How to Battle Agile Complacency in Your Company

If agility is just tinkering around the edges, no one really understands the true, core processes at the heart of everything

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One of the biggest challenges for agile businesses isn’t so much allowing for change to happen, but to stop yourself from believing you’ve done enough.


It’s completely possible that in the pursuit of change, businesses focus on the wrong things. They start with good intentions: the pursuit of true agile. So they implement sprints, they focus on documentation, they’re happy to pivot to new ideas. They do everything they’re “supposed” to do.

Then they become complacent. 

Happy with the change they’ve already made, “agile” becomes more about whether sprints should be one week or two, and they don’t focus on the bigger picture.

The process of the entire organisation. 

That’s a problem, because we know that true agility is a prerequisite for business success. When we live in a world where political changes can make previous assumptions irrelevant overnight, and legal interpretations can turn opportunities into threats, speed is paramount.

We need to design for unpredictable change right from the start. You will only change quickly and create change at a higher level, if you understand every single process in your organisation. If agility is just tinkering around the edges, no one really understands the true, core processes at the heart of everything.

So how can businesses do this? How can they truly affect change at scale?

Firstly, businesses need to think about more than just agile software. The entire business including strategy, process, policy, organisation, infrastructure, technology, human competency, information, and culture, needs to be mapped out from end to end.

To begin, businesses need to conduct journey, customer, and process mapping projects. Every organisation needs to understand how the decisions they make are actually implemented, who the major decision makers are, and where the possible roadblocks are located.

Consider this definition from the Business Process Manifesto: “An organisation’s business processes clearly describe the work performed by all the resources involved in creating outcomes of value for its customers and other stakeholders”.

How many organisations can truly say they understand those processes, or even have them documented?

To do that, businesses need to know, both externally and internally: 

  • Who are the major stakeholders?

  • Who cares about what we do and who do we care about? 

  • What tangible or virtual exchanges do we have with them? 

  • What value and experience is expected by both parties? 

  • What expectations do we have of them and them of us? 

But this goes far beyond just understanding what your business has now. Process mapping involves looking to the future and asking questions like:

  • What are the gaps between current measurement data and our future objectives? 

  • What aspects of the relationship are unhealthy? 

  • What are the required capabilities for relationship success?

Once you have the processes under control and defined, you can begin to understand where you need more information, analytics, and data in order to make better decisions. (You may find in your process that the data exists, it’s just not getting to one part of the process due to roadblocks that you uncover.)

Most measurement systems are woefully out of date. With a process mapping hierarchy in place, measurement gets a lot easier as the map provides a key measurement structure.

For instance, a product that captures user telemetry can be fed through to marketing departments for use in different funnels, including website, programmatic advertising, and so on. But without a process in place to understand how and when that information is transferred, nothing happens - whether or not your organisation is “agile”.

This is not easy, but it’s better than becoming complacent. By putting your entire organisation under the microscope you begin to rise above cosmetic questions and focus on what really matters: setting your organisation up for long-term success.