Love is what love does. Agile is what agile does. To some, it may sound cliché in 2022, but it still holds true. And, it will hold true for eternity. Doing vs being is essentially an existential dilemma that has plagued the philosophers, thinkers, writers, poets, and all other sensitive and sensible beings across the world in all the ages.
The only way to make peace with this eternal dilemma is to accept that you cannot do anything thoroughly unless you just be it totally. You cannot love unless you become the love. You cannot practice agile methodology totally unless you become agile totally.
So, what does it mean to be agile in order to be able to do agile? Let us dive straightaway into doing agile vs being agile in 2022 to inquire further and possibly arrive at some clarity.
“Doing” agile means practicing all the processes and guidelines of agile methodology without understanding or absorbing the rationale and the spirit of these guidelines or processes intellectually, emotionally, and culturally.
When an organization adopts agile software development methodology, it can witness “doing agile” almost overnight. Doing agile, more or less, looks like this:
In a nutshell, doing agile would look like some pompous ceremony wherein everyone has followed a dress code, but no one actually knows why they have been told to dress in a certain way.
Doing agile would feel like everyone is doing everything perfectly well, and yet something is terribly missing along the way. And, no one can actually pinpoint what it is that is seriously missing.
When the teams are just “doing” agile, an enterprise can face challenges during the project development. These challenges typically may look like these:
We can again draw an analogy of a ceremony— a marriage ceremony or a religious ceremony or for that matter any ceremony, where things are being performed without understanding its meaning, its significance, its true spirit, and its purpose.
At the best, it may look good on the surface with all the music, fancy clothes, good food, etc., but it may not yield the actual results that are desired.
Similarly, doing agile may look quite glamorous on the surface, but doing only does not help the enterprises achieve the desired business value as well as technological excellence.
“Being” agile means practicing all these processes with deep awareness, understanding, and knowledge of agile principles and values. It is all about living and breathing agile for any enterprise undergoing agile transformation.
It is important to note that knowing or living agile principles and values does not mean memorizing them by heart. It essentially means to absorb the basic principles and values of agile and cultivate a mindset that thinks, feels, and does things in an agile way.
For an enterprise, “being” agile means making its own manifesto based on agile principles and values. For individuals of the enterprise, “being” agile means to perfectly understand both the basic agile principles and values and the customized manifesto of the enterprise, for the enterprise, and by the enterprise.
At a time when new terms such as “modern agile” and “heart of agile” are emerging, “being” agile may typically look like this:
Continuing with the previous analogy, “being” agile is like performing the ceremony with total understanding of its significance, purpose, spirit, meaning, and its desired outcome. It is indeed a better space to be in for the practitioners of the agile methodology. It can also be called “walk the talk” which means you exactly do what you say and mean.
The challenges of only being agile look like talk the talk and not walking the walk. It means you know its values, principles, and processes by heart, but you hardly care to implement it or live it.
For example, an enterprise may have a leadership team with a thorough knowledge of agile methods, principles and values, but, it does not have adequate skills to train the people. In that case, “being” agile proves to be a farce, where everything is in heart and mind, and nothing on the ground!
The major challenge of doing agile vs being agile in 2022 is finding a balance between doing and being. As we saw, it is not just doing that can bring the desired agile transformation. Similarly, it is not just either that can help the enterprise achieve aspired agile transformation.
What could be the way then to bridge the gap between doing and being? What ways to resolve this problem of doing agile vs being agile in 2022?
A popular Zen koan says: “A coin lost in the river is found in the river.” Applying this profound wisdom to the challenges of doing agile vs being agile in 2022, an enterprise can actually resort to the 12 principles of the agile manifesto, and come up with the master manifesto to suit its culture and disposition.
This master manifesto can be different for every enterprise. But, a general customized manifesto may look like this that can help bridge the gap between doing and being:
These are some of the ways that can help enterprises bridge the gap between doing and being. The debate between doing agile vs being agile in 2022 can be sorted out effectively only when the key leadership exactly knows what it is do agile and what it is to be agile.
The most common tendency of all those who are active stakeholders in this debate of doing agile vs being agile in 2022 is to consider either one of it as more important than the other.
The truth is both are equally important. Do agile without understanding its true purpose and spirit. You will end up as another cog in the machine that is just there to finish the processes and file the reports without considering their emotional, intellectual and cultural significance.
On the other hand, if you just talk about agile or just know about agile by heart, and do not have the necessary skills or willingness or efficiency in implementing it effectively as well, you would just end up like a pundit who can lecture about how to row a boat. Still, when it floods, he is the first to drown and let others drown as he does not know anything about rowing in real!
Let us then usher into 2022 with a much more balanced and wisdom in our hearts and minds that graciously allow us to see doing agile vs being agile not as a kind of a problem to be solved, but rather a welcoming portal that provides an opportunity to achieve the balance and maintain it for years to come.
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