This metaphor basically sums up the struggle of a lot of organizations who want to be agile, but fail in being it. Agile isn’t just a way of working, it’s a way of life. It goes further than reading a book about it or following a crash course to become certified. Agile needs to be implemented deep within the roots of an organization. But more on that later.
So what is agile? Answering that question wouldn’t be agile. Because every description of agile is, in fact, not agile. Sounds very contradictive and complicated, now does it? So, for arguments sake I’ll give a brief description on what agile can be. Agile is all about embracing uncertainty and with that, the willingness to change without knowing the exact outcome.
Agile uses iterative cycles called sprints done by a scrum team to develop, test and release product increments until the minimum viable product (MVP) as defined by the business representative is done. Optionally refining the MVP with additional features, agile is all about creating value. So unnecessary features that do not create (business) value, should not be developed.
Benefits of agile are a higher delivery rate thus shortening time to market and creating more business value. Originating from the software development world, agile is being used widely as way of developing, improving and releasing non-IT products too. And to take things even further, agile is also being implemented in teams, in order to stimulate innovation or to align intercompany departments.
Agile came as an answer to the waterfall approach. Seen as the counterpart of agile, the waterfall approach is all about the big design upfront. Meticulously describing every process, functionality and aspect of the product before developing even starts. One of the problems of this approach is that it takes up a lot of time. And when the product is released, risks are that demands in the market or customer wishes have changed significantly.
It’s in my own business experience that most organizations who want to work agile, used to work with the waterfall approach. One of the biggest challenges for those organizations is the willingness to embrace uncertainty and with it change without a certain or known outcome. Now that’s more nicely said than done. Because let’s be realistic. Things usually get complicated when there’s money involved.