A Realistic Approach of Pragmatic Agility

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Acrobat holding a «pragmatic» signage.
Original Photo 🄯 Ian Flores

In the 14th Annual Report of the ‘Evolution of the Agile Approach’, 95% of respondents mentioned that they were using Agile as a software development method in their organizations.

On a global scale, there is no doubt that this approach is now dominant. However, whether your business belongs in the remaining 5% or the first 95%, it is important to consider a more pragmatic, more accessible and above all, less dogmatic approach often referred to as the ‘Pragmatic Agility’. Hopefully you’ll see that it is not a question of revolutionizing the approach, but simply of adapting it efficiently.

Benefits of Pragmatic Agility

To fully understand the benefits of Pragmatic Agility, it is important to understand the principles of the Agile approach. If you require a refresher, we have illustrated the foundations of this approach here:

Agile Fundamentals

Agile has obviously evolved since it’s introduction – and after some mutations and adaptations, several camps have developed, and one of them is called Disciplined Agile (DA). One of the 7 principles of this approach is Pragmatism.

Pragmatism was introduced to avoid falling into the rigidity that some followers of the Agile model have demonstrated in recent years. We could write a full article on these rigidity issues, but let us instead concentrate on the question “Why Disciplined Agile?”

“True business agility comes from freedom, not frameworks. Disciplined Agile helps you learn about your options and guides you to your best next step.”

The Project Management Institute

This statement clearly indicates that the Agile approach goes beyond IT. There is a real tendency to apply this approach across the whole organization. However, while reducing bureaucracy is an admirable goal, the abandonment of structures without vision often leads to chaos.

The Team

There is also another principle within the Agile model which requires pragmatism in its approach. In order to have more freedom and less structure, we must find competent, autonomous, responsible, mobilized and accountable people.  In other words, you need a great team.

In Agile teams, employees are given the opportunity to organize their tasks, be versatile and become good communicators, because if there is less documentation, there will inevitably be more questions.

No matter which Agile approach is selected, it is not always easy to have teams with all these qualities. More realistically, we will have people who will continue to have more specific roles, so that they can focus on areas where they excel and people to ensure that they stay focused on the scope, the timeline, and the budget.

Critical questions that you must ask yourself:

1. Is your choice for the Agile approach based on the right reasons?

Why choose Agile?

2. Is your organization ready for such a change?

Is your organization ready for the Agile approach?

3. Does the choice of Agile mean that you must abandon the traditional method for all your projects?

Will all our projects have to be Agile?

4. Does it also mean we will abandon documentation and replace it with a functional software?

Is the documentation within Agile projects adequate?

5. Do you want to retain the role of Project Management (PM)?

Where is the PM in your Agile team?

Be Pragmatic When Adopting Agile

Talking with some Agile evangelists, one can get the impression of a rather dogmatic approach to using Agile. This obviously is not always the case. While there are pages and pages of documentation on the Agile model, including its virtues and how to implement it, you will need to do so with hindsight and forethought, adapting a pragmatic approach to your organization’s capability, now and in the future.  Dogmatic and rigid adherence to any one practice or methodology is always fraught with challenges.  There is simply no ‘one size fits all’ approach to how your business should be doing things.

A Hybrid Agile approach is often referred to as a transition to manage change more appropriately. There is also an interesting expression in the Disciplined Agile approach that refers to choosing the WoW (Way of Working). You should find your WoW, and leverage the best options for your projects.

No matter what approach you choose, for effective management of your IT project portfolio:

  • You have to choose the projects that will bring the most value to the organization;
  • You have to evaluate the interdependencies between your projects;
  • Key players must be freed from business lines;
  • We need to communicate effectively with all stakeholders.

As in any project, regardless of the field, the key lies in the Team that is being put in place. The right player in the right chair will always be a guarantee of success. Remember to look at the whole forest before focusing on one tree. ▣

About the Author

Mr. Kergoat has over 30 years of experience in information technology, including more than 15 years in Project management and Delivery Coordination. He oversees the STX Studio in Montreal, where he is responsible of the solutions developed within the Studio and a key contributor to the Systematix Centers of Excellence.