Agile Change Pragmatism

Prgamatism: a reasonable and logical way of doing things or of thinking about problems that is based on dealing with specific situations instead of on ideas and theories [merriam-webster Dictionary] 

In my role as an agile coach i often get to meet people and organizations that are considering embarking on their journey towards organizational agility, more often than not these people are seeking a coach that will offer them what they refer to as “pragmatic advice”, they are seeking advice and ideas that are not religious or theoretical, advice that will work it their own company with its own limitations and realities.

 What are they really looking for? 

Often they are actually looking for someone that will help them increase organizational agility in a way that doesn't really change anything, they are looking for advice on how to maintain the existing status quo. Unfortunately often that is not possible. 

Can we change without change?

“If you want to change something, it usually requires that you change something” [Elad Sofer 2016] 

If the organization want to increase their agility, it probably means that the ways things are at the moment are not producing enough agility, which leads us to the strange conclusion that in order to improve from where we are now, some changes will be required.
In the past, when i was an inexperienced agile coach, i would probably go along and agree to introducing the agile mindset to an organization without significant changes. But not anymore.
My experience tell me that in order to improve business agility, more often than not, major changes are required. Why? Because the reasons for not being agile enough are often embedded in the dynamics of the organization, in the organizational structure, in the ways roles are defined (or not defined), in its culture and more…

Here is an example: 

Organization representatives: We want to be more agile, we want to empower our employees, but we want it to be done in a way that does not change the current structure and roles, we are not willing to eliminate the role of the team leader. 

Me: Well… than you are not willing to change what is needed. Is there a way for you to reconsider this statement, can we discuss this at all?

Organization representatives: No.

Me: In that case, I am sorry but i fear that the change you are looking for is not really a change. I can’t help you.

Don't get me wrong

I don't expect anyone to simply buy-in into someone else’s ideas without questioning them, the opposite is true. I expect to be challenged, i encourage my customers to think and come up with their own solutions to the challenges they are facing, and i also expect them to be committed to real change and not just to be scratching the surface. 

Because i want to pragmatic as well

I want my customers to be happy, which to me means i want my customers to gain real tangible benefits from their agile transition effort and our mutual work, and my experience tells me that there are some things that have a very slight chance of providing benefits, there are also some things that if the organization is not willing to at least try and experiment with, are often evidence that the organization is not yet ready to start their agile journey.

So here is some pragmatic advice.

If you are not willing to consider:

  • Create cross-functional, long-lived, self organizing teams.
  • Eliminate the TL role.
  • Encourage collaboration and reduce (or eliminate) any synchronizing role (i.e. Project manager)
  • Adopt MVP (minimum viable product) thinking.
  • Invest in continuous improvement and long-term thinking.
  • Have business people and developers work together.

There is a good chance you will not even come close to the benefits you can gain from Agile.
This is one the main reasons i find the LeSS framework to be providing very good guidance on large scale adoptions, LeSS, while being as non-prescriptive as we can, still makes sure that the pragmatic stuff are there from day 1.

I would be happy to meet and explain why i find this advice pragmatic.
May the force be with you,
Elad