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Are We Operating in a Post-Agile World? Part 2

Introduction: Fuelled by Community Insight

In my last article about the 'Post-Agile' world, the community feedback was eye-opening and very much in tune with the forward-thinking strategies many of us have been promoting. Industry leaders like Nigel Thurlow, Philippe Guenet, Gary Osborne, and Russ Lewis offered valuable insights, confirming and building upon the ideas. This new discussion seeks to delve deeper into Agile practices and leadership style shifts. Acknowledging that community involvement accelerates our shared learning, acting as a force multiplier for such insights is crucial.

The 'Post-Agile' Context: It's About Evolution

As previously shared, 'Post-Agile' doesn't mean Agile is over; rather, it's transforming. As more organisations adopt Agile approaches into their workflows, we're entering a phase where traditional Agile roles may change, but the foundational principles remain essential. The widespread adoption across departments shows that businesses are reaching a level of sophistication beyond mere rules and frameworks. Organisations show increased acumen in distilling Agile values to fortify their long-term vision.

Unmasking the 'Post-Agile Mirage': A Warning

Philippe Guenet made it clear that the notion of a 'Post-Agile world’ is misleading. We’re just realising that our earlier efforts may not have been Agile. He also highlighted the effect of external pressures like geopolitics, social responsibilities, and supply chains. Tackling these issues requires a dedicated effort to weave agility into the very fabric of the business, maintaining Agile's core values as we adapt and evolve.

Reframing Agile: A Change Philosophy, Not Just a Methodology

John Henry pointed out that Agile must be perceived not just as a methodology but as an organisational change philosophy. It's an essential distinction that's driving the Agile community's evolution. Henry notes that Agile is increasingly about engaging the organisation in the projects meant to transform it. Traditional roles give way to an empowered community of leaders with the authority to make critical business decisions. The shift positions Agile as a comprehensive approach beyond Scrum, Kanban, or SAFe, putting each project's goals and transformative potential at its core.

The Leadership Factor: Aligning Mindsets with Approaches

Nigel Thurlow put it very clearly: "We don’t have a methodology problem, we have a behaviour problem, and that starts with leaders". His statement offers a significant insight. Agile isn't just a set of rules to be followed. Leaders must genuinely adopt Agile values and foster a culture that syncs with these principles. In my career, aligning mindset with an agile approach has been a consistent focus in my leadership and mentor roles. For Agile changes to stick, mindset and approach must work harmoniously, a dual focus that leads to real results.

Agile Leadership: A Seat at the Table

John Henry also pointed out that the Agile community has a unique role in helping leaders include Agile thinking in their overall change plans. In doing this, Agile becomes more than just a way of doing things—it becomes a key part of an organisation’s overall strategy. It also boosts Agile’s influence in significant business decisions, positioning it as a pillar rather than just a tool.

Bridging the Gap Between Boardroom Promises and Production Floor Realities

Carl Adamson's comment about the gap between Agile promises made in the boardroom and their actual implementation on the production floor is a cautionary tale. Business leaders may be looking for what's in it for them, as Adamson succinctly encapsulated through the acronym WIIFM (What's In It For Me). Agile becomes meaningful only when it delivers commercial outcomes. We must stop making broken promises before they even reach the production stage.

Extended Thoughts: From White Belt to 1st Dan

Adamson made a strong case that you can't leap from being an Agile beginner to an expert overnight. It takes steady effort, a shift in mindset, and a commitment of time and resources. Adamson's viewpoint resonates with Evan Leybourn’s assertion that the need for Agile skills is outpacing traditional roles. Businesses should see Agile not as a quick win but as a skill set that continually needs honing.

The Practical Side: Agile in Action

Gary Osborne's perspective is rooted in Agile's practical, operational aspects. He contends that the roles traditionally managed by Agile experts are becoming obsolete as Agile principles become a standard part of everyday work. This aligns with my long-standing belief that Agile should be an organisational mindset, not just a departmental one. The focus should be on making everyday operations conduits for Agile practices. Thus, the power of Agile can be harnessed as a tool that enriches the entire organisational fabric.

