By Arie van Bennekum

September 2018

Agile in retrospect: this year’s trends and challenges in 2018 – 2° Part

‘Agile’ is one of the most commonly used terms in management this year. Moreover, it is a typical office buzzword which surpasses its goal by the excessive use of it. As a result, undergoing an Agile transformation recently is the exception rather than the rule. Fact is, implementing a successful Agile transformation remains difficult. The recognition for change grows, as well as the necessity for full service delivery, in which all stakeholders are equally involved in the same process in order to create better business value more rapidly. But how can organizations achieve this? And for which factors do organizations need to adjust their Agile practices? I take Agile in retrospect by pointing out the most important Agile developments of last year and give my vision on the most important trends for the upcoming year.

What happened in 2017? The need for working Agile is very clear nowadays. Within the market there is a common need for co-creation and the number of requests of organizations that want to undergo the Agile transformation increases rapidly. New technologies and innovations evolve quickly, hence it is important that organizations are able to deliver products fast. Are you as an organization not able to respond to innovations now and in the future? Then you will have a hard time surviving… Working Agile is developing for quite a while now. The rise of alternatives to the traditional sequential (consecutive) approach, dates back decades ago. In 1990 a few experts further deepened into different working methods. With seventeen experts we shared all our experiences that when combined formulated the Agile Manifesto. You can read more about this in this blog. In the Netherlands DSDM was widely applied in the second half of the nineties. Shortly after writing the Manifesto in 2001 XP came forward strongly. Thereafter Scrum advanced. Since 2003 Agile is gradually growing and different kinds of methods gain attention. Since about five years, the Agile interaction-concept is applied on a large scale outside of the IT-circuit. Not only the IT-department started working differently, the whole corporate needed to be turned upside down to utilize all the benefits of working Agile. In 2017 we noticed that there are many chances and opportunities for organizations in this area. We identified three trends.

From scaled to corporate Agile A few years back we noticed that Agile principles were applied mostly within teams. Nowadays, the attention shifts to the interaction between teams. In programs the movement started with the term ‘scaling’. For a growing number of teams, the need arises for coordination of activities between Agile teams. If there is no coordination friction will occur. The challenge for 2018 will to integrate cooperation of the entire organization. This way, Agile working can be implemented based on the concept of full service delivery, resulting in corporate Agile. With this full-service delivery, it is important that all stakeholders work together on the same project from the beginning of the process onwards. A frequently used example is the production of a Monopoly game. Designers and marketers start with the board game right away and do not involve lawyers until the board game is finished. In the meantime, legal mistake aren’t noticed, causing the game to go straight into the garbage: the entire process can start over again. This could have been prevented by involving all stakeholders from the beginning of the process, a full-service delivery approach. By disciplining the interaction rituals of Agile, one of the drivers behind Agile is reached: preventing delay time. Everyone who is in control over (an aspect) the product needs to stay involved; analysts, developers, users, lawyers, marketers, designers and so on.

The awakened management ?Management and board members are becoming increasingly aware of the need to integrate all stakeholders into one production process. Previously, a lot of organizations came to Wemanity for Agile transformations, where they ‘wanted to change the IT department first’. When you realize that you work Agile for your business, this does not make sense. Agile ensures better business value that delivers faster with better internal quality. Nowadays, you see that if managers and members of the board understand the usefulness of involving all stakeholders, this actually results in a faster delivery of products or services. In 2017 Agile working is no longer seen as an IT job, but something that has to be done together. Hooray! Along with the growing number of applications for Agile transformations, the number of Agile coaches increased in 2017. A common problem of coaches and something they need to look out for is, that they themselves do not fall back in the traditional sequential methods. Agile coaches who do Agile transformations, but do not work Agile themselves, are a painful example. This really happens! It is Agile coach’s job to not only protect themselves against old principals and to deal with classical resistance behaviour, but to do this especially for their (internal of external) customer of the transformation. One of our senior coaches recently noticed the need for this. She was surprised that the managers were crying out for transformation, but when it came to it, did not want to make time for the change and fell back into their old behaviour. What a waste! With the emerge of coaches, quality must be maintained and monitored. Not only in teams, (especially) at the governing level of organizations. Agile leadership is an essential factor for success- the role model counts.

Paradigms of old working are still there? Despite the awareness, the traditional way of working in 2017 still appears to be maintained. Paradigms are rooted and determine, long after the organization has learned the new way of working, the reflexes under stress. In my opinion, there are only a few organizations that know how to apply the Agile principles the right way. The cause lies in the fact that people worldwide are used to think sequentially. This means that people are used to act step by step. This results in organizations still scheduling certain steps for testing, integrating and accepting this product or solution after the products or solutions are developed. There is no room in the current market for people and organizations to continue to think and work this way. Whether we want it or not, time-to-market will be the differentiator in the coming years. Paradigms only disappear when the Agile principles are properly applied. People should dare to throw their fixed principles overboard and use the principles of Agile work in the current working environment. Here fore culture, which is determined by people and their behaviour is essential. There are people who want to see opportunities and people who come up with counter-arguments. Every ‘yes, but…’ hints back to an old paradigm. There is a lack of time for counter-arguments. Now there is a spirit of time that requires adequate and quick reactions. Here lies an important role for the coaches. It is important that coaches have a behavioural background and, as such, enter the Agile competition. Hereby they distinguish themselves from Agile practitioners. Coaches also really need to desire change as an achievement. It makes a huge difference whether someone coaches solely, or is part of a focused transformation: coaching makes someone better at what he or she does, the transformation does not only bring change within the teams but throughout the entire organization.