During my career as a technology consultant for Mexican companies, I built a track record in the industry, became familiar with different methodologies, standards and frameworks, all of which serve the same purpose: help companies that are leaders in their field and rely on these tools to provide their customers with products and/or services of their choice. Using scenarios that offered an opportunity to evolve, along with operations in that area, by applying quality models, such as ISO 9000, operational standardization, such as ITIL, and software development improvements, such as CMMI. Applied either to increase the level of expertise in that field or to adopt a new way of working, these models have been gradually incorporated in organizations during the last decades.
What are the results of these efforts? I dare say that, at a reduced scale, positive results were obtained. However, some companies suspended the process of adopting those methodologies due to an increase in costs. Likewise, talent retention and (standard) certification renewal, which does not yield any short-term results, have become decisive factors for corporations that renounced alternative solutions.
Now, as part of this variety of emerging methodologies, Agility has been included into our way of operating. Given their global popularity, agile operations are “in vogue”, we all talk about them. This is easy to understand, as it is a “repetition” of theories, practices, experiences and, I dare say, common sense taken to a context of experimentation for a limited and constant period of time to learn from it and respond immediately (agile).
As we enlarge on that topic, we discover a wide range of ways we may work based on a given Agility model, forcing us to choose what actually “suits” us. We should avoid getting carried away by the idea that adopting an Agile practice or technique is going to solve everything. Startups have taught us and shown that doing things differently can yield amazing results. However, these cases should be replicated with reservation, as the environment, scale, conditions and other factors can make a big difference. Actually, in companies with strong hierarchical processes, that were established a long time ago and whose teams have become used to monotony, the possibility of introducing agility is minimal. Another serious mistake that leads companies to consider adopting agile practices is that their competitors have declared themselves as “agile”, positioning themselves several steps ahead of others who have not yet taken that step.
My experience as an Agile Coach has taught me not to underestimate agility. Despite its simplicity, the following should be taken into account:
· Understand that providing our customers with benefits little by little is the right way of increasing the success of a given product or service, rather than waiting and getting lost in idealizing a “perfect set”.
· The complexity of being able to devise solutions in a short time. These solutions need to be like Lego bricks, i.e. they should be easy to integrate.
· The challenge of learning to devise a business with results step by step.
· Corporate strategy and the patience required to develop it.
· The complexity of changing a given work culture.
· Measure people’s performance by the value delivered to customers.
· The technical part, i.e. those who develop the product and/or service, need to be in tune with the business. Including that part from the beginning also helps create, innovate, contributing and requiring creativity.
· Breaking paradigms for viable solutions. All this requires order, planning and participation, which translates into the commitment of delivering solutions on time.
As with fashion, if we are not willing to buy a new piece of clothing or to accept that we may have to rely on a style we have never worn before, if we are not willing to invest heavily in a cultural (organizational) change, to accept thinking differently to solve problems, to be open to learn and work in new ways, if we are not willing to adopt that “agility” style, the trend will eventually fall into oblivion.