3 Pillars of Agility

Back in 2001, a group shared something called the Agile Manifesto. It was a set of ideas that changed how people build software. At Humble Associates, this manifesto has been like a trusted map, guiding how we work and help others work too. But a lot has changed in over 20 years. Even though the manifesto is still useful, the world looks quite different now, especially after events like the global shifts in 2020.

We at Humble Associates don’t think we’re the boss of Agile, but we do have some thoughts on how it fits into our world today. And we’d love to share them, just as friends sharing thoughts over a cuppa.

Imagine Agile is a stool with three legs. These three legs, or pillars as we like to call them, are what we think hold up Agile in today’s fast-moving, ever-changing world of work. Not just in software, but in all kinds of jobs where we use our knowledge and skills in special ways.

In our upcoming chapters, we’ll chat about these three pillars, exploring how the old wisdom of Agile can still help us in the new, sometimes tricky world we find ourselves in. Stick around for a friendly journey into agility that meets the here and now!

North Star of Value

In the dynamic waters of today’s work environment, how does a team or organisation navigate effectively towards its desired outcomes? We always believe it’s crucial to have a clear sense of direction – something akin to a ‘North Star’.

Consider this: if we liken our projects and initiatives to a ship sailing through varied and often stormy seas, the North Star of Value becomes our unwavering guide amidst the chaos. It isn’t about forging a strict path and stubbornly sticking to it, but about maintaining a steadfast focus on our desired outcome, whatever that may be, while adroitly navigating the ever-shifting challenges and opportunities that arise along the way.

This goes beyond mere flexibility; it’s an embodiment of true agility. It’s acknowledging, “Yes, the seas are rough, and the wind doesn’t always blow in our favour. But we know where we need to go.”

The vital query we continuously explore is, “How do we adjust our sails and strategies in real-time to ensure we’re always moving towards that North Star, even amidst unforeseen challenges and opportunities?”

Whether it’s modifying a campaign strategy in response to new market data or adapting a product development approach due to sudden budget changes, the North Star of Value keeps our journey intentional and our strategies relevant.

So, let’s delve into this further in subsequent discussions and explore how we can all sail effectively towards our respective North Stars, embracing each wave and wind shift as a vital part of our voyage. What will your North Star be, and how will you maintain your course amidst the inevitable ebb and flow of challenges and opportunities? Join us on this explorative journey, and let’s discover together.

Cycle of Delivery

Embarking further into our voyage, let’s anchor ourselves in our second pillar: The Cycle of Delivery. It’s not just a concept; it’s the practical heartbeat of every agile endeavour we witness or guide. This isn’t merely about punctuating a project with arbitrary releases; it’s about ensuring that each release, however small, delivers discernible, valuable change.

In the traditional project landscapes that many of us grew up with, the delivery of value was often a grand reveal at the end. A ‘ta-da’ moment after months, maybe years of work. This worked…until it didn’t. The market moves, demands shift, and suddenly that final reveal can be spectacularly misaligned with what’s actually needed. Sound familiar?

So, the Cycle of Delivery challenges this by championing frequent, iterative releases of value. Let’s be clear: we’re talking about bona fide, tangible value – not just a piece of a puzzle, but something that stands alone as useful, beneficial, and worth the effort. Something that sparks feedback, that learns from its user interaction and that hones the subsequent steps of development.

Importantly, it aligns with our North Star. Every small chunk delivered isn’t merely a piece of the product; it’s a step towards our ultimate goal. It’s something that’s meant to bring us closer, provide learnings, and indeed, occasionally provoke a course correction.

Interestingly, this approach doesn’t just feed the project; it nurtures the team too. Delivering value iteratively allows for celebration, reflection, and most crucially, learning. It validates the direction, reassures the approach and, where necessary, provides the data to pivot gracefully and with purpose.

However, we recognise it’s a hard shift from those traditional project norms. It takes courage to release early and often, to expose your work to the world and invite feedback in real-time. Yet, it’s a hurdle worth jumping.

Why? Because this middle pillar, while potentially heavy with change-management and mindset shift, also bears the weight of ensuring that we’re continuously delivering, learning and improving. It’s robust, it’s resilient, and it’ll support you, us, and the wider agile community in ensuring our ships don’t just sail, but that they sail in a direction that matters.

