Why Agile Is Not Enough

The translation of the material was prepared as part of the course Enterprise Architect

We invite everyone to an open lesson “The past, present and future of the role of an enterprise architect” In an open lesson, we will have the opportunity to discuss the role of an enterprise architect: who they were, who they became and who should be in the foreseeable future, and why. Let’s talk about the necessary competencies of a change agent and basic knowledge for a positive impact in the organization. We will see where the architectural approach begins and where to strive for in professional development.

Agile is ambitious, but be agile is truly transformative. What is the best place to start? There is no single right answer. But first things first. What’s the difference between use and be agile?

Use Agile

Agile is not a methodology; it is a way of thinking that you can apply in your life and in the way you do business. Agile is widespread in the software development industry, but any industry can use and benefit from the agile mindset. For me, using Agile is about implementing certain behaviors or ways of doing business based on four values ​​and twelve principles (Agile Manifesto). So one way use Agile is about implementing frameworks or techniques that are very effective for organizing, collaborating, and prioritizing tasks and workflows in a team, such as Scrum or Kanban.

Most teams take this approach. I don’t think this is wrong, but I believe that it is not enough. When teams focus only on SCRUM, they forget why they are implementing Agile. In other words, they cannot see the forest for the trees. Agile is not about speed. It’s about delivering the best business results in a fast-paced world. For example, a team primarily evaluates the number of new features (products), not new subscribers (results). Manufacturing is okay, but new features don’t guarantee results.

Be Agile

Be agile, on the other hand, is about transforming your thinking. It has to do with how you understand the world. It encourages new ways to lead teams, develop products, or test ideas. Agile transforms us by forcing us to put the customer first and focus on developing what really matters.

Why being Agile is so hard

Being agile is a good idea, but not a common practice. The reason for this is rooted in cascading project management structure… This kind of management was created during the industrial revolution. The goal was to find the best way to optimize the production line. It’s different now because the pace of change is so fast that companies need to adapt every day. And the hardest part about changing is that it’s not all that fun. Change means continual learning and overcoming uncertainty. Learning with the wrong mindset leads to failure that feeds our insecurities.

I remember coaching a product manager to incorporate experimental thinking into their agile sprints. She had to coordinate experiments with the design and UX development team. The team experienced difficulties because everyone wanted everything to be perfect. It’s okay to keep doing things right. The problem is, excellence is a way to keep your work within your comfort zone. For example, their focus was on the perfect design or the perfect line of code. Instead, they should try to understand the impact their new features will have on their customers. But they preferred to focus on what scared them less: technical products.

They all had reasons for that. The marketing manager was new to the position, so she didn’t want to measure the results because it meant to her that she didn’t understand the customers well enough and was not ready for the position. The developer also didn’t want to evaluate the results, because his job was to make the button work or write the perfect algorithm. He did not feel obligated to change customer behavior. UX designers didn’t want to do mock testing. Instead, they focused on getting things right and following their established processes as criteria for good design.

This is because it is more difficult to influence customer behavior (outcome) than to produce a product. It is difficult because the former is not under the control of the team. And this is true if you are looking through the lens of a perfectionist, but this is not the only correct way.

A simple solution

Unfortunately, there is no easy solution. But there is still some solution. I will summarize some of the key points, but I also want to warn you that Agile is about profound cultural transformation, which is a complex process that takes time.

As a manager, you must embrace the influence of agile on development. You can’t ask a team to use Kanban with a two-year plan of features that the team needs to develop. Instead, it would be better if you adopted the learner’s mindset. As Jeff Gothelf says, you create an endless product. A product that is constantly evolving along with the market, and you cannot know what the market wants in two years. The mentality of the student involves repeated trial and learning (on failure).

Second, trying and learning is difficult if you are not create psychological safety for his team to explore the unknown. This is a new way of leadership, in which leaders need to be able to lead important conversations in order to understand what failure means for each member of his / her team. The best way to incentivize this is to shift reward from fast results to fast learning cycles. Retrospectives and introspection are critical, but do not focus solely on technical issues. Study the individual views of team members. You can start with a simple question: how did you feel during the experiment?

Finally, as a leader, you need to create a shared vision in which everyone understands that a line of code affects a company’s ROI. You must be consistent and meet the desired results. It’s okay to have clear objectives and key results (OKRs), but they should focus on changing customer behavior.


To summarize, agile can seem cool and imperative, especially in these hectic times. Sometimes we need a quick fix – you might think agile might be the vaccine to take control again. But quick, superficial changes won’t get things back to normal. Conscious leadership is more relevant than ever. We need to change our mindset as players and learners who care for each other every step of the way. For me, this is the best way to be agile.

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