Agile is not a proper noun. Agile is not a person, place, or thing. You do not do agile. You are agile.
What Is It?
My simple explanation of agile is: You have a vision of what you want to accomplish and the ability to make decisions. Assemble a group of smart, dedicated, and capable people to start figuring out how to do it and validate your assumptions and outputs along the way.
It’s as simple as that. That is agility. The understanding and acceptance that you will not know everything in advance but as long as you have a team of capable people with a set of top level goals and a single voice that can make decisions, you’ll figured out the rest as you go.
But What About Enterprise?!?!
When you throw the word “enterprise” in the mix, everyone loses their mind. “What about portfolio management?” “What about the PMO?” “How much will this cost?”. “We need a 6 month roadmap!” “WE NEED KPIs!!!”
The basic tenet of agility does not care about any of those questions. That’s all corporate generated noise and a relics from the contractor control model days from yesteryear. The primary goal is to add value as quick as possible and to incorporate learnings from fast feedback cycles.
The enterprise has caused all of their own problems and has institutionalized practices that make themselves slow. This short video Coordination Chaos does a great job illustrating how we inventively get ourselves into that mess.
Keep Calm, Agile On
There are no magic bullets. All you can do is recognize what the top level goals of being agile are ask yourself “am what I doing consistent with agility?”. If the answer is no, rethink your approach. If you continue to take small steps in the right direction, you’ll eventually get there.