We’re taking a peek at the future, and it's agile!
"You must always be able to predict what's next and then have the flexibility to evolve." Marc Benioff
As 2023 draws to a close, our experts are putting their heads together to share their predictions for the next 12 months. In the agile camp, we paired up Tina Behers, VP of Enterprise Agility, and Jon Kern, Digital Transformation Consultant and Co-author of the Agile Manifesto, to discuss what we can expect from this transformational approach in 2024.
It might be tough to make predictions, but with so much experience under their belts, our experts will give it their best shot.
Shifting towards holistic agility
For the big promise of team-level agile to come to fruition, businesses are realising that transformation must be focused on more than just software departments. Huge changes need to be made on the business side as well.
"While many companies 'talk the talk' on agile, truly enabling autonomy and cross-functional collaboration remains difficult," says Tina. "The future requires lean processes and empowering people, not just using agile as a buzzword."
More organisations are enabling people on the business side to spend the time they need to do things better rather than piling 'agility' on their already full plate and expecting miracles to happen. Tina says: "I'm seeing a lot more companies that are thinking more holistically about how they can evolve their product and portfolio management capabilities, making them leaner and providing more cohesive and consistent user stories and feature requests to the technical team."
Putting people first
As businesses realise there are no silver bullets when implementing agile, we'll continue to see a shift away from processes and tools towards people—the heart of every action and interaction in your organisation. "Process is simple," Jon says. "Actually doing innovative, creative work and building a team environment in which to flourish is hard."
Leaders recognise that to get people to make the mindset shift agile demands, you have to explain why you're making the change and what's in it for them.
"At some point, the revolutionary zeal of early agile faded into a search for easy ways out," says Tina. "Scrum, Kanban, and credentials eclipsed the human side. Now, leaders know succeeding requires committing to the harder, human-centric work of giving people a why. Reinvigorating this mindset is key to agile's future."
Getting back to basics
Returning to the Agile Manifesto's original principles was a key conversation topic for digital transformation experts at our inaugural agile roundtable this year. And it looks set to stay on the agenda for some time to come. Where the professionalisation of transformation has taken over in the past, businesses are shifting their thinking, realising that implementing agile requires a more personal approach.
"As I've travelled and worked in developing countries, I'm seeing more situations that remind me of the early days of the manifesto," says Jon. "My hope is that we can replicate this across the board to make agility blossom again—a return to the mindset and principles of the manifesto, not the professionalisation and credentialisation we have gotten used to. Agile must stay personal, not become compliance-driven. Though credentialing will continue, the heart of agile is individuals taking ownership. Avoiding fads and shortcuts is key."
Bringing the human touch to AI tools
With developing technologies like AI shaking up the way we work, there's no doubt they'll impact agile practices, too. Right now, AI is being deployed by organisations more in relation to tooling—to tick a box or achieve a quick answer. These emerging technologies must make our workplaces safer to experiment, fail, grow, and blossom. But with speed the primary focus, rather than people, is there a chance they will do more harm than good when it comes to agile transformation?
"AI and automation will only transform agile when combined with a human focus," says Tina. "Currently, AI is used just for routine agile tasks. To unlock innovation, AI needs to take in people's mindsets and principles, not just replicate processes. Technology without the human touch risks losing agile's essence. The future requires AI designed for people, not despite them."
Trending towards agile working
In the wake of the Covid pandemic, we've seen an acceleration of agile work models. The reasons are twofold: first, we now understand that everyone doesn't have to be in the office, Monday through Friday, for 40-plus hours per week. And second, millennials are moving up in the workforce. This generation grew up with a powerful computer in their pocket and information at their fingertips, and they're harnessing that for the better.
"Before Covid, job descriptions were highly prescriptive," explains Tina. "Now, they focus on intentions and outcomes. Intention-based roles and fluid work now feel native rather than novel. A lot of younger people intrinsically act and expect to work in a more agile way. This inclination towards agile mindsets in the workforce is a positive development for fully implementing agile across entire organisations."
"The best way to predict the future is to create it."
Abraham Lincoln put it succinctly when he made this statement about predictions, and we can't argue with it. When it comes to transformation, C-suite executives, managers, and team members must start building for a future where they can add more value more quickly—otherwise known as being agile.
Have a fantastic 2024!
Jon and Tina