top of page

Agile in Flux: Navigating the New Frontiers of Agile Ways of Working

Updated: Dec 20, 2023


Introduction

Agile practices have reached a turning point fraught with challenges and expanding opportunities. This article examines Agile's role as a dynamic framework for organisational agility and an operational philosophy. The following post offers insights and practical advice for adapting Agile ways of working in a broader organisational context. You'll uncover strategies to combat Agile fatigue, guidance on aligning Agile with strategic objectives, and examples demonstrating the symbiosis of Agile and traditional methodologies like Waterfall. This post serves as a guide for leaders seeking to unlock the potential of Agile within their organisations.


Agile's Current Standing

The recent downsizing of Agile teams at Capital One, Alphabet, and Microsoft has sparked concerns regarding Agile's continued relevance. Such moves have resulted in the term Agile fatigue, a phenomenon impacting project management and the entire business operational model. Companies may find that indiscriminate adoption of Agile can lead to team burnout and financial strain, necessitating a reevaluation of its universal applicability. Additionally, Agile fatigue highlights the risks of employing Agile without fully comprehending its core principles.

Strategic Oversight

Agile is not a one-size-fits-all solution. It’s a strategic framework that works best when aligned with company goals. The term Agile fatigue often stems from a misalignment between Agile practices and what the business aims to achieve.

Leadership Perspective

The onset of Agile fatigue usually happens when the focus narrows to just following processes, sidelining the delivery of real value. Leaders recommend a well-balanced emphasis on both - the Agile process and its rationale.

Practical Adjustments

One effective strategy to counter Agile fatigue among teams is re-evaluating key performance indicators. Shifting the focus from mere speed or story points to more encompassing measures like customer happiness can reignite the Agile spark among teams.

Strategic Takeaway

Remember, Agile isn’t a magic wand. It needs to be aligned with your company's core objectives to work. Failing to do this might lead you straight into the Agile fatigue trap.


Strategic Agile Thinking

Agile's value extends far beyond project timelines and deliverables. Agile can drive efficiencies and generate unprecedented value when strategically deployed across HR, finance, legal, and marketing departments. However, considerations regarding organisational culture, team structures, and core business processes are essential to realise this. So when adopting Agile, leaders must contemplate how the company culture can help or hinder Agile's success.

Cross-Functional Synergy

Agile isn't just a project management framework; it's a cultural change agent that impacts multiple departments. Creating cross-departmental connections is crucial for reaping the full benefits that Agile can offer.

Strategic Depth

For Agile to click across your organisation, you need an overarching strategy that considers market trends, tech innovations, and regulatory aspects. Align these with your Agile practices to form a more comprehensive strategy.

Mentorship and Training

Keeping your team engaged is more than a nice-to-have; it's a must. Regular coaching and training sessions can keep your team at the top of their Agile game. These sessions aren't just about skills but about cultivating a culture of continuous learning and adaptability, key traits for Agile success.

Business Outcomes

Don’t view Agile as just a means to an end. Always keep an eye on the bigger business picture. What value is Agile adding to your bottom line? What about customer satisfaction? Answering these questions takes Agile from a mere tool to a strategic asset.


The Role of Waterfall in an Agile World

While Agile swept through the corporate world, Waterfall was often viewed as obsolete. Yet sectors like healthcare and finance are witnessing a Waterfall resurgence, given their strong alignment with compliance and documentation requirements. This linear approach can, surprisingly, coexist with and even integrate into Agile to offer a more holistic project management strategy. This re-emergence of Waterfall points to its lasting viability and the benefits of methodological diversity.

Compliance-Centricity

Waterfall has strengths, especially when detailed documentation and strict compliance are required. These strengths are particularly useful in industries where bypassing regulations isn’t an option.

Strategic Mixing

Merging Waterfall's rigorous structure with Agile's adaptability is what seasoned leaders often call 'Strategic Hybridism.' This balance helps you be agile and well-documented, something complex projects often demand.

Leadership in Methodological Diversity

A leader's role in this blend of methodologies is to equip teams with the tools they need to excel in both. Whether it's Agile or Waterfall, being versed in both allows for greater flexibility in approach.

A Case for Resilience

The resurgence of Waterfall isn't a flash in the pan; it shows that the method has real staying power. This observation underscores the need for leaders to be agile in their thinking ready to adapt to different project needs as they arise.


Hybrid Methodologies and Agile Ways of Working

As industry leaders like IBM and Spotify adopt hybrid methodologies, the impact of Agile Ways of Working becomes more apparent. These combined approaches blend Agile's adaptability with Waterfall's organised planning, making business operations more robust yet flexible. For instance, IBM's recent data analytics project used a hybrid model to expedite delivery while ensuring regulatory compliance. Examples like this validate the case for hybrid approaches and their ability to improve operational effectiveness.

