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People frequently mean something different to what they actually say.  “Wow! It’s hot in here”, for example, may be a simple statement of fact or a request to open a window. To understand the speaker, we need to guess the intention behind their remark.  My latest red flag example of this is the statement “We need to be more…wait for it…Agile”.  I can illustrate this with a story of a financial institution who recently came to Global Knowledge with that very statement.  The obvious (I hope) assumption that the organisation wanted to talk project management or software development couldn’t have been any wider of the mark.  The exploratory conversation eventually got to a place where they were looking for best practices in “leading virtual teams”.

IT Operations, Scrum, software development, product ownership, storytelling, toolset implementation, service management and business change management are all places where what started as “Agile” conversations have got me in the past 12 months!  The root is that agile means different things to different people.  So much so, that I’ve been advising organisations to actually understand what “Being Agile” means before looking for help.

Now, you will almost certainly need help to reach Agile Nirvana.  Whether it’s agile coaching, education or toolsets, you cannot assume that the organisations asked to help have the same understanding of “agile” as you do.  For me, there is a very simple checklist that can be followed when you’re qualifying what it is you actually need;  Following Rudyard Kipling’s 6 trusty working men ought to help you narrow down what you’re looking for.

WHY are you doing Agile?  Ask yourself what goals, objectives and outcomes are you looking to satisfy or indeed behaviours you’re looking to change?  After all, there needs to be a compelling business case for any change.

WHO needs Agile?  Agile is something you become NOT something you do.  This will necessitate people being involved from MANY different functional areas.  The scale of change is so often underestimated.

WHAT solution will help?  Are you looking for culture change, optimised process, or technology to support you?  To be honest if you are not looking at all three then you better start to.

WHERE? This is the geographic question.  As an organisation gets bigger and more geographically dispersed then adopting Agile practices gets tougher – don’t let any of the evangelists fool you.  The wider the scope of ANY change you try to make, the more difficult it becomes.      This will undoubtedly be reflected in the approach you choose.

HOW are you going to solution the change? Most organizations predominantly focus on using one or two key methods from the many out there – Scrum, DevOps, etc.  Remember, one size fits all is dangerous.  Being business right is always preferable to framework compliant.  So, ensure you are aware of a number of tools to craft your solution.

WHEN do you expect results?  Think carefully about the timescales for the changes – culture change takes time and effort.  It will invariably be the toughest nut to crack in becoming more Agile.

So next time you utter the immortal words “We need to be more Agile” make sure you have answered these key questions.  It should certainly help you focus your efforts.

Global Knowledge

Global Knowledge’s best practice portfolio enables organisations from any sector better align their products and services to meet the needs of the most demanding customers. Learn more here.

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