national and international context. To respond to this external environment organisations are striving to be more adaptive and effective in their customer focus, service delivery and how they use their talent and resources.
One approach to explain the concept of ‘agile’ is to distinguish between agile with a big ‘A’ or a little ‘a’.

The origin of big ‘A’ occurred in 2001 when a group of software developers wrote the Agile Manifesto, consisting of 4 values and 12 principles to guide a quicker pace to software development – including a focus on the customer as well as valuing people over process. This approach includes an incremental and iterative approach involving frequent interaction with customers and end users.

The other approach is agile with a little ‘a’ where individuals and organisations have the attributes to respond to changing circumstances more quickly due to greater flexibility and nimbleness in their decision-making, strategies and structures. Many of the tools and methodologies from big ‘A’ are useful in increasing the agility of little ‘a’ – however, the existing culture of the organisation should be taken into account in planning how this will happen, especially those that have more hierarchical structures and practices.

Change management practitioners need to know what context they are working in – sometimes it is with big ‘A’ in software development within an environment that is moving towards greater agility throughout the organisation. Follow this link for more information at the Prosci blog.

Leading and managing change requires agility as well as being able to deal with ambiguity. Prosci has undertaken some research in 2017 on the intersection of agile and change management with some interesting findings.

These findings include the need to adapt the integration of change management and project management as well as the impact on 10 change management practices. An interesting finding is that there is a direct correlation with how effectively “Agile” is introduced to the organisation and the subsequent success of Agile project outcomes.

The move from a traditional ‘waterfall’ approach to Agile requires change management if the outcome required is greater adoption, usage and proficiency of the new way of working – i.e. agility!

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