Sell me Agility


I’m a C-Suite or Sr VP who wants to transform my company of 1000+. Agility seems to be the best way to stay ahead of my competition. What is this thing called Agility and how can you help me?


I’m sorry, agile is not a noun, sir. I cannot sell you some of it.

I feel a ranting blog post coming on… must step … away… :stuck_out_tongue:


This question was asked to me in a conversation today. I gave the example of our sprint planning where we had nothing in our backlog and no sprint planning. I said “we’re far from an agile organization” and recommended we hire an agile coach. I was asked to sell him “agility”. Since mid-July we pulled scraps out of the bottom 3rd of the backlog…watching this unfold was watching a car crash in slow motion.


I will give it a shot.

"Agility is not a Silver Bullet that can be purchased and shipped overnight, but rather an investment that will hopefully allow you to compete in the Digital age and protect from disruption.

But before we get into that, what do you think Agility will accomplish? What are your objectives?

Agility is just a means to an end. It is the outcomes and business value that you are interested in. We should be looking at them and working backwards to find experiments and hypothesis to test if we are heading in the right direction. Perhaps those experiments are adopting practices that are agile in nature, but lets start with desired outcomes and figure out what works for your organizations unique case."

Most likely the response would be "Well what can I buy overnight? :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:


Thanks, Mike. Throw the rant at me, Andy.

In all seriousness, would love to hear how a transformation is sold to those who hold the purse strings. I always speak from the perspective of “change the way you look at things and the things you look at change” then launch into observations I see that run counter to the values and principals in the manifesto. This is what I did today. Influencing at the team level can be different than sr leadership. It was a bit tougher than I anticipated.


Damn right it is hard:) We are talking about the complex adaptive system that is the enterprise with forces of culture typically moving in the opposite direction of agile transformation.

Sorry, I didn’t mean to be so condescending in my response but I couldn’t help myself:). Let me rephrase to directly answer your question.

To push agility to the C level suite, I focus on outcomes that every exec wants such as acceleration of time to market, customer satisfaction, reliability, responsiveness, and new innovative products. I then map these outcomes back to what I refer to elements of Agility. These include collaboration, flow, technical excellence, continous impovement, and fast feedback loops.

I then frame it that if we want these outcomes, we need to adopt these practices that align with the elements of agility. For example, if you want reliability, responsiveness, and fast time to market then you need to invest in technical excellence which means adopting XP practices such as collective code ownership, automation, and building quality in. All of these practices kead to Agility.

The moral of the story is start with outcomes, and work backwards to the agile practices that give you Agility. That is how I sell it.


Hello C-Suite or Sr VP.

I like your tie. You look very professional.

Regrettably, I’m not able to sell you Agility or anything at all. Primarily because I respect your achievements, intelligence, and ability. After all, you didn’t achieve the responsibility you carry on a daily basis for lack of these characteristics. Furthermore, if Agility were something beneficial that could be bought, sold, or installed, you possess the business acumen to have done it already.

I believe that our organizations are in need of–and searching for–improved working conditions and exciting results. I further believe the principles that describe “agile” can guide us in that search. My passion is assisting people, teams, and organizations with that journey.

I’d love to hear about your journey sometime.



Welcome aboard Zach. Way to make a splash!


I would start with @mccallam2 's question of “What are you looking to accomplish?” Then do the whole Forrester 5 why’s until I get to the root of the matter. That should lend some light into what’s really got their goat.

Next I follow up with another question…what do you mean by the term “agility”? Are you referring to the practice of iterative development and delivery? Or are you talking of transforming the organization to use “agile” practices to grow your culture? Based upon the answers from question #1 you should have an idea what this answer would be and then steer the conversation that way.

I do think it’s important that people (especially in the executive realm/C-suite) that may not have much agile knowledge that there’s a discernible difference between DOING agile and BEING agile. The first one if left to it’s own devices is “cargo-cult agile”, and if that’s where their journey stops they will not end up with whatever benefits they were looking for, which will result in bad opinions on the idea of agile, and it’ll be another failed implementation. That one of us will inevitably be tapped to come in and clean up :).

I just heard @ryan groan from my cube blocks away “oh great, here comes Jay with that stupid adoption/transformation argument”. :wink:


Can you really sell agility? Maybe… But what if you sell Improvement? Are you happy with how things are operating today? My guess would be not completely or you would not have even started to entertain doing something different. Some used this analogy and it stuck with me. @cusack. You are eating (insert food dish here). You add some salt. Now salt is a flavor enhancer so if you add to much it will taste like salt but if you add to little it will be bland. So its about finding that right amount. How do you find that right amount? By adding a little at a time.

Agile is not a cure all. Scrum will AMPLIFY your issues and problems. It will not be an quick fix. But… If you are truly looking to change and improve!!! Then using an agile framework will allow you to do that change quicker with better feedback and a higher level of understanding.


I cannot believe I just saw this post. Abso-freaking-lutley amazing.


The appropriate response: “I will sell you agility in exchange for your soul.” :smiley:


I start with asking questions and listening:

  • tell me about how your teams develop software today. What issues do you have?
  • how are the relationships between IT and the business? Do you have direct contact with your customers?
  • how often do you release into production? Is it hard?
  • how long do your teams stay together?
  • how do you prioritize what to work on?
  • is quality valued by your development teams?