Fake agile 1.0 or “agile-fall” are really static waterfall practices labeled as agile iterative practices. While many try to label these practices as “hybrid,” they are actually waterfall rigid stages with overly expensive change processes. Unfortunately, most new-to-agile teams in government suffer this fate. The key to escaping fake agile 1.0 is a disciplined agile practice coupled with a dedicated agile mindset from all (or most) in the organization.
Increasingly in government, as systems escape from the clutches of “agile-fall” management and are given the opportunity to practice true agile – a new fake agile 2.0 has emerged. With fake agile 2.0, teams are more in tune with agile frameworks like Scrum or Kanban than they are with the values outlined in the Agile Manifesto. They do “big A” agile instead of being “little a” agile.
Following an agile framework does not make one agile. You have to learn and adapt, following the values of the Agile Manifesto. Agile frameworks are designed to support the agile philosophy, not replace it. In fake agile 2.0, agility becomes distorted. Agile framework processes can be seen, but there is no learning, no pivots, no readjustment.
Fake Agile 2.0 occurs for three basic reasons:
1. It is easier to do agile than to be agile
Adopting agile frameworks and following them can be done relatively quickly. However, adopting an agile philosophy or mindset requires an organizational culture change, which takes longer.
2. Without refreshers, teams tend to mistake agile tactics as agile outcomes
Successful agile teams risk falling into the rut of the agile routine. Experienced teams forget to be agile because they feel so comfortable doing agile.
3. Organizations block agility with inflexible governance and technical architecture
Agile delivery teams and the products they support must have continuous improvement in technical architecture and governance.
How teams and organizations can be agile:
1. Re-read the Agile Manifesto – and post it for the team to see.
2. Prioritize feedback from users and customers as part of the production process. Are users – humans – in the loop and giving direct feedback through each sprint? Users and customers ultimately define your value, so include them early and often.
3. Remove anything that didn’t provide value. How often do you remove functionality that is not providing real value? Simple software is good working software.
4. Add dedicated design sprints. How often does your team stop to see if you are still following the North Star? Design your process to expect change and plan for it.
5. Make data-informed changes. When was the last time the team made a major pivot? What informed that pivot? “Little a” agile teams change direction – that is ok and the point.
6. Hire an agile coach. When was the last time an agile subject matter expert (SME) worked with the team and checked on the team’s agility? If the greatest athletes still need regular coaching, certainly agile professionals do as well.
7. Remove governance and technical architecture blockers from the organization. How often do organizational leaders and executives meet with teams to remove impediments? Do they actually remove impediments? Remove anything that doesn’t allow teams to build an agile culture and continuously improve.
True agile teams live an agile mindset and are actively supported by their organization. When leaders follow the steps above and teams remain purposeful in their agile activities, “little a” agile will be valued over doing “big A” agile, and organizations will reap the full benefits of real agile performance.
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Greg Godbout, an entrepreneur and experienced solution architect, is the Chief Growth Officer (CGO) for Fearless, a full stack digital services firm based in Baltimore, Maryland. Fearless is a rapidly growing leader in digital transformation within government, working with federal agencies, including the Centers for Medical Services (CMS), Small Business Administration (SBA), National Security Agency (NSA) and the Air Force. Prior to joining Fearless, Greg served as the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) and U.S. Digital Services Lead at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). He has also served as Executive Director and Co-Founder of 18F. He is a Federal 100 and FedScoop 50 award recipient. You can connect with Greg on LinkedIn.