The Agile end-state

My clients keep asking me when their organization will be Agile and I keep coming up with the same answer: “There is no Agile end-state”. This response often makes people really uncomfortable. They’ll start asking questions like, “Then, what do we get?”, quickly followed by “How much will this cost?”. Although they’re all valid questions, we can measure a result and we can tell you how much an Agile transition costs. But only afterwards.

Last week I read this post, “Agile is Dead, by Dave Thomas“, it criticizes how the industry is monetizing Agile. The number of consultants that can make an organization Agile is keeps increasing. The upside here, if you’re in consultancy is that you can sell that expertise and make money. The downside is that if people invest, they always look at their return on investment (ROI). This means the ROI of Agile has to be measured so we can determine if Agile is a “good” investment or not. Now we have a problem, how do we measure the RIO of a certain Agile transition? As creative as we are as an industry, we invented all these maturity models, certification courses, quality and productivity metrics. We started to measure how quickly we can release new products into the market. And say things like: “Our organization is Agile, we can release new software 2 times a week.” or “In our organization we have an Agile mindset, we don’t write any documentation and follow no procedure whatsoever.”

Please be careful when starting any Agile transition. I consider all companies agile, because they all are in some way able to adapt to their ever changing environment. Can they do this quickly enough to survive? Only the future will tell. I do love the Agile movement though, especially for the mindset it brought. But you have to keep a clear perspective here. An organization’s main priority is to survive, hoping to make a nice profit in the process. To survive you have to improve your fitness, agility or whatever word you want to use. This will determine if your organization will survive in the long run. Just like the future will determine if we, mankind are fit enough to survive. This process is called evolution and there is no escaping it.

So stop saying things like: “At my previous company we were not Agile, but at my current company we are.”. Start improving your company’s ability to adapt to its ever changing environment. Only that and luck will determine if it will survive and for how many years. Eventually all companies will have an end-state. That end-state is that they won’t exist anymore. If that end-state is in the near future or hundreds of years away will be determined by the ability of your company to adapt to its environment. Not by some Agile maturity model forced upon you to justify the money spent on an Agile transition.