Is ‘Agile’ a substitute for your messy culture?

800 teams , more than 100 organizations that I have coached to build an Agile culture and practices, but a peculiar thing that I have noted.

I probably had not paid attention to this earlier, but as I was looking back and analyzing the pre and post transformation status of lot of my clients, I was almost amazed on how I missed it!

What I realized was for almost half of my customers who went for an Agile transformation, Agility was not about being more flexible or faster time to market or better employee satisfaction (though these were the stated goals) , what my team and yours truly ended up doing was, focusing on bringing discipline and actually documenting and tracking some KPIs (Where there were none!).

You must be wondering if my coaches are advising more documentation and tracking, how can it be called Agile?

Sample this: The project managers of one of the very large and global organizations, track their progress not in terms of days and hours but rather in weeks. Task A would take 8 weeks, Task B would take 16 weeks and more. All this is documented not in any tool or spreadsheet but in a powerpoint slide set and that is updated only by the Project Manager.

The culture is almost perfectly “Agile”.. team members decide the timelines, there is a great camaraderie between team members across the team, they respond to change as needed based on market conditions and change the plan, almost too good Agile … a perfect Agile team….!!!

BUT …..

…they deliver their projects on an average from 18 months to 27 months even though the mandate is 6 months or less for an average project.

…Whenever the status is updated, it is not in terms of number of hours (or days ) pending but just a simple percentage, 50% done, 80% done etc.

Because the organization is truly Agile and cares about its employees, employees reject team and project meetings half an hour before the meeting, because they simply couldn’t come to office that day or were too busy with other stuff.

So, would you call this organization Agile or not Agile. As a coach, if I call for the enterprise to be more disciplined first before using Scrum practices, would I be exaggerating?

Does Agile comes with just the employee friendly rules and culture or there’s more to it, which is as important as setting up a nice team culture?

I await your comments and any similar experiences you have in your organization?