A stand up or retro does not make you agile

Having worked within government for a little over a year now, I’ve seen a lot.

I’ve heard from teams who work within Home Office, Land Registry, DVLA, HMRC and my own teams within the Department for Work and Pensions.

I’ve found that fellow Interaction Designers, Front-end Developers, Content Designers and a few more roles work in agile environments. They often don’t just work in these environments, but they live in them. They get the value and often they’re the driving force behind keeping them going.

Over recent months I’ve spoken to teams in other areas and asked “What is your way of working?” and follow it up with “Agile, waterfall or wagile?”

It often gets a lot of laughs, but I’m deadly serious in my questioning. I ask to quickly determine what a teams setup is, how empowered the team is to make quick changes, iterate and deliver at speed.

Sometimes I hear the right answers, and unfortunately sometimes I hear the worst kind of answers like “Agile, we do standups and everything…”

Whilst that’s not what I’m wanting to hear, which I’ll get to in a minute, it doesn’t dishearten me as it’s a huge opportunity to guide or provide an ‘education piece’ as I describe it.

You see, doing standups, retrospectives and planning is not agile. You don’t suddenly become agile by doing ceremonies. I’d challenge anyone that tells me any different.

@gavinelliott yep, anyone can DO agile; Not many can BE agile.

— Chris Thompson (@mrcthompson) 20 September 2016

If you truly want to ‘BE’ agile, you have to realise the fundamentals of being able to move at speed, learn, iterate, fail fast, iterate and deliver. To ‘BE’ agile, you have to have a clear focus that it is ultimately about the delivery of something, iterate and continuously deliver.

There’s something which can often derail ‘being agile’ before it even gets off the ground, especially in government and that’s risk. It’s a killer. But here’s something which we can all try… worry about risk where risk needs worrying about, everywhere else you can focus on doing the above.

I’m looking forward to meeting more teams in the near future and delivering education pieces on how to ‘BE’ agile and to focus on helping them figure out there ways of working and I’m excited to find a team that is truly being agile to learn from them and feed that back in to my own work.

Let’s all try and BE rather than DO.