Agile is not the new normal, not yet…

The agile manifesto came out in 2001. That was about 18 years ago…What started as a handful of people uncovering better ways of developing software and helping others to do it has transformed into something far bigger. The way of working has already been adopted by major software corporations around the world and making inroads already beyond software development

So is everyone “agile” already? This is a question I have been pondering over the last few weeks (also via linkedin). My current hypothesis : Agile is not the new normal, not yet.. 

The fact that we still refer to it as “Agile” and to the previous methods as “traditional” or “waterfall” itself is suggestive enough to say that a lot of ground is yet to be covered by agile, before it can become the all pervading operating model. There are a lot of organizations out there that have are just embarking on their agile transformations or haven’t even started yet. Their businesses are still not at the tipping point where the burning platform necessitates the change to an agile delivery model.

Yet, many of these players are not untouched by agile either. While they may not have formally embarked on the transformation, there will be pockets in the organization that are experimenting with agile already. They will have a long way to go before they can call themselves agile as an organization. 

In places where we see or so they claim that the entire organization is really agile, it more often is the case of generalization with a bias for the positive view. There will be pockets or program which are really living up to what “agile” would mean, but the bulk of them would be more close to “checkbox agile”. If an audit would be done, they will pass it with flying colors. They have the processes, they have the terminology, they have the roles, but do they really have business agility? Well some have, most don’t. This is what some would also refer as being agile versus doing agile. Or that there are practices but the culture is not yet agile. 

To refine the hypothesis shared earlier : Definitely agile is no longer a novelty or a differentiator. Most if not all have had experiences with it, however true business agility or actually being agile is still elusive for the majority. True business agility is the quest I believe. The scrums, the kanbans, the SAFes are a means to an end – the goal to truly “be agile”. The goal for many now, especially those who think they are left behind is to to catch up on the processes and the frameworks and start to “do agile”, however only when the goal will be come true business agility that is when we can say agile is on it way to be the new normal. 

So still there is a long journey ahead before agile becomes the new normal. And maybe it never will, or rather should never become the new normal. The agile approach was never a process oriented approach. It is an approach to discover better ways of developing software. That quest is a never ending one. A quest that continues forever.

Hrishikesh Karekar

Hrishikesh is an enterprise agile coach with interests in varied disciplines. Frequently writing on Agile and Lean related topics, he also occasionally ventures into other stuff like Artificial Intelligence as well..