Heart of Agile as the bridge to Organisational Agility

Alistair Cockburn has contributed to the Melbourne agile scene for several years, during his visits here. He is a mainstay behind the global agile movement, having been one of the co-authors of the Agile Manifesto in 2001. Recently, I completed a 30 minute interview with Alistair,  in a conversation designed to talk about the Heart of Agile, Organisational Agility and 1st Conference.

We've selected a set of videos out of this interview, with some of the main topics from the longer interview. This is aligned to our goal of developing content that adds value over time and helps you, our audience, learn and develop your skills.

The series includes:

  • Things you may not know about Alistair. link
  • 4 words to help you to enable greater agility in your organisation link
  • Using Heart of Agile for self-education link
  • How Heart of Agile can be the bridge to organisational agility. It's what 1st Conference is structured around! (this post)
  • An exercise that can drive collaboration (15 Jan)
  • Alistair's advice on how to get the most out of 1st Conference (17 Jan)

In this edition - Alistair simplifies the idea of Organisational Agility in a way that clearly articulates what it means, and then steps you through how each of the quadrants can be used as markers to take you there. It's an incredible way to explain something, and really worth spending the time to watch and digest. It's my favourite part of the entire interview.

For those of you more inclined to read than watch, I've summarised what he had to say in text below the video for you. In the meantime, enjoy the video - and hopefully see you at 1st Conf 2018!

Organisational Agility is about your organisations ability to adapt and respond to the market conditions.

Alistair has a radically simplified analogy to try and explain the state of "Organisational Agility":

  • Imagine a group of friends sitting at a bar or over brunch or tea.
  • One friend has an issue, say a tree in their backyard that they need to get rid of.
  • Between the rest, they find a trailer, some chains and a pick up truck and *boom* on Saturday the tree is gone.

There's no rules, boundaries, compliance or regulation that stands in the way of this group of people identifying a way to cut through all the noise and solve a simple problem and find solutions that never existed and will never exist again.

In any company these days, you're overburdened and constricted. Everyone has roles, suits, personas and people are forced to act like robots in straight jackets as they're constricted by all the boundaries of management put around them.

The long form explanation of how the Heart of Agile can connect to Organisations is here:

  • Assuming you know the end state of the problem you're looking to solve, collaboration is about removing the organisational blockers that stop people working together as harmoniously as the friends at the bar who so easily came up with a solution to remove the tree.
  • The delivery piece in an organisation is all about the decision. Based on the data that Alistair has found, people make the wrong decision around 1 in every 5-10 decisions they make. When you're scaling this at an organisational level of 1000's of employees, that's a lot of wrong decisions. Alistair's argument is to say that in the early stages of delivery in an organisation that is delivering any kind of anything, you need to be delivering as early and as often as possible to validate and invalidate where you're right or wrong. Preferably before you've built anything.
  • Reflect is a matter of pausing and looking and the situation to do analysis and ensuring you give yourself and the people in your organisation the time and space to do this.
  • Improve is about lots of micro improvements based on the first three steps.

To summarise the idea - Organisational Agility as it relates to the Heart of Agile is:

  • Empowering your people to collaborate as naturally as possible to approach problems.
  • Building the system that allows your people to validate/invalidate their decisions ASAP.
  • Helping your people to set time aside and be thoughtful by looking at how they've approached problems.
  • Empowering your people to continuously make micro improvements to what they do and how they work.
Ringo B&W even smaller Ringo.png

This speaks for itself - if you got this far down. Good on you!

If you liked or have feedback on this story and interview, feedback helps me develop content that is better for you. Please reach out!


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