Doing vs. Being Agile

Doing vs. Being Agile

While there’s a whole slew of barriers to successful Agile adoption, I think most of them boil down to one major one: is the team doing Agile or being Agile?

 

Seems a subtle difference, but there are miles between the two. I can’t tell you how many organizations I know of (including some I’ve worked with) who, after spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to establish Agile processes through training and coaching, have abandoned Agile completely for more familiar territory just a few months or years later.

 

Here are some of the quintessential differences between doing and being Agile. Maybe defining the two will help other organizations not fall victim to the same fate.

Doing is Short-Term; Being is Sustaining

When you do Agile, you’re probably looking for a solution for an immediate problem. You probably use an outside-in process, meaning that you start with established processes and behaviors and gradually move toward culture. In fact, to be Agile, you’ve got to do the opposite: work inside-out. By first understanding culture, you can then build systems to support and sustain agility long-term.

Doing is Practices; Being is Principles

Consider the example of the constant dieter. He or she is constantly doing the things that should lead to weight loss…until stress or life in general enters the picture. That’s when the diet gets derailed. On the other hand, someone who lives a healthy lifestyle completely finds it easier not to get distracted by a candy bar when times get tough. Being is a philosophy, a lifestyle. Doing requires nothing more than checking boxes off.

Doing Lacks Purpose; Being is Purposeful

What’s your drive when Doing Agile? Probably nothing more than completing what’s required of you. You’ve got nothing more than a dangling carrot to nudge you down the path. Being, on the other hand, gives you purpose. When you understand the why of being Agile, you are motivated because you understand where you’re going with it. In his book, Drive, Dan Pink talks about how having purpose creates motivation. If there’s a method to your team’s madness in using Agile, everyone will be inspired to implement it effectively.

Doing is Rote; Being is Active and Adaptive

Imagine you have two choices:

Choice 1: Conduct a series of set tasks that will result in the completion of a project

Choice 2: Being given an objective and asked for input on how to reach it

Which would you prefer? When you do Agile, you’re like a cog in a wheel. You’re reading from a manual. But when you are being Agile, you get the creative flexibility to come up with solutions — and even change them as necessary.

Leaders Can BE Agile. Organizations Can BE Agile. Teams Can BE Agile.

Being Agile isn’t limited to the elite few. It is possible to be Agile at every level in an organization. Naturally, having support from leadership makes the efforts easier. And when you build high-performing team structures, you can foster that being over doing.

It’s important to set up effective, yet flexible processes that can adapt with scalability. Agile is all about being able to turn on a dime when needed. That makes it easier to be Agile for the long-term.

Agile, while it may succeed briefly with a team who is doing it, is most successful when the team is Agile 100% of the time. Using it as the team’s culture and philosophy bakes it into everything the team does.

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