Doing Agile vs Being Agile

Agility and nimbleness

Funny things words; tokens for concepts and principles. Our only way to communicate yet so often we struggle to align or encapsulate the essence in the words.

I’ve been reading other people’s explanations of Agile versus agility. There are some well made descriptions and distinctions out there that I won’t repeat as they are fairly easy to find.

What I don’t see so much (imho) is the perspectives below.

Increasing Connectivity Equals Increasing Volatility

Switch-and-nestThe degree of connection in the world has increases more than exponentially in the last 30 years.

The speed of message propagation ditto, the distance a message travels and the number of touch-points also vastly increased.

Interactions cause effects. Many more interactions lead to many many more effects. Some cancel each other and some reinforce. These unpredictable interactions, some with persistence are labelled as emergent behaviour. The result is high volatility and low ability to predict.

Predictive Planning Requires Foresight to Accurately Forecast

Prediction requires foresight. It’s the plan in advance approach that has been relied upon for centuries and still has an important part to play in our lives but is now too weak for all our needs so can no longer be the single solution.

When You Can’t Forecast Be Ready to Respond Reactively

In emergent contexts the plan in advance approach is clearly hard to do, if not impossible. When possible it is increasing of low effectiveness and low efficiency because it needs a Plan-A and a Plan-B incase… and a C, D, E…

So alternate approaches to determining and reaching destinations are required.

One school or class of approach is the reactive – plan a bit every day – and a chunck every week/ month/ quarter – depending on your industry cycle time.

Reactive Groups Need Protocols That Enable Rapid Clear Coordination

This requires a coordinated use of a fairly strict communications protocol – when everything is volatile and we replan frequently and we work within cross-functional skill sets we have to have a known communications approach so there is minimum cost to communicate and maximum relevant content communicated. In short focus on the mostly known and save some time to do real work.

The strict cycle of ceremonies and the artefacts they create/ share/ manipulate is what is seen by some as ‘agile (methods)’.

Plan In Advance Matches Hierarchical Well

A plan in advance world is often hosted in a hierarchical approvals flow downwards structure. The Roman Army worked well this way. Society often copies previously proved solutions. Up until 30 (70?) years ago the brains with education where at the top of the organisation and the bottom did what it was instructed. Increasingly the savvy at the bottom and top are now vital to success and incomprehensible to the opposite end of the structure.

Being Nimble

Nimbleness is decisions that are fast, mostly right and at least not fatal and is also the narrowing of the gap between the top and bottom’s ability to share models of how to prosper in a world whose safe response needs both perspectives.

Being nimble as an organisation means culture. It means embracing someone else’s perspectives whether you agree with them or not.

 Jack be nimble, Jack be quick, Jack jump over the candle stick (or get burnt!)pixabay license

Nimbleness leads to the need to exchange and share values such as respect the person, suck-it-n-see without stigma of failure when an approach is shown not to be best. These agile behaviours might be called agility by some.

My two penny worth.


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