Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Adopting Agile frameworks and techniques doesn't make you Agile - does it?

It's undeniable that "agile" is all the rage and is growing exponentially, and that frameworks and techniques that are frequently associated with "agile" (Scrum, XP, TDD, BDD, Planning Poker, et al) are being adopted at a furious pace.  But its growth is horizontal *across projects* and not vertical from projects up to the C-Suite.  This is a problem.

In other words, management isn't really on board.  In most cases, they're still running a "waterfall" operation.  And Agile values? Not so much.

The adoption and projection of Agile values are what provides the necessary culture and state-of-mind that enables true agility.  Without leadership on these, enterprise agile will never happen.  Ever.

So adopting frameworks isn't enough, is it?

I've lost count of the number of companies I've worked with that started out by telling me that they were "agile - sorta."  By that they meant they were working "a little more iteratively" (whatever that means) and holding "daily meetings." Good stuff, for sure, but it's just the beginning.

Most of these companies were diligently trying to adopt agile frameworks and techniques, but they were doing it in a vacuum - without leadership support.  They were doing yeoman's work without leaders fertilizing the crops with a solid demonstration and projection of Agile values - especially high trust, transparency, fail-fast, and collaboration.

"Sure - be agile.  Just make sure to provide a 24 month program plan."

"Sure - be agile.  Just don't bother the customer."

"Great!  We love agile.  Can you fit this new feature into this sprint?"

I wish I could say this is rare problem, but it's not.  I've assessed more than 100 "agile" organizations and 90% of them had leadership that was not actively engaged in agile adoption.

Nothing against the folks who are doing great work at the team level, or the people leading the industry with new and innovative techniques for enterprise agile, SAFe, or DAD  (great stuff, really), but the real impediment is more basic - leaders need to get up to speed on what great agile is, better understand what they're role is in the agile ecosystem, and change the way their leading!

Until they do that, we're pushing rope uphill.

To make matters more complicated, there hasn't been an industry model for them to lean on to check themselves - until now.  Check this one out.

I'll be speaking on the of Agile leadership, values, and more at the upcoming 2017 Agile Leadership Summit in Washington, DC on September 22nd, 2017.  There will be eight great speakers, and networking with other Agile leaders who are looking to address this problem in the industry.  Why don't you join me?

The first keynote is Kevin Fisher, VP at the Nationwide Insurance Advance Development Center.  Kevin is responsible for the capability lift of their 225 Agile teams.  Talk about Enterprise Agile!

The second keynote is our good friend Tom Cagley from SPaMCast.  Tom's interviewed 100s of Agile luminaries, and will be sharing his lessons on Agile leadership.

Register for the Agile Leadership Summit at

Jeff Dalton is an author, coach, and instructor for Agile leaders.  He is President of Broadsword, a Performance Innovation company, and Chief Evangelist at, a resource an development organization that provides models for Agile leaders.

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