Is it Time to Evolve Beyond the Agile Manifesto?

The colorful wall posters are ubiquitous in organizations small and large. If you’ve used the word Agile at least one time in your company, then I bet you’re keenly aware of the 2001 Agile Manifesto, which expresses the 4 value statements and 12 principles of Agile software development. Sometimes compared to the Declaration of Independence, many cherish it as the timeless artifact that ultimately spawned the Agile transformation movement. Over the years, I’ve relentlessly referred to it and have respectfully challenged organizations to learn from 15+ years of wisdom embedded within the Manifesto.

From 2001 to 2016 – Where are we now?

Fast forward to 2016 and you’ll see that we’re in a much different place than 2001. The pursuit toward Enterprise Agile and scaling is an industry buzzword and was a major theme at this year’s Agile Alliance conference. With Agile2016’s attendance at 2,500 strong, the learning and cross-industry collaboration is at an all-time high.

As a conference participant, I used the week as an opportunity to exchange learnings and experiences with Enterprise Coaching peers, as well as other leaders and practitioners across this vast space of “Agile”. Through various conversations during the week, the following two themes emerged for me:

  1. Large Enterprises continue to share many of the same opportunities & challenges.
  2. We agree that a principles-first approach toward Enterprise Agile is essential for the most effective adoption of processes, practices and tools.

In short, a guiding set of organizational principles helps adapt processes and practices in an organization’s context while successfully moving the Agile needle in a meaningful direction.

That said, I invite us to ponder the following question:

Are the principles in the 2001 Agile Manifesto still relevant in 2016?

The mid-week keynote seemed to offer a compelling answer to the question. Joshua Kerievsky’s talk on Modern Agile focused on the evolution of Agile and our need to keep pace via an adapted set of guiding principles. Here is a picture showing the 4 broad principles from the 2001 Agile Manifesto (left) and the proposed 4 principles for Modern Agile (right):

 

 

In his keynote, Kerievsky postulated that the Agile Manifesto was relevant when drafted in 2001, but in present-day, Agile has evolved far beyond its original intentions…rendering the original principles as outdated. What do you think?

This keynote article summarizes Kerievsky’s message better than I can, so I invite all of us to learn and draw our own conclusions. For those who weren’t at Agile2016, this amazing visual summary captured the essence of his talk (credit: Lynne Cazaly):

 

 

How do you make Modern Agile real in your organization?

Like the original Manifesto, there is a vast body of knowledge under the covers – including theory & science, thinking tools, practices and skills that must be understood, adopted and mastered in your organization’s context. I would also offer that, for the most part, the 4 principles of Modern Agile are easy to understand …. but extremely difficult to master – especially at the size and scale of our largest global enterprises.

How long have we been asking this question?

This question has been posed for a number of years now, most recently at last month’s Agile Europe panel discussion, and dating back to Steve Denning’s May 2011 Forbes article entitled: Applying “Inspect & Adapt” To The Agile Manifesto. Even The Scrum Guide eats its own dog food by publishing carefully-crafted revisions every few years. But it was intriguing and provocative to see this question reinvigorated yet again on the big stage of Agile2016. So, what’s next?

I’m not smart or wise enough to predict the future of the Agile movement, but I do feel that now is the time for many larger organizations to figure this out if they want to continuously deliver valuable outcomes and effectively compete in their industries.

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Is it time to host a well-earned retirement party for the Agile Manifesto and align toward Modern Agile? Where should Lean principles be considered? I invite all of us to engage with this post by sharing your views in the comments section below.

 

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Is OpenSpace Agility Right For Your Agile Transformation?

If you work at a company that’s in the midst of a struggling or unusually painful Agile Transformation, I invite you to ask this courageous and provocative question to your organizational leadership this week:

Should an Agile transformation be *embraced* by the people or *forced* by the leaders?

Yes, I recognize that the question only offers two possible answers – it’s phrased that way by design. I have found it to be a provocative, yet powerful question to pose to executive leaders, but be careful — it has the potential to spark a heated and uncomfortable debate. How can you guide the conversation from debate to dialogue? Understanding the concept of urgency can help.

