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Whose Agile Journey is it Anyway?

By Bhavani Krishnan | Nov 03, 2022 |  Agile,  Article,  Leadership

An image of a hand holding question marks and a hand holding lightbulbs to represent the clairty that comes when an Agile Journey is aligned around a compelling purpose.

This past weekend I went to an Agile meetup and a particular question kept coming up in many variations, “Whose agile is it?” And the answers equally had many versions–Some sided with ‘software teams’ and said, “Agile only works for development teams”. 

Others sided with ‘executives’ because they are the influencers. And some, including me, were scratching our heads thinking, “have we strayed too far from the why behind it all?”

Finding the Why Behind your Agile Journey
Agile, as many of us have experienced, is a culture and a mindset. An organization with a compelling purpose to improve, regardless of software or business teams, experiments with a set of practices, and iterates through them operates with agility. Success comes to those that are intentional and holistic about it.

When trying to master a new skill, practice and support lead to permanence. Similarly, during a transformation journey, top-down support and bottom-up practice lead to Agile maturity. Focusing on the WHY behind an Agile journey unites the whole organization to prioritize the need for change and creates resilience to resistance. When leaders acknowledge, celebrate, and support the WHY, people in the Organization feel safe to experiment and excel.

Embrace Change, Celebrate Wins
I have witnessed both. Leaders that mandate the transformation without truly standing behind the purpose, eventually blaming it on Agile, and those that have internalized, walked along with the members of the organization, experienced the shift, supported the challenges, created room to fall, and celebrated even the smallest wins. 

I remember, when I was supporting a major transformation at a financial organization, a team had accomplished a 100% say/do ratio during a sprint–which was consistently slipping for them for a few sprints. When the VP of the technology department learned about this, he formed a human chain and brought the entire floor to applaud the team and their accomplishment. He said it was important to acknowledge the win and didn’t measure, small or big. It was an accomplishment worthy of celebration. He openly encouraged, empowered, and supported the transformation. 

Making Sustainable Change
Purpose is very personal. It varies for everyone. A new level of clarity is attained when it is acknowledged. For example, I have learned through many failed attempts that yo-yo dieting does not result in permanence. In order to make real change, I need to make a lifestyle change. It’s a mindset shift. I had to intentionally focus on the reason behind my desire to be healthy. I had to allow myself to feel safe when I failed. The final why that clicked for me was when I realized, clean eating aligned with my philosophies of clean earth and leaving it better than I found. THAT was my compelling purpose!

The question is not whose Agile it is, the question is, do you have a purpose for change? Without that, you are trying to solve a puzzle with a lost piece.

So ask yourselves again, what’s YOUR purpose for change? Share if you don’t mind via comments below.

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