A Primer in Agility
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"In the new world, it is not the big fish which eats the small fish, it's the fast fish which eats the slow fish.”

- Klaus Shwab, Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum.

Shwab's blunt warning is no surprise to the countless Fortune 500 companies who have seen their lifespan shrink from an average of 61 years in 1958 to less than 18 years more recently. McKinsey predicts that by 2027, 75% of the current S&P 500 companies will disappear. 

It's clear that no matter company size, no matter age or maturity, the race is starting now. And the winners will be agile companies. So which models can help? Let's start with a quick latticework snapshot. 

There's a lot to unpack in the above diagram, in this post I'll focus on the basics: 

  • Agile Methodology
  • Kanban
  • Scrum

This won't be our last post about agility, so we'll explore some of the other connections and applications later. For now, let's give you that promised primer by looking at these three fundamental models. 

I have to start with the basic model that frames others. Agile methodology is about taking an iterative approach rather than a 'waterfall' one. Rather than identifying a defined goal upfront and working towards it no matter what, Agile Methodology embraces constant iterations that provide value and feedback. That said, it's a broad model that has a number of options within it...

Kanban is a visual approach within Agile Methodology that helps to limit work in progress and overcome bottlenecks by transparently managing a continuous workflow. It's generally associated with collaborative, agile planning and visual communication of complex projects, but can also be used to organise personal projects and priorities.

Scrum is a popular framework within Agile Methodology that helps teams to collaborate through sprints, or timeboxed iterations, as they address complex problems. It's one of the most common applications of Agile, often incorporating Kanban, and is a very mature approach. 

And you can dig deeper...

They are the main agile based models, but there are countless related models to pay attention to. Agile effectively applies the Scientific Method, particularly in it's use of Feedback Loops. 

Agile also has similarities with Lean Thinking and practice, and was even born from Japanese manufacturing and modernised by software developers just like lean. 

Learn from tech companies — you might look at Amazon's High Velocity Decision Making to integrate into agile methodology. And there's also Google's findings that the single most important factor behind high performing teams is pyschological safety.

Finally, many companies are integrating design thinking into their agile approach to ensure a customer centric view. 

What other models should we be adding to our agile library? Post them in the comments below.

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