We are an (fr)Agile company!

Well, this is quite the statement… I know more than a few software companies which state they are (almost) completely Agile, though in fact, they aren’t. They are, in fact, FrAgile (yep.. fragile, like a thin sheet of glass) as coined (and mentioned in this presentation) by Jeff Sutherland, the co-creator of the scrum methodology.

Many companies’ executives will tell you they have transformed their company to an agile one, abiding to all the “rules” depicted by the agile manifesto. They use scrum for their application development, and they still have issues delivering good quality software on time, most of the time.

When agile goes out-of-the-window

I used to ask myself why this is the case, and honestly… I still don’t exactly know why it is. What I do know is, all of these companies aren’t sufficiently agile at the different levels in the organisation hierarchy. I’ve spoken to peer software engineers at those companies, and they all say more-or-less the same thing. The development-team is really agile, but higher in the hierarchy they aren’t. Some of them are micro-managing, others are really directive in what the developers should build and how they should build it, others don’t accept a no-can-do from the development teams, and so on… It might be I’m mistaken, but in my possibly-not-so-humble opinion these are all killers of agile development.

An organisation can only be truly agile when the entire organisation wants it to be!

This doesn’t mean all departments should be using scrum per se (though it might help, and you’ll be surprised how well it can work…). I’m also not suggesting it is even possible for every single organisation to be agile in all departments. The important thing here is the will to be agile. If everyone wants to adopt an agile mindset, everyone will understand what “sacrifices” have to be made, and what possibilities and goodness they will get in return.

If there are, for instance, management departments which prefer to be stoic and unwilling to adopt the apropriate mindset, and rather stay top-down focused, even while the underlying development department works their ass of to be the very best agile development department ever, this will still result in a poor performance. Quite possibly they will have nothing to show for when a deliverable is needed.

How to get from frAgile to Agile

I’m convinced there is a way to get from frAgile to Agile, though this quite possibly means there needs to be a mindshift in the entire organisation. When you say you are agile and are following the agile-manifesto, you really need to do so too. I could write a lot of text here, but the aforementioned presentation has more than enough information to get you started. So I invite you to look at the slides and if moving imagery is more of your liking here is a youtube video about scrum@scale by Jeff Sutherland in which the subject is touched 😉