What's Agility - How to Enable It In The Non-Agile World

The true essence of being “Agile” is in knowing the true meaning of “Agility. “Agile” has been around for a good decade and a half, yet there is lack of clarity regarding agility - even among the practicing professionals.  SCRUM is the most popular agile framework that is used to ACHIEVE agility; but what exactly is “Agility”.  You can do SCRUM and still be non-agile; sounds strange but it is true. As Mike Cohn, author and coach, puts it:

"It doesn't matter how good you are today, if you are not better next month, you are no longer Agile!"

Mirza will talk about how agile values & principles enable Agility. Frameworks like SCRUM are merely tools; when employed with the agile values and principles, agility is achieved. Agility ensures continuous process improvement and the right products - the products that meet customers' demands and expectations. Attendees will have a chance to see “Agility” separately from the agile framework. The implementation of agility is different for different organizations, Mirza will also discuss how to step into and introduce Agility in non-agile environments. 

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Outline/structure of the Session

What I need out of this presentation
•        Clarity of AGILE values and principles
•        Agile mindset
•        Some of the questions answered,
•        and the rest unanswered; to let curiosity drive you ahead!

How to see Agility
•        Agility is philosophy in theory, and continuous improvement in practice

Pillars of Empirical Process
•        Transparency, Inspect, Adapt
•        We will relate these concepts to their implementation in Agile Framework - SCRUM

How to Introduce Agility in non-AGILE environment
•        Two most crucial steps to start with Agility 

Brief Demonstrative Exercise
•        To build a case for AGILITY, we will see National TelCo (telecommunication company) launching a mobile app (through Traditional and Agile approach)
•        People would be able to see the difference and would immediately pick up the concept of Agility

I have chosen TelCo  as everybody can relate to it. People use mobile apps on daily basis irrespective of age, profession or region. There is a fierce competition between TelCo's in any region of the world to gain the market share and to reduce churn out of customers. To retain customers and gain new target markets, TelCo's constantly launch new features to retain customers and keep them actively engaged. 

Learning Outcome

After this talk, I expect the attendees: 

•        To have clarity on Agile values & principles; and how they enable Agility
•        To know the difference between philosophy (Agility) and framework (e.g SCRUM)
•        (Traditional managers) To see the benefits of employing Agile approaches 
•        To know which steps to take initially to support AGILITY in their Non-AGILE environment
•        To be more inquisitive to learn about the concept of Agility

Finally and most importantly:

•        To be more Agile


Target Audience

Agile practitioners, SCRUM cross-functional teams, Scrummasters, Traditional Managers, programmers, business analysts

schedule Submitted 2 years ago

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  • Pierre Neis
    By Pierre Neis  ~  2 years ago
    reply Reply

    This is a "bloody" good question. Are you doing agile or are you agile?

    It's all about the paradigm shift. Remember when you discovered agile and the evolution of work from traditional decision pyramids to system to complex adaptive systems.

    We focused our attention first to engineering practices then we discover that we should improve management. Improving management revealed that we need to address leadership. Now agile community reached another level, the organisation level.

    Looking at the whole system challenges our beliefs on agile again.

    How to enable it in a non-agile world? Is a good question. What is your strategy for change? Is the emerging change managed by agile teams enough? Is change not another parallel project?

    Knowing Meerza, this will be an awesome session!

    Have an amazing day



  • Joanna Khoury
    By Joanna Khoury  ~  2 years ago
    reply Reply

    Very interesting topic as agility mindset is really as important as the framework and even I would say more important than the framework as agile values guide us as agile teams, coaches, scrummasters.... to find solutions to everyday issues.

    Also sharing an agile mindset guarantees the following:

    The team members and all concerned persons know why they are doing what they are doing

    The scrummaster having the agile mindset and not only mastering the mecanical aspect of scrum

    The management having the agile mindset will more helpful, supporting and encouraging to agile implementations

    The agile mindset transition agile teams to the second level on agile growth.


    Good Luck!

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    There are so many organizations and product teams that are embracing agile implementation methodologies as a means to accelerate product development for competitive advantage and customer delight. Agile is now more than a fad or a buzzword.

    Despite all this pervasiveness and penetration, there are only some teams for whom agile works well, whereas it doesn't work so well for some of the other teams and it fails for the rest. 

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     Details are given below:

    1. Square pegs in round holes- These are role anti-patterns and arise by looking at Scrum Master / Product Owner as positions to fill rather than identifying and assigning the right person for the job and abrupt transitions from PM / architect to SM / PO creates this anti pattern. It is important to ascertain the fitment and identify the right person with the attributes of a servant leader who can influence the team without authority, empathize, ask the team the right questions which would empower and enable them to become more self-organizing and step back when required. In cases where a transition is involved adequate training / coaching needs to be provided to smoothen the transition.

    2. Ineffective retrospectives - Retrospectives are treated more as a ritual with no feedback loop to the planning process. Ineffective retrospectives are good at addressing the person and not the problem, creating actionable without owner(s) and timelines, have no focused outcomes and create a "blame game" culture.

    3. Sub-optimal local execution - This is reflected in product teams / modules / component not aligned at the global / program level and is primarily due to misalignment of the teams during planning, no vertical slicing, poor dependency management,  inability to create cross functional teams, no single product backlog, infrequent touch points across the teams with no day to day interaction. This typically results in teams following the sprint cadence but not creating any working deliverable at the end of the sprint.

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    Other aspects to address include the team structure and alignment. Executing cross skilling plans levels out workload and integrating business + dev + QA ensures that the right product is built right and reduces failure load significantly.

