Embracing Business Agility Beyond Maturity Checks and Beauty Contests

In today’s fast-paced and competitive corporate landscape, agility has become a buzzword, with organisations striving to adopt agile frameworks and methodologies to stay ahead. However, it is essential to recognise that agility is not an end in itself but a powerful means to improve company performance at all levels and thereby achieve tangible business results.

Relying heavily on tools like agile maturity checks and treating agility as a mere beauty contest can obscure its true potential. It is not to say that agile maturity checks don’t have a purpose. They do, but they are one of the tools to assist you along rather than an indicator of true success.

This blog briefly explores why measuring business agility with such methods falls short of the transformative benefits it can bring to an organisation.

The essence of agility 

At its core, business agility is about fostering a culture of adaptability, responsiveness, and resilience in the face of constant change. Embracing agility enables organisations to respond to market demands, capitalise on opportunities, and navigate through challenges precisely while dismantling cumbersome and obscure organisational structures and practices. It is about breaking free from rigidity and laying the foundation for a culture of continuous improvement and innovation.

The limited range of agile maturity checks

One of the key flaws of relying on maturity checks lies in their static nature. While they may provide snapshots of an organisation’s current agility level, they fail to capture the dynamic essence of agility. Agility is not a destination to be reached but an ongoing journey of improvement. It requires a constant willingness to learn, evolve, and adapt to the ever-evolving market and organisational conditions.

Though helpful in identifying areas for improvement, agile maturity checks do have a habit of suffering from tunnel vision. I’ve had a chance to compare agile maturity check self-assessments and pitch them against those completed by external peers, i.e. experienced ScrumMasters or Agile Coaches. Surprisingly, the self-assessments tended to be either quite willing to accept and even ignore challenges teams and organisations face, or to be extremely critical to the point of frustration.

However, both perspectives lacked two important things:

  1. an adequate orientation on concrete next steps in the transformation
  2. a reflection on the impact of the organisation’s business performance

Then again, agile maturity checks are not designed for the latter, which is a tribute to their important but limited range.

Generate value by embracing agility

Organisations must approach agility with a deeper understanding of its essence: the alignment of business agility with overarching business goals, key performance indicators (KPIs), or objectives and key results (OKR). The primary aim of embracing agility should be to enhance company delivery and drive tangible business results.

When agility is woven into the fabric of an organisation, its impact transcends operational efficiency and directly influences customer satisfaction, revenue growth, and market competitiveness – and also creates a better working environment.

Agility is not a beauty contest

Treating agility as a beauty contest can lead to superficial attempts at adopting agile practices without truly appreciating their purpose. The focus shifts to showcasing agility for external validation rather than utilising it as a strategic tool for success. It becomes a ‘checkbox’ exercise instead of a holistic transformational process. This approach may give the illusion of agility but fails to generate the desired business outcomes.

True agility doesn’t boil down to showing how agile you are but is about creating structures and cultures that deliver tangible business results, which are aligned with strategic objectives.

Measuring business agility with tools like maturity checks can help, but blind faith in them often oversimplifies its transformative potential. By genuinely embracing agility, you can reap the benefits of a more focused delivery organisation while ensuring that frustrations experienced by lagging behind the competition disappear in your rear-view mirror.

Written by

Tihomir Vollmann-Popovic Tihomir Vollmann-Popovic


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