Balancing the being and doing of agile

Balancing the being and doing of agile

Emma Matthews

The Agile way of working is a set of tools for changing the “doing” in organisations. The process is often prioritised over people. How do we develop the “being" of Agile - the culture, mindset and behaviours - needed for its success? We are helping our clients to navigate the way.

We all demand more every day as consumers. From our morning coffee to our health services we want faster, smarter and better service. If we can imagine it, we expect it can be delivered. The lag between conceiving and receiving our ideal can make us frustrated and disgruntled.

So, too, is the case in our businesses and organisations. There is unparalleled pressure to perform in current financial models and transform to this faster pace now! Many are introducing Agile to deliver this transformation. In interviews of more than 500 global senior executives with Forbes in July 2017, 92% said they believe organisational agility is critical to business success. 82% of respondents believe that the ability to incorporate Agile approaches is vital to implementing strategic initiatives.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the word agile as “having a quick resourceful and adaptable character.” 

The Agile way of working is a set of tools for changing the doing in organisations. What is often forgotten in the process is the need to develop an agile culture - the values and beliefs for living the change. At The Zone, we call this the being.

If you’re looking at how to transform, you need to look at culture as the key to success. The 2019 State of Agile Report found that organisation cultural issues remain the leading impediments to adopting and scaling Agile. In fact, not putting culture first was (mis)step 3 McKinsey identified in “How to mess up your agile transformation in seven easy (mis)steps”

To move quickly and easily together, you need to grow culture that values connection, relationships, us-over-me, and openness. To achieve this, we need to build safety and trust, communication and support.

Are leaders ready for Agile?

Getting ready for Agile requires overcoming significant gaps in organisational thinking. On a basic level, you’re evolving to value deep thinking over fast thinking. Team members are called upon to play a new game where the rules have changed, but the players remain the same. That’s a pretty challenging to manoeuvre. 

Embracing Agile means toppling the typical hierarchy, valuing relationships over technical expertise. It requires a change from a knowing mindset to a learning orientation. The only way that teams can successfully embark on these unknown waters is through a strong collaborative culture. Building relationships with their colleagues, and trust. 

The rise of self-direction over management can be challenging as it means letting go of control, accepting mistakes as learning, supporting with input without giving answers. Leaders are called on to create vision, enable teams to work together, coach and hold standards.

With Agile, coaching becomes more important than management.  Providing recognition for success as well as failures to encourage learning and adapting at every step. 

A powerful way to prepare your team for Agile is to focus on leadership training to prepare for the significant shifts ahead. And most importantly, the focus at all times must be on your people over the process. 

So here’s 3 actions to take to balance the being and doing of Agile

  1. Understand how ready your culture is for the Agile way of working.

  2. Engage in cultural alignment prior or as part of implementing Agile.

  3. Focus on leadership training to ensure your leaders have the right skills to be and do Agile.

Preparing culture  is key to Agile success. This means facing leadership and culture challenges upfront to ensure your organisation can grow and thrive doing Agile and being in balance.