What is a sense of urgency?

I carry the belief that any organizational transformation must be fueled by a collective sense of urgency for change. This collective urgency is often rooted within meaningful business problems (or opportunities), like:

  • Competitive threats in our industry are increasing
  • Our company is losing revenue and market share
  • Our organization’s continued survival is at risk

These are pretty urgent reasons to change, yes? A great leader knows how to establish this sense of urgency in a way that helps people embrace the need for change, even in the face of heavy resistance. Let’s face it – change is hard for many of us, so leadership must successfully inject the “why” behind an organizational transformation. This allows (most of) us to accept that change is coming, even if we don’t like it.

If this is important to you, then consider learning about the principles behind OpenSpace Agility and if it’s right for your organization.

What is OpenSpace Agility?

This emerging organizational-change approach is being led by one of the most influential and skilled Agile Coaches in our profession – Daniel Mezick.

Daniel and his Team recently published The OpenSpace Agility Handbook, which is a 130-page wisdom-packed reference for guiding organizational change with an OpenSpace Technology philosophy. Careful though – it’s pretty deep stuff.

By the way, I’m not here to sell you on the approach. It’s up to you to decide if further exploration carries benefit. What I can offer is a glimpse into my own experience with this approach to help guide your own thinking.

What do I think?

I see the wisdom within this approach as essential for those who seek to guide an urgent organizational transformation by listening to the people who will be directly affected by this change.  Allowing anyone and everyone to co-create and embark on the journey is a powerful way to address an organization’s sense of urgency for change.

Once again – it’s pretty deep stuff and it won’t be embraced by everyone, but perhaps learn more about it and decide if it’s right for you.

So, what might this mean to an organizational executive? Just let “the employees” do whatever they want and see what happens? Isn’t that a recipe for total chaos?

It’s okay to be skeptical, because skepticism invites an opportunity to learn something new. This very skepticism drove me to dig deeper into the underlying principles and practices behind this approach. What a journey it has been.

As an Organizational Agility Coach by trade, I have found that the compassionate principles behind OpenSpace Agility create a powerful bond that fuels an organization’s purpose in ways that leave me in awe. To that end, I am on a lifelong journey to fully anchor my own understanding and beliefs in this space, so I can (hopefully) bring a masterful facilitation and coaching stance for the full benefit of an organization’s mission. If you’re an Agile Coach like me, do you see it this way as well?

“Buyer Beware” (in a figurative sense)

It sounds simple on the surface; however, I assure you that if you choose to dive in further, it will open the door to a vast amount of learning & growth within yourself. It might change the way you think about ….. well ….. *everything*.

Does OpenSpace Agility actually happen in the real world?

Long before the publishing of this handbook, I had the opportunity to live through a ~ 6-month Chapter of Learning in a Fortune 100 company as a member of an insanely-talented Agile Coaching Team (all of whom were better and more skillful than me – quite humbling to say the least).

This team was led by Daniel Mezick’s skillful facilitation during a critical chapter in the company’s growth. So yes, this actually happens in the real world in real companies with an urgent need to change.

For me, the experience was profound beyond measure. Not only did it help the company’s pursuit, it literally changed my life. Note that this was within a huge company that was seeking to find its purpose and how best to let its people own the journey. It was a value-grounded endeavor that created breathtaking levels of energy that continue to guide this proud company’s Agile transformation into present-day.

As you consider further exploration into this approach, I hope you find my perspective helpful.

Thank you to Daniel and his Team for making their wisdom available to all of us through this handbook. I am grateful for the chance to learn from you all.

In Closing

What have you learned about OpenSpace Agility, a well as other approaches for guiding organizational change? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below so we can all learn from each other.

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If my writings resonate with you, please consider spreading this message so we can energize and inspire the entire professional world together. I invite you to ‘Follow’ my professional journey through LinkedIn. I am also on Twitter.