The agile business Blog:

Agile is a word often used. However, there is a distinct feeling that it is used more often wrongly than not.

Martin Sauer, xspera

A lot is being said and written about agility, agile transformation, agile adoption and much more. Of course, everyone believes to be right. To me it seems, there is no right or wrong about the aspects of agile methods and organizations. Instead it is about perception, mutual goals and what employees (from worker up to top management) perceive together as a common ground. As such it is obviously wrong, to only attribute single properties to agile in a business sense.

In over 20 years of business experience, I never heard of something as magical as “agile” in all its forms. From “A” like agile agenda up to “Z” zero problems (quote).

What is agile?

Searching the web for agile, I found at once:

  • “High performance”

  • “Able to embrace and thrive in a flexible, collaborative, self-organizing, fast changing environment”

  • “Productivity gain”

  • “Organization structure change”

  • “Agile Adoption Frequently Means Using Scrum“

  • “Scaled agile framework (SAFE)”

  • “Large scale SCRUM (LESS)”

  • “Programmer anarchy”

Personally, I like the last word most: anarchy.

A person within a large corporation who takes direct responsibility for turning an idea into a profitable finished product through assertive risk-taking and innovation

The American Heritage Dictionary, 1992


So in the end agile in business terms comes down to a wider conception of intrapreneurship. From this view, agile is about people working in teams. It is about responsibility, accountability, consulted by the right people and having relevant people informed paired with intrapreneurship.

That’s exactly what most entrepreneurs do: working agile in various teams with the right people, while being open-minded, communicative with a vision. An understanding, which is also close to McKinsey (The five trademarks of agile organizations). My only concern with the McKinsey definition being that their definition relies too much on technology.

Now imagine an enterprise, where everyone worked like this internally as well as with partners and customers – that’s an agile business.

Agile anarchy: the contradiction between agile and business

This understanding of agile has a consequence: it’s true anarchy. Work is done, but it’s not clear if the right work has been done – the work needed to fuel a business. Even worse, such an environment relies on learning by doing. Where experience is concentrated on the people. Meaning: as soon as an employee leaves, that experience is gone. As a matter of fact, results and achieved goals by that individual are also no longer repeatable – lost.

That’s an extreme contradiction to business goals.

It comes to no surprise that this apprehension is one of many reasons for some companies to hold back from entering the agility train. Simply because it is a valid apprehension.

Yes and No.

Martin Sauer, xspera

“Common” solution

Many people from an agile view are likely to answer: “There is no contradiction. Technology solves all this!”. In products we suddenly talk about Jira, Confluence, Jenkins, Concourse, Slack, Asana, Microsoft Office 365, Visual Studio and many more.

Yes, those tools solve above mentioned issues in the short term. No, since these solutions are isolated and sooner or later produce more unstructured data than ever before. Unstructured data, which by definition is in itself again a silo – lost.

Also other areas of a business in an extremely structured environment like accounting, assembly line workers,.. working on structured data with increasingly repetitive tasks are not integrated at all. So the underlying issue persists. It’s just not visible – yet. A two-class employee business.

The xspera stance

Here at xspera we do believe in agile business. We are fully aware of the benefits and the loopholes agility brings. For that we believe in intelligent solutions.

And that’s exactly why our claim is: the agile business era.

Come back soon for more articles in this series and potential solutions.