Agile vs Business Agility

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Agile vs Business Agility
We discuss the differences between Agile, and Business agility. The two terms are often used interchangeably, which is incorrect.


Steve Walton, Principal
Fiona Royall, Project Lead
Patrick Fitzgerald, Senior Consultant
Luca Fiorentino, Senior Consultant
Nikhil Josh, Consultant
Benny Ko, Senior Consultant
Inaya Dsouza, Associate

The terms Agile and Business Agility will often be used interchangeably, which is incorrect.

Agile is a methodology, a way of thinking, and is a way to unlock business agility. Agile has a framework, utilising a set of principles and practices to guide its implementation.

Business agility is the ability for whole organisations to respond to change quickly and with benefit.  It’s underpinned by Agile ways of working, behaviours and capabilities that unlock flexibility, responsiveness, and adaptability to move in a rapidly changing environment.

Agile is a way to achieve that.

Just doing Agile does not get results. An analogy to think of are the “Cargo Cults” described after World War 2.  Where it is said that people mimicked the practices of soldiers with a belief that goods would be dropped from the sky.

Native people
Members of the so called “Cargo Cult” with the built replica of an “airplane”.

We see this in organisations in many ways. For example – a group of people conducting what appears to be a stand-up like the agile team in another part of the office. However, without an understanding of the focus on achieving committed goals, they are standing around saying what they’ve done,” says Steve Walton, principal, Melbourne.

It is for this nuance in understanding that each Agile Ceremony exists, that lets people know what is required to make the practices work. Teams that move beyond “doing” Agile are able to connect, plan and review in more depth whilst being more concise.

Through understanding how to work with, and communicate with each other, they are rapidly able to focus in on value. The ability of teams and organisations to focus on value, is key to their ability to be able to respond to change fast.

They know what to look for and are able to refocus when needed, driving real business Agility.

The idea of Business Agility is to free your people to drive accelerated growth – in the business, and in themselves,” shared Luca Fiorentino, a senior consultant in Sydney.  It is an effective way to structure and think about work, increasing the likelihood of sustained growth in uncertain environments with high rates of change.

Business Agility is not agility for agility’s sake. In fact, the premise is to keep things lean and targeted – trimming the fat and freeing us to drive toward our objectives, together and respond to change, together.

Understand the intent of Agile

As touched on above, it’s imperative to truly understand why each ceremony exists.

Agile is sometimes seen as a manifesto – a document we can read, understand, and then put away. But actually, practicing business agility is so much more, it takes agile principles and values to the edge of theory and into practicality.

Rigid adherence to the Agile framework will not engender agility amongst your organisation. The most important concept for organisations and teams to understand is the ultimate intent / purpose that underpins the various Agile ceremonies.

Meeting with your team for 15 minutes every day does not guarantee success. Convening with your team with the explicit intent of calibrating on strategic goals, identifying and addressing impediments to progress does.  Also determining next steps in the spirit of growth and collaboration will certainly push your team closer to realising their strategic goals.

Agile means practising (lowercase) agile behaviours and mindsets and asking yourself the questions: How do we respond to change? Are we aligned? How can we deliver faster? It’s not just asking if you have a Product Owner or Agile Team Facilitator / Coach identified,” explains Inaya Dsouza, associate in Los Angeles.

Move the sheep out of the way of the Lamborghini

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“One of my favourite images is a Lamborghini surrounded by a flock of sheep. You have all that power to get from point A to point B quickly but the impediment is everywhere around you,” says Nikhil Josh, a consultant in Toronto.   

It holds true with Agile. Often Agile may be adopted in certain parts of the organisation, commonly IT, but if the rest of the organisation puts up barriers due to traditional ways of working or command and control, then Agility can never truly be experienced.

Business agility is the ability for the whole organisation to embrace change through the change of mindsets, values and behaviours (not just process or frameworks) to help drive value.

“Build smooth roads for the Lamborghini to reach its full capability rather than allow roadblocks like sheep to hinder it,” says Nikhil.

To finish up, recognise that business agility is the ability of an organisation to respond to change, using business strategies they’ve implemented well before the change is needed. Implementing Agile methodologies, and new ways of working across your business, will inject new ways of thinking into your operations. Your culture will change, your productivity will change.

Your improved success will be sustained through change.



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