All those things equal agile, but that does not mean that the agile approach is the be-all and end-all and a stand-alone solution. A generally agile mindset can assist you in the same way you used to say “Think global, act local” around the year 2000. This means that we should keep agile values in mind, but we should implement then in a way that works locally. In other words, consider the current culture, agile maturity, the product in question, IT systems and other dependencies.

Here, it can be helpful to think of the agile concept MVB – Minimal Viable Bureaucracy. In short, this means that you should begin with as little as possible instead of adding too much complexity with a lot of processes, decision forums, roles, etc. You only risk ending up with a cumbersome monster in the form of pseudo work. Instead, free up time for value-adding adding work where you also ensure necessary coordination and transparency across.

It is important to keep in mind that we are not talking about the small start-up business with 5-20 people and many degrees of freedom to have a pure, theoretical approach to their agile work. I am talking about yours and other organisations with hundreds or thousands of employees. Here, coordination is a necessity, and we should spend time on it even though the individual employee may feel that it is not value-adding work. This is why I recommend you to begin with a minimum of bureaucracy and do trials and test to learn what needs to be added or eliminated. But always focus on keeping the processes as simple as possible within the given context.

LEADER AND MIDDLE MANAGER CONTRIBUTIONS ARE AN IMPORTANT INGREDIENT 

Another typical mistake to make when working with agile principles is to fall in love with all the new fancy titles such as Scrum Master, Product Owner and so on in the belief that this is all it takes. But as with any other type of change, it is not enough to just change the name. You need to work on the root causes for the need for change. New titles will not solve the problems, and it is often a question of finding out how leaders and middle managers can make value-adding contributions to their employees’ work and processes. Their contributions should be aligned, as you will otherwise risk having counter-productive forces that end up as obstacles on your way to realising objectives and benefits. Leaders and middle managers were previously the focal point and consequently also the bottleneck. These are the underlying and fundamental challenges you need to overcome. Otherwise, you will end up only treating the symptom.

In the agile way of working, the individual teams constitute the focal point. It is now the leader’s role to ensure the foundation for the teams and to eliminate obstacles. Responsibility for the subject area and the employees should also belong to the leader. How to best solve that task is very much dependent on the individual organisation as the nuances are important.

You need to discuss the challenges you have struggled with over the years. And the agile framework can help you set a direction and identify solutions, but it is not a magic pill or the objective in itself. You overcome your challenges with hard, persistent work and honest dialogues. Without this, your agile work will remain the emperor’s new clothes, and they have never lasted very long or made any difference.

BE PRAGMATIC IN YOUR APPROACH

This is why the agile evangelist typically struggles to create sustainable change. Whereas the pragmatic who has learnt to adapt the agile approach to the reality of the organisation will be able to ensure change. The pragmatic can maintain a holistic view of all elements and their interaction, and the pragmatic has not gotten tunnel vision staring at one single ingredient in the meal. As mentioned, the agile mindset is important in “Think global”, but it is equally important to remember to “Act local”. The difference lies in the actual execution using the agile toolbox and choosing the right tools for the right challenges.

Yes, this means that you need to have a cross-eyed view as you need to focus on the strategic and tactical direction and mindset. At the same time, you also need to focus on the pragmatic and operational solution as the value lies in operations. This is where the money is made!