Agile — an Imperfect Cutting-Edge Approach to Management

In the recent years, Agile became an ultimate buzzword in the corporate world. Suddenly, most IT companies decided to go this way, starting with small groups of programmers upping the ante to the level of global corporations. It was so noticeable, that even companies outside of IT started to use Agile as well. But despite the term’s popularity the real-world outcomes were often mixed, to say the least. As a result, 80% of large companies in the world are using Agile in one way or another — but only 20% are actually competent with it [1]. Here comes the question: why are all these companies looking forward to implementing Agile?

The modern world can be described as VUCA — Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous. Bureaucratic companies can’t successfully address the issues pertaining to such a dynamic setting with traditional Project Management methodologies: vertical structures just can’t have the same speed of response as small companies. Various small fixes to existing organizational processes, combined with traditional mindset of both employers and employees, are resulting in loss of the competitive position. Abandoning all hope, leadership seeks the answer and finds Agile, a modern advance in management. This is ultimately the right thing to do… However, Agile is everything but a silver bullet.

What is Agile, anyway? First, it’s important to understand that Agile isn’t some hard-coded methodology. While it’s started as a software development approach, it grew to be something bigger. It’s better described as a global movement, or rather a mindset with the set of canonical rules, which can be applied to pretty much everything. These rules are the cornerstone of everything that’s done with Agile:

  • Individuals and Interactions over processes and tools;
  • Working product over comprehensive documentation;
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation;
  • Responding to change over following a plan.

It’s great, isn’t it? But there’s always a catch. Despite all the appeal of Agile, we must remember that it’s really imperfect. Yes, Agile projects on average are much more successful than the ones with traditional PM in mind. Sure, there are quite a lot of successful use cases. However, there are a lot of failed ones, too, and most of them failed for the similar reasons with each other.

Agile mindset might be instrumental for modern companies that want to survive in the uncontrollable environment. At the same time, it’s important to understand that adherence to Agile wouldn’t necessary provide better results than any other PM methodology, but it would be better in some contexts. So, you must check if your company really needs Agile transformation. Sometimes organizations just don’t need it!

Agile by itself isn’t a cure-all solution. However, the right implementation can provide your company with a critical competitive edge. Dozens of small companies and large corporations have already transformed themselves to Agile, from Spotify with their music subscription service to Saab Defense with 4+ Jet Fighter. Can you do the same?

1 – “13th Annual State Of Agile Report” by CollabNet VersionOne, 2019.