Sustaining Agile: A Cycle of Knowledge

Matthew Gonzalez asked a thought-provoking question: What happens when the Agile experts leave? This query echoes Russ Lewis’s point about the risk of knowledge becoming too specialised. It underscores the need for continual updates and active know-how sharing to ensure that Agile principles remain robust, preventing any backslide into older, less effective ways of doing things. Building a resilient Agile culture involves creating an ecosystem where knowledge is not just stored but actively circulated.

The 'Post-Agile' Landscape in the Face of Macroeconomic Realities

Andrew Long analyses the macroeconomic environment that seriously impacts Agile professionals. The challenges of higher inflation rates, expensive financing, and downward wage pressures underscore a shift in market conditions. Agile methodologies must now incorporate strategic thinking about economic sustainability and profitability. Businesses should consider how their Agile practices can be adapted to counter these macroeconomic challenges. For example, Software Profitability Management and Profit Streams could emerge as new Agile metrics for organisational viability.

The Agile Professional in a Contracting Job Market

A decrease in Agile roles, notably impacting Agile coaches and Scrum Masters, is a troubling sign that demands immediate strategic thinking. The dwindling job market calls for a flexible, quick-to-adapt approach. Skills diversification and a solid grasp of newer Agile metrics must be part of your skill set. The aim is to shift towards providing higher value through Agile ways of working, which could counterbalance the decline in job opportunities.

Risk Mitigation Through Agile

Given the economic uncertainties, it's time to think about how Agile can help mitigate risks. Although Agile has been great for managing project uncertainties, it must adapt to cover wider economic factors. Tactics like Contingency Planning and Agile Risk Maps could be important new tools in Agile’s toolbox, directly connecting Agile practices with the need for economic resilience.

Redefining Value Streams in the Face of Economic Constraints

Financial pressures force us to rethink what ‘value’ means in the Agile world. Focusing solely on product features or customer happiness is no longer enough. The shift requires that businesses strategically rethink value, considering long-term economic stability and customer needs. Metrics like Cost of Delay and ROI may become more relevant, guiding Agile practices during economic ups and downs.

The Agile Leader's Response to Economic Uncertainties

Amidst economic uncertainties, Agile leadership is poised for a significant recalibration. No longer can the focus be confined to product or project outcomes; a broader spectrum of corporate strategies targeting economic resilience must now be front and centre. This recalibration involves a multi-dimensional approach incorporating the agile management of financial metrics, bolstering workforce adaptability, and formulating decisive strategic pivots. Such an orientation ensures that Agile leadership remains both responsive and strategically aligned.

Staying Agile Amid Economic Headwinds: A Strategic Outlook

Faced with formidable economic headwinds, organisations must consider agility a fundamental strategic asset. The essence of maintaining organisational agility under such conditions is non-negotiable, not only for survival but also for long-term economic prosperity. A renewed focus on strategic adaptations, guided by Agile principles and robust risk mitigation frameworks, will serve as the cornerstone for thriving in this new economic paradigm.

Agile Community: A Force Multiplier for Change

Henry also highlighted the role of the Agile community in helping leaders, a view that positions the community as a catalyst for deeper insights. Agile is expanding beyond just projects and products; it's becoming a key strategy for the entire business. As Agile leaders, we're uniquely positioned to mentor these roles, ensuring that Agile practices align with business objectives.

Looking Ahead: Setting the Strategic Agenda

As we progress, the demand for transformative leaders capable of applying, innovating, and living Agile principles becomes more urgent. The next level involves facing challenges requiring a comprehensive, strategic perspective. Preparing for this calls for responsive and anticipatory leadership, ready for as-yet-unseen challenges. Proactive preparation and situational awareness will be the hallmarks of Agile leadership in the coming years.

Final Thoughts: The Strategic Value of Being Agile

The conversation around 'Post-Agile' points towards a strategic necessity. Agile is not an endpoint but an ongoing journey. Preserving the core values of Agile - being adaptable, responsive, and value-driven - must be an integral part of any organisation's strategic planning. A robust strategic alignment elevates Agile from a set of guidelines to a vital way of achieving organisational excellence.

Our future will be shaped not by sticking to Agile labels or specific roles but by continually updating and fine-tuning our approaches to meet complex business demands. That's the real meaning of agility and what will pave our path to ongoing success. On this journey, staying strategically agile will not be an option but a necessity.

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