Where does agile make sense

Where does Agile make sense?

We are in a situation of global organisational need for transformation. It seems that nothing we have done for the last 25 years is adding value in the V.U.C.A. environment in which we find ourselves.

Agile for organisations


Agile Principles and Values

It is essential to understand where it makes sense to incorporate the principles and values of the Agile Manifesto, as well as its frameworks, methods and practices. It is important to remember that the adaptive or empirical current unfolds its full potential in environments of uncertainty.


What is Uncertainty?

Before continuing, it is useful to understand what uncertainty is and how we can measure the level of uncertainty of a project, product or service in order to understand the context in which we find ourselves.
How can I measure the level of uncertainty of my project, product or service?
Ralph Stacey, defined in the mid 90’s the following matrix a.k.a: the Stacey Matrix:
Simplifying and adapting it to software development environments, we can see the following axes:

  • The vertical axis reflects the knowledge of the requirements of a product or service.
  • The horizontal axis reflects the level of knowledge of the technology to implement them.

According to both axes, we can reflect the following three possible environments:

1. Simple environments: Low level of uncertainty. In this scenario, once it is clear what you want to do and how to do it. The next step is execution (highly predictable or predictive environments).

2. Complicated and Complex Environments: Medium level of uncertainty and are the ideal environments for Agile principles and values to be optimally implemented.

3. Anarchic Environments: High level of uncertainty. Characterised by chaotic environments. In order to cope with these environments, we recommend first reducing the level of uncertainty to a medium degree, either through product discovery sessions or through a Lean Sprint.

The application of Agile principles and values, as well as its frameworks or methods, makes sense and adds value in environments with a sufficient level of uncertainty (ideally medium).

Therefore, the environments in which it works best are those that are complicated and complex, according to Mr Stacey’s matrix. Nowadays we are finding many cases of Fake Agile or, as we like to call it, “Agile Make-up”.


Cases in which implementation is hindered

The implementation of this working philosophy may not run smoothly in environments where:
1. The right degree of complexity does not exist.
2. With the right degree of complexity:

  • Change is not driven by the company’s management.
  • Resistance to change from those involved is not adequately managed and leads to the project failing.

Sometimes organisations are unable to reinvent themselves in the face of internal obstacles and fall back to ways of doing things as they were done before due to a lack of confidence or a spirit of change.
In short, we need to apply a transformation to an Agile way of working when the environment in which we find ourselves is appropriate, when the maturity of the organisation allows it and when there is clear support from management to undertake a major change.