Working for different companies as Scrum Master I often heard the top management saying “We are 100% Agile”. This made me start thinking, how did they calculate that? Was it the number of Daily Scrums divided by number of Sprints in all the projects all over the company? Or maybe the number of PSM/PSPO/other important certificates? This was a huge question for me and I couldn’t really find an answer yet, even thought it was quite a long time ago.
Take a Moment and Review Your Status
When transforming towards an agile organization, similar answers/questions can appear, especially from the top or fact-driven management. How Agile are we? Have we already transformed? Answering this is very tricky, as tricky is even the word we’ve been using for quite some time – transformation.
According to Cambridge Dictionary of English ‘transformation’ is “a complete change in the appearance or character of something or someone, especially so that that thing or person is improved”. There is also an example of how this can be used: ”Local people have mixed feelings about the planned transformation of their town into a regional capital.” - What we can see in this description and in the example is that in the word ‘transformation’ is hidden the moving from state A to state B. State B is clearly expressed, like regional capital in the example. This causes a lot of misunderstanding and misconception about what does it really mean to change in terms of being agile.
Can Agility be Planned?
When you hear such questions about the state of transformation (especially expressed in numbers like percentage), this probably means that still a lot has to be done in terms of understanding what agility really means. As stated in one of the previous articles, “[…] agility cannot be clearly indicated. Unlike monuments, it is hard to say when it is “done”. Agility is a path to follow, not a goal to reach.”. Agility is not about reaching some point and working the same way for the next 50 years – constant change and improvement are inseparable elements of being agile, therefore it is not possible to measure how agile are you. Each and every organization is different in terms of people, market and many other factors.
Similar issues are mentioned by Christiaan Verwijs in his blogpost “Here’s What's Wrong with Maturity Models”. He states, that maturity models assume too many simplifications, like linear growth or similarity of various organizations. They also present certain point on the timeline, meaning you can measure the level of “agile transformation maturity”. This is perfect for consultancy companies, as they can give strict answers and “success recipes”, but real life is way too complex to put in one (or more) model.
To Sum It Up
If someone asks you a question about the level of an “Agile transformation” or gives you an answer to that question, there is a problem with understanding the basics of working in agile way. This transformation has no “point B” to reach, it is more a direction, a path to follow, so question in the title makes no sense and raises a red flag when asked. As Gunther Verheyen wrote in his article “Agility is never ready” . If you want to know how agile is your organization, I can propose the following:
Read again the Manifesto for Agile Software Development and think if you really live the rules stated there, try to find examples,
Do the same about pillars and values of Scrum – they are important for companies trying to work within Scrum but also organizations moving towards agility.
One thing to remember – you need to live all those elements – Manifesto, pillars and values. You might not have them on posters, on the screen of your computer or any other place. They need to be real by what you and your company is doing. Actions are important, not only words.