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The One Thing You Really Need To Make Agile Work

Some reflections based on Steve Denning’s article “Agile Isn’t New: What’s New Is The C-Suite Embracing It”, Forbes, May 3, 2020.

Nice article on what Agile is and the impact it can have when the C-suite truly embraces it. It seems fashionable to talk about Business Agility as a core competence in a fast moving digitalised world, but much of what I read reduces the approach to buzzwords. As I adopted Lean Agile over time in my work, I learned that the tools are brilliant, but significant change only comes with a real shift in mindset and behaviour. And not surprisingly, the top must walk the talk, exemplifying and supporting it.

A different operating approach will not yield full potential unless it is driven by different leadership values and behaviours. Some learnings from experience:

  • Start with a deep introspective into yourself as a leader, to reassess your beliefs, ways of working, managing and communicating;

  • Learn how to “let go” – this does not come natural to most, especially when we have been trained for and rewarded by managing with command & control systems;

  • Be very deliberate in changing how you behave, and accept that success comes through a necessary cycle of failure, feedback and learning. Fortitude is required to stay the course and get there.

Also, Agile must be “scaled up” from small teams to the broader organisation in order to achieve enterprise level impact. I see this in two connected ways:

  • Involve functions not typically thought of as Agile “candidates”, i.e. HR, Marketing, Customer Service, Procurement, Legal. All have to be aligned. Without an end to end approach, the result is an even more disconnected set of clashing processes.

  • Include the strategic level of portfolio planning and funding in the Agile approach, and connect it to the execution level, ensuring teams across the organisation are guided business priorities in determining what work gets done first.

This is not just abstract talk – I have used it and seen it all work in real life.

How to do it? There are many moving pieces to a successful adoption and implementation of all this. At nest consulting we have adopted the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe®) as it provides a structured, comprehensive and proven approach and tools to successfully deploy Agile at enterprise level, and achieve business agility.

I found Steve Denning’s article in Forbes very interesting. This mini blog represents my own reflections from reading the article, on topics on which I have beliefs, opinions and experience. Feel free to disagree and/or challenge my thinking – as long as you do so in a constructive way.

At nest consulting, we assist companies developing a robust and agile approach to deliver lasting and successful transformation. Get in touch with me, on, if you wish to discuss this article further or to find out how we can help overcome any business transformation challenges.


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