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The accidental agile organization

A group of people looking at a whiteboard

A new phenomenon has grown out of the past 18 months of pandemic: the accidental agile organization.

How does this differ from the deliberately agile organizations already accustomed to agile methods, collaboration tools, working with widely-distributed teams, sharing knowledge, defining work in terms of goals to achieve and trusting people to self-manage?

For accidental agile organizations, it probably never crossed their mind that now was the time to adopt agile working – they were just doing what they could do to “keep the wheels on”.

However, they would have seen the value of prioritization, letting go of what’s less important, working in small steps, being less ambitious about large changes, making sure people are onboard with change and focusing on what delivers value. This experience would also reveal how traditional micromanagement doesn’t work in a collaborative, virtual world.

Essentially, they have embraced agile techniques, like many organizations facing challenges and seeking practical solutions.

Is accidental agile enough? 

While the accidental agile organization will identify ways to solve immediate problems, it might not be aware of all the possibilities agile offers. Their adoption isn’t comprehensive and things are unlikely to join up neatly.

A more deliberate adoption of agile is more coordinated, with a vision of an “end state” that delivers something specific with a particular capability. The downside of this is sometimes becoming blinkered to non-agile approaches. And while agile provides a fabulous set of tools, they’re not the only ones in the toolbox.

The role of training and certification

Now, as people try to process their experiences of Covid 19 – and those of the world around them – and get back to focusing on work, organizations need to join up their new learnings and move to the next stage: building and developing a conscious capability.

This is where accidental agile organizations can look to certification as the means to “join the dots”, fill in gaps and create a vision of an effective “end state”, much like deliberately agile enterprises.

It’s a sanity check on what’s been discovered while adding other similar ideas to the mix under a clear umbrella of methods that can help them to achieve so much more.

And one of the most effective tools for organizations to thrive rather than just survive is training and developing people to be the best they can be; using well-established best practices to help them manage volatile and changing circumstances.

PRINCE2 Agile – helping people and organizations on the journey 

If you are in an accidental agile organization, looking at how to bring approaches together and integrate them with more established practices in your business, PRINCE2 Agile® is a beacon for that vision.

While agile practices are well-suited as delivery mechanisms in business right now, they also have their weaknesses, including the co-ordination of small teams and ensuring overall organization strategy is reflected in those teams. So, co-ordinating delivery and governance becomes an important proposition.

PRINCE2 Agile shows how agile knowledge and concepts can be combined with project management to attain maximum flexibility. In effect, tailoring a well-established project management method to get the most value from agile tools.

There is a melting pot of organizations – both deliberately and accidentally agile – looking for ways of coordinating agile delivery. The best route, I believe, is getting the benefit from multiple methods.

In the early days of adopting best practices, people and organizations tend to focus on conventions and rules based on the standard; with more experience, they start to focus on outcomes and the competencies they need to achieve them.

I would like to think that the segmentation and barriers between management and delivery methods will, eventually, dissolve.

And while there’ll always be a variety of methods for both project management and agile to choose from, people will be more concerned about using what works to get stuff done.

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Comments

2 Oct 2021 Carl Tillotson
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"accidental agile organization"

Not actually convinced that all of these actually know or understand that they have acted in an agile fashion. It was a means to an end to adapt to a fast changing environment and regulatory changes.

Those organisations that do recognise that they can work in agile way, and that it is productive, will have an edge in the future.
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