As many as 94% of organizations are practicing some form of agile according to 9th annual State of Agile survey™, yet I have first-hand experience seeing countless organizations that aren’t doing agile right, aren’t getting the maximum benefits and are just taking a superficial approach.

So how can you tell if your organization is doing agile right?

The Top 1% of the Top 1%

There is a vast difference between the way Olympic sprinter and world record holder Usain Bolt approaches his goals and how an everyday person trying to lose weight by running approaches their goals. Usain Bolt is the elite of the elite, in the top 1% of the top 1%. His approach to training is irrelevant and unrealistic for an everyday person trying to lose weight.

Your organization isn’t like an everyday person trying to lose weight. Whether you’re a startup or a Fortune 50 company, you’re striving to be or maintain being in the top 1% of the top 1%. You can’t afford to approach anything like an everyday person. You must have the same fierce focus as Usain Bolt.

So, let’s go back to the question. What kind of agile are you, or better stated, what kind of agile is your organization? Is your organization truly agile or just superficially so?

I’ve put together some comparisons of the approaches of Usain Bolt, everyday people and agile organizations.

Vision

vision

Usain Bolt and his team of coaches, managers and agents have a single vision—­for Usain Bolt to be one of the greatest athletes of all time. To do this he must win medals and break world records. If he is breaking world records, then everything else falls into place. Usain Bolt isn’t focused on beating the competition; he is focused on continually improving in order to break his own world records.

“If I want to be among the greats of [Muhammad] Ali and Pele and all these guys, I have to continue dominating until I retire” – Bolt

vision2

Most everyday people trying to lose weight don’t have a true vision. Yes, they wish they could lose some weight, but most everyday people don’t have the fierce focus on meeting their running goals. Nor, necessarily, should they. Most of us everyday Joes have other things to focus on like family, work and paying the bills. While our health is utterly important, it gets deprioritized because our commitment is superficial and we skip runs and sneak snacks.

vision3

Is your organization truly agile or just superficially so?

Saying you’re agile isn’t enough to be truly agile. Having teams that do stand ups isn’t enough to be truly agile. Having a Kanban board isn’t enough to be truly agile. True agile is about organizational agility and organizational agility starts with a vision: a vision from the top that is burned into the hearts and minds of the entire organization.

vision4

Your agile transformation must be aligned to your strategic goals. Both must support a single vision that pumps through the veins of your organization. If you don’t have that, then you’re just a guy running through the motions so that you feel a little less guilty the next time you have a bag of chips.

vision5

The Litmus Test

If you’re ready to face the truth and find out whether your organization is truly agile or just superficially so, try exploring the following six questions.

  1. What is your organization’s vision?
  2. What are your organization’s strategic goals?
  3. What are your organization’s agile vision and goals?
  4. On a scale of 1 to 10, how aligned are the organization’s vision and strategic goals with your agile vision and goals?
  5. On a scale of 1 to 10, how well does the organization understand this vision and these goals? This includes executives, program managers, project managers, dev managers and dev team members.
  6. On a scale of 1 to 10, how strong is the executive support of the agile vision and goals?

Conclusion

While 94% of organizations are practicing some form of agile, according to 9th annual State of Agile survey, I have witnessed first-hand countless organizations that aren’t doing agile right, aren’t getting the maximum benefits and are just taking a superficial approach. Don’t get caught in the trap of thinking you’re agile just because you’re doing stand ups or have a Kanban board. I hope this has inspired you to take a few minutes to really reflect on whether your organization is truly agile or just superficially so.

 What are some other ways to tell whether your organization is truly agile or just superficially so?

 State of Agile is a trademark of VersionOne Inc.

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