(This is an excerpt post from Coach Takeshi’s Agile 101 with edits.)
One VERY helpful framing we use when we go inside organizations to help them on their agile transformation, is the notion of Capital “A” Agile and lower case “a” agile/agility.
Capital “A” Agile is the disciplined application of Agile frameworks such as Scrum, while lower case “a” agile and agility is more about interpreted application of agile mindsets and behavior in day-to-day work.
Practicing capital “A” Agile may require changes in the organizational set-up of where it’s applied; how teams are formed, the role of the leader/manager, the level of decision making power abdicated to the teams, the cadence of their work etc.
Whereas lower case “a” agile is applicable to the whole organization. Because it’s more about embracing the spirit of agile, and adopting/adapting them into day-to-day practices where meaningful.
For example, let’s say that you have a hundred people in a certain department of a specific function. Before implementing a consultant’s proposal to break them up into smaller teams and reducing management layers, i.e. major surgery to the existing functional, hierarchical structure of the department (a pseudo capital “A” Agile measure), there may be many things from lower case “a” agile that the people in the department can learn and apply to improve their work. How about creating a better customer feedback loop? Perhaps they can use a Kanban board for better real time and visual sharing of their work with colleagues. And maybe they can change the way they do their reportings “up the chain” with shorter but more frequent stakeholder involved sessions. It’s not hard to imagine that the latter measures are more likely to instigate positive change compared to the unnecessarily disruptive former.
And lower case “a” agile can literally apply to the whole organization. Even in seemingly non-obvious places in the organization where the risk tolerance is low, such as legal and compliance and manufacturing quality control, there are many things that can be improved and adapted to the changing needs of the world, right?
There are places for Agile, while everyone can practice agile. Embrace both Agile and agile/agility to successfully transform the whole organization.