Strategic Synergy:

Agile and Waterfall methodologies cultivate an ecosystem where creativity flourishes without shortchanging governance protocols. This tailored blend doesn't just happen; it’s a conscious decision that enhances project efficiency on all fronts.

Adaptability as an Asset:

Flexibility in methodological choice has been a game-changer, increasing the rate of project successes and returns across various sectors.

Regulatory Compliance:

Going hybrid is not just about project speed or quality; it’s also a strategic route to fulfilling regulatory obligations. Adopting this hybrid approach makes your business more resilient and preserves brand integrity.

Guidance and Training:

Various training programmes have been initiated to acknowledge the promise of hybrid models. These training endeavours not only upskill teams but also optimise the deployment of resources in a multi-methodological landscape.


Skill Versatility for the Agile Organisation:

To navigate this complex landscape, professionals must acquire a diverse skill set. Versatility in methodologies - not solely among project managers but across all organisational roles - is increasingly valuable. Credentials like PMP for traditional methods and SAFe for scaled Agile add to this flexibility. Moreover, diversifying your toolkit allows you to be better equipped to address the varied challenges of implementing Agile across an organisation.

Focused Upskilling:

Investing in targeted training fast-tracks your Agile transformation and is a key milestone in achieving your strategic objectives.

Certification as a Benchmark:

Agile certificates should be viewed not as the end goal but as waypoints in a continuous learning journey, an ethos rooted in Agile philosophy.

Strategic Alignment:

Amassing a diverse skill set isn't just an end; it’s a lever to align your approaches more closely with broader organisational goals.

Empowered Teams:

Cross-training initiatives have not only made teams more agile but have also elevated the quality of project outcomes.


Metrics for Agile Success:

The narrative surrounding Agile metrics requires a fresh approach. Traditional metrics often focus on timelines and budgets, but to truly understand Agile's impact on the organisation, we need to shift our lens. Performance indicators such as employee engagement, customer satisfaction, and innovation rates provide a more holistic view of success. Such metrics paint a more detailed picture of Agile's benefits, helping to drive strategic decisions and continuous improvement.

Strategic KPIs:

Aligning KPIs with long-term organisational aims can turn Agile from a mere methodology into a potent strategic asset.

Quality Over Speed:

Agile is celebrated for responsiveness, but a relentless emphasis on quality has scored many teams accolades for exceeding project expectations.

Team-Centric Metrics:

Keeping the team’s morale and cohesiveness in view is critical to customer satisfaction. Leaders in Agile settings prioritise this dual focus as a key success marker.

Driving Transformation:

The advent of comprehensive metrics dashboards has been a significant leap forward. This tool is indispensable for quantitatively evaluating the reach and impact of your Agile initiatives.

ROI as an Agile Metric:

Viewing Agile as an investment opens up a new metric - ROI. This focus drives home Agile’s value as a working method and a business asset delivering measurable financial benefits.


Conclusion:

Agile is on an evolutionary curve, and its scope is expanding. Yet, it’s also facing questions about its universal applicability. Organisations must continually refine their Agile strategies for assured success. Adaptability is not just an option; it's a prerequisite for survival in today’s market. Hence, leaders who proactively align Agile ways of working with their business objectives mitigate risks and unlock new possibilities for innovation and growth.


About the Author

Giles Lindsay is a technology executive, business agility coach, and CEO of Agile Delta Consulting Limited. Giles has a track record in driving digital transformation and technological leadership. He has adeptly scaled high-performing delivery teams across various industries, from nimble startups to leading enterprises. His roles, from CTO or CIO to visionary change agent, have always centred on defining overarching technology strategies and aligning them with organisational objectives.


Giles is a Fellow of the Chartered Management Institute (FCMI), the BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT (FBCS), and The Institution of Analysts & Programmers (FIAP). His leadership across the UK and global technology companies has consistently fostered innovation, growth, and adept stakeholder management. With a unique ability to demystify intricate technical concepts, he’s enabled better ways of working across organisations.


Giles’ commitment extends to the literary realm with his forthcoming book: “Clearly Agile: A Leadership Guide to Business Agility”. This comprehensive guide focuses on embracing Agile principles to effect transformative change in organisations. An ardent advocate for continuous improvement and innovation, Giles is unwaveringly dedicated to creating a business world that prioritises value, inclusivity, and societal advancement.


44 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

Comments


bottom of page