Agile’s not just a methodology

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Jenni Jepsen

There is a common misperception in many organizations transforming to Agile ways of working that Agile is yet one more way to do project management.

And to make it worse, there are many funny sounding names for the frameworks: Scrum, Kanban and SAFe, with corresponding development tools like TDD, DevOps; and then, backlogs with epics, features and user stories. 

The terminology reinforces the misperceptions about Agile as people scramble to understand the new way of working, and to perhaps change roles from “team lead” to “Scrum Master” or “project manager” to “Product Owner.” Don’t even get me started on “RTEs,” “Product Managers” and “Epic Owners.” No wonder it is often difficult to move to Agile.

4 key Involve & Engage principles

The thing is, Agile ways of working focus on four key Involve & Engage principles:

  1. Understand together
  2. Plan together
  3. Validate together
  4. Reflect together 

All to follow the value so that we can deliver that value to customers faster!

When you do those four things, you ARE working in an Agile way. The frameworks are simply techniques to support us as we understand and plan together, demo results and get feedback, and reflect together to learn and improve.

The reality is that transforming to Agile is more about changing our culture and mindsets than about changing to a new methodology.

The culture of “together”

Together does not mean the managers together. Together does not mean the IT teams together. Together does not mean the business together. Together means the key people who have influence, an interest, or a role in the development and delivery of a product TOGETHER. 

Getting to the “together” requires working across the organization, breaking down silos, bringing business and IT functions together, setting up persistent, cross-functional teams, and having managers whose primary role is to support teams by removing impediments, providing clear strategic direction, and helping increase the competencies of people.

When we work together, really together, we also create ownership of the work, ownership of the value we deliver, and ownership of the entire transformation process.

Over time, it is this “together-ness” that creates a “WE” culture – and that is one of the biggest benefits of working in an Agile way.

Act your way to new thinking

Thinking your way to new acting doesn’t work. The neuroscience proves the only way to shift mindsets is to act your way to new thinking.

And while I know the various Agile frameworks can be confusing at first, they all share methods to get us to act in new ways – nudging us to understand together, plan together, demonstrate results frequently and get feedback, and reflect together to learn and improve. 

Over time (sometimes a long time), we get into the habit of doing master planning, PI planning, sprint planning, refining, having demos, stand-up meetings, and retrospectives. We understand the benefits these techniques bring for our customers and for ourselves. And suddenly, we can never go back to our old ways of working. 

This is the mindset shift – and it’s the result of making changes to how we act in our work each day.

So don’t worry too much about the methodologies in Agile. Remember the “together” part – and not only will we deliver value to our customers faster, we’ll affect culture and mindsets in a truly remarkable way. 

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