So, how can we, in our various vessels, build a cycle of delivery that not only propels us forward but ensures that every release is a meaningful step towards our North Star? Together, let’s explore further in our next section, ensuring our sails are not just full, but purposefully directed.

Lake of Reflection

Calm and still, our third pillar, the Lake of Reflection, offers a serene yet pivotal point in our journey through agile workings. Reflection, the act of purposefully pausing to consider, assess, and ponder our actions, is inherently gentle yet its impact ripples through everything we do.

When we embark on projects, caught in the wave of delivery cycles and steadfastly eyeing our North Star, it’s the calm waters of reflection that offer us the grounding we need to ensure continuous, meaningful progress. And this isn’t just an occasional glance inward; it’s a sustained, routine practice of stopping, looking, and listening to our processes, our people, and our projects.

Without these moments to pause and ponder, to mull over our actions, decisions, and directions, our journey could subtly, but significantly, veer off course. Reflection isn’t a break from action, it’s an integral part of it, ensuring that every step taken is not just forward, but forward in a way that’s sustainable, considered, and true to our overall aim.

Reflection isn’t solely about scrutinising our missteps; it’s also about acknowledging and celebrating our successes, understanding how and why they came to be, and considering how they can be replicated or refined. It’s about looking at our North Star and ensuring that it still shines with the same allure and relevance as it did at the outset of our venture.

Anchoring in the calm waters of our Lake of Reflection provides the assurance that while the route to our destination may shift and meander, our commitment to consistent, thoughtful, and informed navigation remains steadfast.

We actively encourage ourselves, and our wider community, to take these moments of calm reflection, to linger in them and respect them, understanding that it’s here, in the gentle, quiet consideration of our actions and outcomes, that the truly meaningful progression towards our goals is nurtured and sustained.

In your ventures, how might you carve out your own tranquil lake amid the hustle of project pressures and delivery demands, ensuring your journey remains purposeful, sustainable, and true?

Let’s delve deeper into this essential practice in our next section, exploring the strategies, structures, and safeguards we can put in place to honour and utilise reflection effectively within our agile approaches.

A Heartfelt Invitation to Explore Together

Here we stand, having journeyed through the realms of Value’s North Star, the steady Cycle of Delivery, and the tranquil Lake of Reflection. These pillars, though seemingly straightforward, represent deep reservoirs of wisdom and strategy that have steadily guided us and can guide you through the multifaceted world of agile working.

In these metaphors, we find more than just theoretical concepts; we find a structured yet flexible approach to navigating the intricate and ever-shifting landscapes of our professional environments. The seemingly simple has the power to become profoundly impactful when applied with understanding, consideration, and genuine intention.

It’s imperative to note that simplicity in concept does not equate to effortlessness in application. The ease of understanding the pillars doesn’t negate the challenges that may arise when embedding them into our daily practices. A heartening reality, isn’t it? That the path to enhanced value, improved delivery, and sustainable improvement asks of us our diligence, our commitment, and our continual reflection.

At Humble Associates, we extend a warm invitation to you to engage deeper, explore further, and journey with us through the intricate pathways these pillars illuminate. Our doors and our hearts are open to sharing, exploring, and discovering alongside you through our upcoming sessions and webinars.

Join us, not because it’s easy, but because the challenging journey towards true agility, towards a more nuanced, responsive, and value-driven way of working, is a journey worth taking. And isn’t it always more enriching, more enlightening, when we explore and uncover, when we stumble and find our footing, together?

Let’s embark on this continuing journey with shared curiosity, mutual support, and a collective desire to delve into the challenges, the discoveries, and the numerous possibilities that agile working brings into our shared spaces.

We’re here, ready to walk alongside you, as we all navigate towards our respective North Stars, cycling through deliverables, and pausing by our own lakes to reflect, recalibrate, and rejoice in the journeys we’re each undertaking.

And so, we ask: Where might your pillars guide you and how can we, as a collective, navigate the complexities and wonders of our professional landscapes together? Let’s discover, hand in hand, where these pillars lead us and how, through unity and shared exploration, we can illuminate pathways previously untraveled.

Until our paths cross again, we bid you forward motion, steady progression, and serene reflection on your journey through agility. May your North Star shine brightly, your cycles be fruitful, and your lake bestow tranquillity and insight in equal measure.