"You can't be a little bit agile"

Thanks to Bill Caputo for pointing me at this article from CIO Magazine. Two paragraphs really stood out for me:

  • To become agile, everyone in IT has to understand the business inside and out. IT can't stay on top of business needs, or react quickly to new market opportunities, if it doesn't know or understand the business drivers. And just as the IT department must foster flexibility and responsiveness across a number of disciplines inside IT, companies have to promote that same flexibility and responsiveness across all their business units. Giving a stodgy business an agile IT department is like giving a fish a bicycle. There's nothing like bureaucracy to put the kibosh on agility. Agility has to be the mantra of the the company at large, and as BCBS of RI's Zink says, it has to be supported by the top executives.
  • You can't be a little bit agile. You can't be agile in one area and not in another. You need agility in staffing, architecture, budgeting, governance, vendor relations and programming. And if that sounds like a lot, well, it is. But it's worth it.
The attempts that I have seen to weld agile software development to a bureaucratic business organisation have not been totally successful. The executives in those organisations would probably deny it but the lack of an agile organisational culture was definitely driven by the example that they set. (Off-topic: is "do-as-I-say-not-do-as-I-do" the opposite of leadership?)
To me the biggest challenge of being a software coach is uncovering and addressing the organisational barriers to an agile style of software development. Some of these barriers are addressable within a single team or IT department, but many of them are not. How many clients want to hear that "being Agile" is a destination that may be reachable after cultural change throughout the organisation, not a silver bullet that they can shoot their IT department with?