Kofi Blankson writes: Agile outside Software Teams

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I heard a power couple (both medical doctors) this week say “when your treatment with us does not work within 3 to 6 months, you are free to walk away from us as a patient. In fact, we involve you in the whole process.”

My thinking was that was a significant statement by the doctors. Two things stood out for me – 3 to 6 months, and the point around the agile manifesto about responding to change over following a plan. More importantly, it reaffirms that indeed, agility goes beyond IT and software teams. Agile in Medicine!

In the recent past, we have seen the benefits of Agile translate across all industries and facets of life, in Agribusiness, Governance, Leadership, Media, just to name a few. Additionally, we have seen this thrive elsewhere, which means that adopting these practices and localizing them in a Ghanaian context is not far-fetched at all. In fact, it is quite a within reach. In the US, UK, Kenya, Rwanda, Nigeria, and across sub-Saharan Africa, we are seeing that this concept and format is gradually beginning to move the dial, so there is no better time than now to go full throttle and cross the finish line. There is so much at stake for us as a people to make progress over perfection.

Despite the adoption of the buzzword Business Agility, an often misused and misplaced concept, there is still a lot of push that Agile belongs in the software world not outside of it.

One article I saw describes what I see and hear over and over. People work in silos. Processes are “the way they have always been.” Nobody shares information. Everyone is just doing their own thing.

But why are organisations and departments outside of software development hesitant? Is it because they think that Agile itself is a concept defined solely for software? Is it because they feel that if they don’t produce a tangible product that it cannot be applied?

If we take a look at the four pillars of the Agile Manifesto and look beyond frameworks and processes, we start to see the applicability.
● Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
● Working software over comprehensive documentation
● Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
● Responding to change over following a plan
In other words, while there is value in the items on the right, we value the items on the left more. Modern Agile describes it as and by the way, this can be used as a guide for non-technical teams more and more lately because the initial four pillars are very straightforward.

● Make People Awesome
● Deliver Value Continuously
● Make (Psychological) Safety a Prerequisite
● Experiment and Learn Rapidly
While digging deeper into the layers of the Modern Agile pillars, you may find things are driving again toward software. That is because they are the biggest proponents of this movement. But if we stay on the surface and look at what agility is, what the dictionary says about agility, we can see the application goes far beyond software development and even into our personal lives. Who wouldn’t want to “make people awesome?”

Let’s take a look at the HR department or any other integral operational department within an organisation. Whether looking at the manifesto or Modern Agile, what in those four bullets would not apply? In fact, if each group or company would have a deep conversation about the problems that they are trying to solve and how this mindset might assist, I think that they would find value in all four of them.

And if we look at the Return on Investment (ROI) from Agile then the case gets even stronger. With changes in how groups think about their work ensuring that everything brings value to them and their stakeholders then suddenly there is a case for driving down the total cost of ownership, driving up the return on investment, and building trust within the organisation to see all the groups or divisions as integral to the overall business mission.

Have you ever imagined what the development of an organisation or country would look like if we fully embraced agility? The closest we see could be likened to common examples like GAFA [Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple].. Set aside the balance sheet, reflect on its culture, outlook, mindset, etc. One cannot but admire the sustainable outcomes in a relatively short time.
Also, if we look at the value that Agile delivers, then what do you have to lose? Let’s go for it – flexibility, satisfaction, productivity, transparency, quality, risk of a working product in whatever industry you may be working in. Would you want to try?

Kofi Blankson consults for Agility For All. He is a Certified Agile Leader and digital technology enthusiast with 13-years’ experience in banking. As a Scrum Master with deep knowledge in Agile methodologies, he is on his way to becoming an Enterprise Agile Coach and loves to help organisations with their enterprise agility journey.

Kofi Blankson, CAL, CSM
Kofi@agilityforall.com

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