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Agile has gone from quirky & outlandish to being THE lifeline.

Agile has gone from quirky and outlandish through to being the very lifeline keeping projects delivering in these changing times,” said one of our team recently. 

We’ve all seen them.  The memes of overused business words used during COVID.  Pivot. Transition. Agile. Uncertainty.  And it’s getting annoying, mainly because they’re all relevant.  

Annoying for companies like ADAPTOVATE, who for years have successfully taken many companies and government departments through Agile transformations.    Usually because of required change in their company or industry.   Usually because someone has been made aware, that adopting an agile operating model impacts budgets.

Then 2020 happened.     

Organisations are having to implement their transformations right now.    Another meme:   Who made the decision to implement your Digital Transformation – CTO, COO or COVID?    


We understand that for many, it’s been a forced realisation.  It’s unfortunate that the global pandemic has been the catalyst of the change. However its an important step many organisations, should have taken a while ago.  At least they are doing it now.  

It’s worth stating that the impact of 2020 may not have been fully realised yet.   This pandemic will have a long tail. It’s impacts on businesses, unemployment and resulting economy will shake out for a while.   

Preparedness for the next few years will be essential for organisations that intend to not only survive but revive. 

So, again this is what ADAPTOVATE has observed: 

Agile has gone from quirky and outlandish through to being the very lifeline keeping projects delivering in these changing times. 

Consider that statement for a moment.

Mark Barber an Agile practitioner in Melbourne says, “Agile was/is only ever “outlandish” to organisations that are still trying to apply Taylorism to knowledge work. Once you accept that solving complex and/or unknown problems, such that we are continuously faced with today, requires adaptive approaches, self-organising teams and rapid data-driven decision-making, then you can begin to see why an agile mindset is not only desirable but necessary.” 

Ted Tomayasu from our Los Angeles office agrees, “The world is a different place today, and changing faster than classical management theories can keep up. As we run away from the Taylorism of the 19th century, we need to embrace a new way of working that empowers knowledge workers and can quickly adapt to changes in the market. Agile is that new way of working, and businesses that don’t grab hold of that “lifeline” will drown in the turbulent seas of these changing times!” 

For those that are interested in understanding the nuances of Taylorism (vs Agile) – there is an excellent review of the differences.  Importantly the author doesn’t immediately fall into the camp of ‘all agile practitioners should dismiss Taylorism’.  Instead Jordan Job, examines why Taylorism was important in it’s time. Job says, “Being successful in today’s competitive environment requires applying the right strategy in the right context at the right time, not blindly applying cookie-cutter practices from the so-called ‘Agile methodology’ (or any methodology).”   


Agile has been around forever 

In many ways agile has been around for a long time.  We just didn’t know we were using an agile mindset.  When you use an agile mindset in an organised way – in organisations and government services, that’s when it becomes powerful.    

Our principal in Sydney, Caitilin Studdert gives this example, “Agility was around when I was 5 in kindergarten being assessed on my gross motor skills….I just didn’t know why they called those yellow poles ‘agility measures’?” 

“40 years later agility is still just as important in fitness and life as it is in business. We need real ‘fitness’ and business fitness to keep going when the terrain is tough or the hills (mountains in the case of COVID) demand that we do something different (like half our running pace up a hill) or pivot (walk instead) to get to the desired outcome,” she says. 

Being agile is a way of working that demands flexibility and problem solving at every step. 

Likewise, in a recent episode of “The Backlog Podcast”, the guests reflected on how having an agile mindset helped them through difficult times.   The first was D Ray Freeman, who after losing his brother tragically a few years ago, wrote a book called ‘Agile Changed My Life’.      

The host Sean Woon (MD of ADAPTOVATE’s sister company TRIBE), described how he used certain methods to help him cope with difficult teenage years when his mother had cancer.   He now reflects he was using Agile principles without realising it.  

Pivot or persevere? These are rapidly changing times.  Agile will steady the ship for change. 

In this time of uncertainty (that word again!), especially during COVID, we don’t know what the future holds as it’s changing rapidly. “We can’t be sure if our long-term plans will work and at times we don’t even have the ability to plan for as long as we previously did.”

“We want to test our plans first and have the ability to adjust them continuously as the environment around us changes,” say Mina Gurgis a senior Agile consultant in Sydney.   

The ability to continuously test and learn is being “agile”. We know our work and projects will be impacted due to changes in the environment, and hence we don’t over plan nor do we keep doing what we’re doing and ignore the changes around us. 

“Agile provides a framework to organise and engage with teams. This lets leaders and managers go from working on a “best efforts basis” to align and deliver, to a proven, coordinated approach which the whole team can understand that allows them to synchronise their effort,” says Steve Walton, a principal in Melbourne. 

During this pandemic, we have seen rapid change in the project delivery lifecycle. “The world’s needs are changing every day or even every hour. Agile brings a strong framework to deliver value in these changing times,“ says Benny Ko, an Agile consultant in Melbourne.  

“Agile provides the ability and mindset to decide whether to pivot or persevere,” says Rachna Verma, a senior consultant in Sydney.   

“By delivering value in increments, the customer can assess the value that is being delivered earlier on and decide whether there is value in persevering in the project or pivoting to another project or enhancement that will deliver higher value to the customer,” she explains. 

Start now.

We encourage all organisations to take the time to address how their operating model looks. If there are questions, if you are a leader and believe things could be done more efficiently, you are probably right. Consider the agile operating model. You will see immediate results in reducing costs.

If you have any questions about where to start, we can have a conversation with you to tease out what’s best for your organisation or government department. Get in touch via our contact form on our website.

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