The art of avoiding Fake Agile

Photo by: P Photography.

I’ve heard many people complain about Agile and most of them have the same problem. The management has forced them to use Agile, but neither their leaders nor managers nor they and their teams know what it is about. When you work in an organization that is just starting to jump on the new craze of being flexible and adaptable, it can be incredibly easy to get carried away with the excitement of this new and innovative way of working, losing sight of the essence and what is really necessary to avoid falling into False agility. However, it is essential to remember that teams will fall for Fake Agile again and again…unless we develop a culture of awareness when it comes to Fake Agile. So how can we avoid falling into Fake Agile?

Avoid treating agility like a silver bullet.

Despite its popularity, agility is not the answer to all your problems. In fact, it can cause even more problems if it is not thoroughly understood and practiced by everyone across your organization.

Many teams dedicate themselves to implementing agile practices. They then declare agility a failure when they don’t get the desired results.

The surprise comes when it is discovered that there is no consensus on what agility really is. And what’s worse, many people who claim to be doing agility are actually practicing something called Fake Agile, which sounds agile but isn’t.

Agile is a way of thinking born from a manifesto created in 2001. It focuses on the idea of ​​being flexible and adaptable while increasing value. The manifesto emphasizes people over process and a functioning product or service over everything. It also promotes responding to change rather than following a plan.

Unfortunately, these principles are sometimes misunderstood or watered down until they lose relevance. Furthermore, many Agile Coaches allow natural agility to dilute amid a toxic culture that only encourages command and control, not transparency, inspection, and adaptation. It is common to see many agilists happily sitting in their status quo, without the spirit of really promoting living and sharing the values ​​and principles. Agile does not solve anything. Agile, on the contrary, gives us an ideal scenario where it is possible to increase value always better, based on a construction supported by constant feedback and by having the customer at the center. For this, the teams collaborate and avoid silos. They form and reshape themselves around value and allow them to continuously grow in a culture that supports psychological security,

Do not do agility because you are in the Agile Era.

We live in an era where Agile has become the lifeline of consultancies that unscrupulously sell or position agile roles… And it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that doing Agile is the same as being Agile, or worse yet, that by hiring external agents at our value (Consultants), we will solve our path to be and do Agile. Agility is a way of working, not a set of planned activities in a consultancy service proposal.

What does it mean to be agile? Be flexible, constantly responsive to change, and accept changing environments to do things better around the value we increase. Collaboration between self-organized and cross-functional teams. Adaptive planning. Development of iterative products and services. Frequent inspection and adaptation. Accept the change. People and interactions are the most important thing.

Don’t be and do Agile just because everyone else is doing it.

Do not be and do Agile in the hope that your leaders will like you better or in the hope of making more money.

Define your why to be and do Agile

The most important thing before starting the transformation is to identify the why. It is essential to understand why we want to be and do Agile.

Many organizations don’t really know what they need to be agile for — they just know that they need to be agile. They can’t tell them why, so they can’t effectively answer questions like, “What are we trying to accomplish? Why are we doing this? What is the purpose of this exercise?”

The why helps you become aware of your true purpose. It enables you to understand what goals your organization needs to pursue and where it needs to improve. It also helps you understand the core values ​​of your organization, which in turn help you achieve greatness by guiding you through the tough times.

The biggest problem Agile is facing today is the lack of focus that it triggers in Fake Agile.

Management adopts Scrum to improve its control of software development. Kanban is being adopted to streamline workflows without addressing the underlying causes of waste or the need to understand customer priorities. The Agile Manifesto has been misunderstood as a set of practices to follow rather than a simple guide for approaching complex incremental value systems systemically.

Teach the value of continuous learning.

One of the reasons I’m passionate about Agile is that, by its very nature, it creates an environment of continuous learning. Agile is based on the premise that no matter how much planning and preparation is done, changes will occur, and plans must be modified.

Agile is also based on the belief that work is impossible to fully predict until it is done. This requires that all team members have a voice in adaptive planning and decision-making to share their experience, insights, and concerns as they go about their work.

Agile principles require teams to inspect and adapt each day to correct course when issues are identified. And this simply cannot happen without continuous learning environments or spaces of psychological safety.

People must feel safe sharing their ideas, concerns, and insights to continually improve. They must trust that they will be supported rather than penalized for sharing them.

To continually learn, people must be able to experiment. They should feel free to try innovative solutions and creative approaches without fear of failure or retaliation for trying something new or different than planned or expected.

Agile without continuous learning environments or psychological safety spaces is Fake Agile.

Avoid creating hierarchical job positions in Agile

Servant leadership is one of the basic ideas for being and doing Agile. It’s a difficult concept for most people who have grown up in a traditional hierarchical environment. The idea is simple: we all have the focus of serving everyone.

However, in trying to be and do Agile, some teams translate servant leadership into a new hierarchy. It’s an easy mistake because they’re already familiar with hierarchies and don’t know how to solve the idea into something more tangible. They may even have been told that this is what servant leadership means. After all, if you’re a team leader or a manager, and you need to be a servant leader, you have to manage and lead someone, right? Well, maybe it isn’t!

Servant leadership doesn’t require unnecessary hierarchies when you are and become Agile. This is not a new idea. The best leaders have always understood it. “servant leadership” has been around for decades since Robert Greenleaf’s 1970 essay.

But in organizational hierarchies, servant leadership is often misconstrued as submission to authority rather than empowerment by example. This is even more likely in an agile context because of how we talk about “servant leader” roles. It is time to address this problem head-on and make organizations understand that hierarchies are a waste when it comes to being flexible and adaptable with a common goal: Increase more and better value for who we identify as a customer, whom we supposedly put in the center… right?

Do not believe in a closed way to any framework or framework

Although many agile frameworks can be used as a reference to be and do Agile, it is important not to believe in any.

The idea is to realize that agility is a “mindset” and not a “magic recipe,” so it’s essential to create an agile way of working that suits your team and organization.

One of the biggest problems with agile frameworks is that people want to use them “By the book”: they think that if they follow the steps of this framework, they will become agile overnight. But agility doesn’t work like that.

The mere application of practice does not make you Agile. Scrum is not Agile. Kanban is not Agile. “The name of your favorite framework” is not Agile.

Agile is constantly responding to change. To do agile, you’ll need to find a way of working that enables this without neglecting value enhancement. And remember that the more restrictive or full of practices a framework is, the less Agile it is.


I hope this post has shown that the art of avoiding false agility is really very simple:

1. Agile is not a silver bullet.

2. Don’t do it for fashion.

3. Always define the why.

4. Do it by fostering spaces for continuous growth and learning.

5. Without hierarchies or egos.

6. Without believing in a closed way to any framework.

The key is to stay vigilant. Very attentive if we are deviating from the path.



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