"Let's become agile!" I often hear it at the different consultancy assignments that I have, and it really is a good thing. But unfortunately it is often the case that the people saying it doesn't intend to become agile. Instead they intend to start using collaboration methods they have heard are "agile". Agility is something they intend to do rather than intend to be. They believe that agility are a number of collaboration patterns and methods, such as Scrum.
But that isn't how things actually work. Scrum isn't very agile for instance. Most of the techniques we use in order to become more agile are in themselves very rigid and inflexible. But when we start to apply them, we get a slightly better chance to actually increase the amount of agility in our collaborations.
Agility is the ability of a collaboration, a small group or a whole organisation, to swiftly change direction as needed. Sometimes we uncover new needs in a technical platform we work with: the agile methods first surfaced among system developers. Sometimes it is the people in the market that understand that they have new needs, so we need to restructure our ways of production.
The only thing the "agile" methods can do is to make the structural impediments to agility visible, and at times provide tools to remove some of them. It is not a magical oil that will provide agility even when you have decided to keep all the impediments. Rather, they act like a magnifying glass that makes radical inspection of the impediments possible, and like an axe to remove them.
The tools are painful to use. Radical transparency leads to everybody being immediately aware of the effects of desicions made. When you move around mandates and increases the capability to act at all levels, more people will be held accountable for the status quo. It hurts. The agility and flexibility of a dancer's body doesn't come without pain. If you want that flexibility in your organisation, you will need to do some tough exercises.
On the other hand: it will probably be worth it! The pain you experience in an agile awakening is nothing compared to the constant pain people feel in a organisation that cannot move due to lack of transparency and where they have no way to act. Achieving more agility isn't a walk in the park. On the other hand: it will take you to a much better place, should you decide to invest in it.