The Path to Organizational Agility: An Interview with Ahmed Sidky


Ahmed Sidky explains that by looking at agile as a culture or way of life and not just a series of practices, organizations of any size can experience the benefits of agile company-wide. Learn how, by adopting some keystone habits, you can start "living the agile mindset."

Noel: Hello! This is Noel Wurst from TechWell and I am speaking today with Ahmed Sidky, who is going to be speaking at the Better Software/Agile Development Conference East in Boston, Massachusetts on Tuesday, November 12th. His session is called "Keystone Habits of Organizational Agility." How are you doing this morning, Ahmed?

Ahmed: Good. How're you doing?

Noel: Doing great. Doing just fine. I'm always really curious to learn our speakers and anybody who I interview's definitions of agile and things like that that can be interpreted so many different ways. So, when I saw “organizational agility,” I was curious as to how you define that, and how that could be best described.

Ahmed: Sure. Let me start with, to build on my definition of organizational agility, I think it's important to define agile real quickly. Basically, a lot of people look at agile as a process, a methodology, whatnot. I define agile as ... It's a mindset that is based on the idea of learning and discovering, and that mindset in the software world, because you can apply that mindset in many different domains, but in the software world it is defined through four values which are from the manifesto grounded in twelve principles, which are again from the manifesto, and then the key is they're manifested in many, many, many different practices.

So agile is a mindset; therefore, for me, organizational agility or enterprise agility is really a culture based on the values and principles of agile and then supported by the organizational ecosystem. Just like it's grounded in principles, agile, this is really grounded in the organizational ecosystem, which is the leadership, the strategy, the structure, the processes, and the people of an organization, and then manifested through the personal and organizational habits which is how work really gets done around the company. And if all of that is in line with the readiness of an organization to respond to constant change; therefore, an organization is agile or there's organizational agility.

Noel: That does not sound easy, but nobody's ever said that agile was easy. I was kind of curious, is there a right time for an organization to take this on or is it, are the benefits so great that it's worth the efforts, you should start as early as you can because in the long run the longer you're organizationally agile the better?

Ahmed: I think there's two parts to that question. What is the right time to start your journey to organizational agility, and honestly I couldn't find a better time than now, or yesterday, because where the industry is going it's an unprecedented rate of change that we are all experiencing. Competition is global. The need for innovation is constant and not just innovation of products, but innovation of how we get things done because we're faced with new challenges everyday. So an organization that is not aspiring towards agility is going to be a stagnant, irrelevant organization in a matter of years.

The other thing around that piece is because the amount of technology is increasing in astronomical numbers and proportions to what we're used to, we are quickly moving from an industrial age to a knowledge age and while an industrial age agility isn't really what's needed but more stability, predictability, reliability. In a knowledge age where there's constant change and uncertainty, agility is what's needed. If an organization doesn't have those factors of technology, uncertainty, competition, and change, then, yeah, maybe agility isn't for them, but if any organization has those factors then organizational agility is ... It's not even a “nice to have” from my point of view, it's a “must have” because they're in the knowledge workspace, but they're not working as knowledge workers.

The other part of the questions is, what are the preconditions or are we ready for that journey to agility? It's like when I first had my first baby. You're never ready, but it's something that you've got to do. You've got to step into that role of being a father or a mother and it's a journey. It's part of that assembly line mentality, that old mentality, is I've got to prepare before I get started and that's actually part of what we're trying to resolve with the new agile mindset and organizational agility is you'll never be ready, but it's how to navigate those constraints and achieve them as values as quickly as you can. That's what agility is about so I encourage people to start the journey to agility and it's going to be a continuous journey. There is no end state.

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