Tips for Making Your Agile Framework More … Agile

How agile is your organization’s approach to enterprise agility?

While that sentence may seem confusing, it’s not an attempt at word play. Being too focused on a singular agile framework — in essence, not being flexible enough in one’s agile practices — is a serious problem in the software development world, as well as many other functional areas that have embraced agile practices.

Let’s look at the numbers. More than 90% of software development teams have adopted agile, according to a report from Digital.ai. While that’s an impressive statistic, it’s tied to a very troubling one — as the same organization revealed that 96% of agility-driven digital transformation projects either failed outright or are significantly delayed.

That can be quite costly for companies, given that the goal of enterprise agility is to adapt quickly to market changes, competitive threats and/or customer needs.

Clearly, organizations are realizing some tangible benefits from agile, or else it wouldn’t enjoy such widespread adoption. But it can also disappoint if teams aren’t tailoring their agile approach to the specific challenges at hand.

Agile: Customization is Key

What we’ve learned after nearly two decades of using agile practices is that it’s not a one-size-fits-all endeavors. In fact, when it comes to agile, one size usually fits none. Customization is key, given the nuances and particularities of every agile project. At its most effective, agile is about “getting better at getting better,” not adhering perfectly to a specific framework.

Just as agile cannot be the only tool in your team’s bag of tricks, neither can one form of agile. Companies paint themselves into a corner if they commit to one agile framework that has previously worked — be it Scrum, SAFe or others — without the flexibility to determine when, how, and if it is suitable for a particular project or team.

It’s time to open your mind — and your playbook — to a variety of agile frameworks and approaches. Here are some ways how and why that flexible mindset will work:

  • Be agile agnostic. Just as a football team can’t run just one play over and over, neither can a project team. Your agile playbook should be quite full. Agile has been a viable approach to project management for so long now that literally thousands of agile, lean, hybrid and traditional practices and approaches have been documented. Not sure where to turn? Seek out an agile tool kit, filled with details on agile practices.
  • Upgrade your expertise. Building on the previous tip, seeking the right agile practices or framework or combination of them can be a daunting task if you’re new to agile or only have experience with a handful of approaches. Fortunately, over 200 vendors through PMI’s Authorized Training Program offer instructor-led or on-demand online Disciplined Agile courses and certification programs, which — when completed — can arm team leaders and members with the knowledge to choose the right approaches or customize the right agile framework for the challenge they face.
  • But … agile isn’t everything. If agile practices can help teams improve and achieve better goals, terrific, but so can lean and/or traditional approaches. The more you know about the options in your project management arsenal, the more pragmatic you can be in selecting the best approach.
  • Bypass bottlenecks. By becoming more aware of and adept at the varied agile options at your disposal, you’ll be much more likely to avoid the bottlenecks that can sap the life — and effectiveness — out of a project. You can remove wasteful processes and needless documentation, freeing your team to focus on value-added work that matters.

With a broad, disciplined, and holistic approach to agile, project teams and leaders will better identify the agile practices or framework and workflow that will enable them to achieve project goals. When teams feel empowered to select the best agile approach for a specific project or situation, they will be more likely to bypass the “fail fast” stage of project management and instead “succeed earlier.”

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