    4. Dysfunctional team  - This typically happens due to trust deficit. There is typically no daily engagement with the team and team is comfortable with conflict avoidance. Understanding the team (Use tools like Pat Lencioni's 5 dysfunctions of a team), managing conflicts effectively, creating conditions for constructive confrontation, rewarding team collaborative behaviors goes a long way in creating trust, confidence and collective responsibility.

    5. Dis-engaging Daily Standups - Typical anti-patterns here include scrum meetings that overrun significantly beyond stipulated time, team members reporting status to the Scrum Master and not the team, impediments not raised in the meeting, dis-engaged team members. Visualizing the work, raising and tracking impediments, being sensitive to the time zone differences and accommodating them, investing in technology that helps enhance the engagement / involvement levels of the complete team helps make the daily scrums more effective.

    6. Unaligned Process model - Team members frequently pulled into firefighting and production support activities with no regard to the commitments made. There is a need to introspect if time boxed sprint is the right way to go for teams in this case or would a different approach like Scrum+ Kanban (ScrumBan) work better ? There are also cases where heavy weight ALM tools are used for short duration engagements or small teams just because of the availability, without any training or regard to the ROI.

    7. Product Owner - Team misalignment: This is typically manifested in busy product owners (Example -: product owner spending time in too many  discussions with the client, Product Owner for multiple teams) for whom this is an additional responsibility apart from their day jobs, mismatch between the product owner's expectations and the team's expectation, disruptive product owners who do not appreciate or understand the team's challenges, team's velocity not factored in release planning by the product owner. Ensuring that a product owner is not assigned for more than 2 teams, business analysts in the team interfacing with clients to see what the market needs leaving the responsibility of the technical product to the actual product owner, proxy product owner who is empowered to take decisions in the product owner's absence are some of the strategies that ensure enough bandwidth is available for the POs to collaborate effectively with the product team and focus on effective product delivery.Appropriate budgeting for PO during the pre-planning phase, sensitizing the product owners through more face time with the team, identifying  chief product owners for alignment across multiple teams (scaled scrum), proxy product owners are also additional strategies that can address this situation.

    8. Not building the right thing - As Drucker said "There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all". . Appropriate widely used techniques / frameworks (Value Stream Mapping, Value-Risk mapping, Risk Based Testing, Design Structure Matrix, Product-Market fit decision frameworks, Kano model) for identifying the right thing to implement, prioritize and eliminate waste would help tackle this antipattern.

    9. Cultural anti-patterns - Typical issues observed here includes -Teams not aligned to the organizational goal / purpose of the program,  non-collaboration across teams, offshore team treated as a "B" team,lack of T shaped skills, inappropriate performance / R&R systems that reward individual success over team success, irregular or inconsistent sprint cadence, student syndrome, using velocity as a tool to compare performance across teams, abrupt transition from project manager to scrum master role, management looking at agile as a tool to overwork the teams, poor ALM tooling strategy and non-alignment across the teams.

    Why is alignment important ? Because one of the important components of ownership is knowing "What to own ?". In surveys with the top management misalignment of the team's goals with the organizational goals comes out as a top response.

    Some symptoms of a poorly aligned team include: poor or failed execution, lack of clarity about priorities, low morale, absence of healthy debate, lack of ownership or follow through, underground communications (gossip, “us versus them” thinking)

    Usage of surveys like the team alignment questionnaires, Scrum Butt questionnaire, team assessment versus the 12 agile principles surfaces points of mis-alignment and dysfunction across the teams

    Some solutions to address cultural dysfunctions include usage of purpose alignment matrix and four questions (who do we serve ?, What do they need and want most ?, What do we do better than anyone else to meet those needs and wants ?, What is the best way to deliver these products / services ? ) to establish the team's purpose, creating cross-functional teams that can get to “done” in each location, recognizing and rewarding adaptive collaborative change behaviors (cross skilling, taking initiatives in supporting team to overcome impediments, helping others cross skill, breaking boundaries for effective problem solving) to reinforce these behaviors,  assessing current project managers and ensuring an effective transition into agile roles through 1:1 coaching (for transforming  smoothly from command and control to servant leadership), effective management of time zone differences in distributed teams to ensure appropriate rotation of meetings / discussions so that one of the teams does not burn out, top down approach to sensitize management and make necessary changes to the organizational structure and career roadmap  for accommodating agile roles like Product Owner, Scrum Master, agile program manager etc.. , adopting objective metrics like Time to Market (TTM) and business value accrued to measure effectiveness.

    As Eliyahu Goldratt once mentioned "Tell me how you will measure me and I will tell you how I will behave". Therefore, look into your performance systems first if you come across any dysfunctional behaviors. One cannot expect a person to display collaborative behavior, if the performance system encourages and rewards individual success over team success.

    10. Surfeit of Metrics  - Team tracks too many metrics that are not relevant and are inherited from waterfall mindset. There is also an obsession for effort tracking at the individual level and % complete’s. Burn-up charts, velocity, committed vs achieved ratio, defects per sprint are just enough metrics for effective tracking.

    11. User story anti-patterns - Teams do not put in efforts to refine the product backlog as it is seen more as a cost than an investment. There are multiple product backlogs and definition of ready is not agreed between the PO and the team. This results in large user stories that cannot be completed in a sprint, wait times for clarifications and things getting put on hold a few days after implementation due to lack of adequate inputs. Agreeing on a Definition of Ready (DoR) and coaching the team / PO on patterns for splitting user stories helps overcome these barriers

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