Agile methods and tools are just the beginning of a big change. Even large companies realize that such a change is possible and feasible – if it is done properly to avoid the bad and ugly part. After several years of digital experimentation, most corporate executives are becoming increasingly aware that changing to a digital business always involves a holistic, agile transformation. This not only affects the way projects are agile planned and managed. It starts with agile management and continues through liquid network structures, agile processes, and business architectures. Hand on heart: Everyone wants to be a little bit “Agile”. This, of course, leads to “dislocations” that have nothing to do with the origin. Where there is light is therefore shadow. Therefore, it is important to distinguish between the Good, the Bad and the Ugly Agile.
The origin of the agile movement is the agile manifesto of 2001. This comes from a time when great “faithfulness” prevailed in the success of standardized processes and processes in software development. Interestingly, at that time, no one really realized what economic significance the topic would have.
From this time four formulations in the agile manifesto come in a form “A over B”. It is important to note that this is not “A instead of B”. Nevertheless, the two sides are juxtaposed. In practice, this offers a lot of room for interpretation in order to tend towards one or the other side. In this respect, it is important to take a closer look at the four statements.
The first statement reflects the value of people/communication via processes/tools. If one could analyze the optimization programs of all companies in the last years, one would very probably show that many were concerned with “process optimization”. The importance of qualified personnel has only gained an interest in the last two years. Nevertheless, companies struggle to break up their bricked-up and cemented silo structures and replace them with autonomous, interdisciplinary teams. Exactly that, however, is also reflected in this statement.
The second statement deals with functioning solutions and documentation. In other words, “the map is not the area”. Many companies spend a lot of time and money creating new maps. The “classic” of the digital transformation is to work with the best of intentions on a digitization strategy (= documentation) and to use millions of budgets. Just as well, these companies could donate their money to a meaningful purpose. In the end, the change portfolio is so full that many things are started and little accomplished. Instead, it would be more helpful to implement a piece of a working solution, to test it and to approach the customers.
If the digital transformation has taught one, then it is the mercilessness of customer orientation. Customer focus – though much praised in the past – is more than ever reality today. Those who lose sight of this are often mercilessly disrupted in the market. The examples of Kodak or Nokia are well known. In the end, it always happens differently than planned. The surely meant order is not granted. There are other opportunities, but they are not used because the plan does not foresee it. Welcome to the age of planned economy!
When it comes to making change more important than having a plan, it is often interpreted as not requiring a plan. As a result, teams do not even try to develop a vision. Without such, they do not know which direction to go and
how to prioritize. Agility = chaos? Not at all. Agile action is characterized by such transparency in terms of individual performance that employees often dizzy. Every two to three weeks a result is to be delivered. The lack of this goal is immediately transparent and not, as it was earlier, at the end of several years. Do not duck. Based on these considerations, the left side of the Agile Manifesto can be called “Good Agile” – whereas the right side is for “Bad” Agile – or better said “Bad Everything”.
The increase of “Bad” Agile is “Ugly” Agile
That’s not enough – it’s even worse. Because the increase of “Bad” Agile is not “waterfall”, as you might think. Much comes today in the guise of “agility” therefore. An anecdote makes the difference between “Bad” and “Ugly” clear. Several years ago, an external project leader sat in a kick-off of an IT implementation project. When asked about a schedule, he pointed to the agile manifesto he had pasted on the first page of his notebook. His mundane answer: “Why schedule? We carry out the project” agile “Congratulations – misunderstood everything, fortunately, this project leader was replaced soon.
This reflects only the tip of an iceberg, in which “agile” is used as a general absolution for unstructured and undisciplined action. As the hype surrounding the digital transformation has passed its peak, we will probably hear more examples of failed, agile large-scale projects in the near future. Lidl joins only a number of many here.