Agile is just words?


I started thinking the other day about words and just how important they can be when associated with creating, driving and influencing change.


I remember talking to a frustrated developer who questioned the Agile movement and all the new words particularly in Scrum and in our adoption of the Spotify model. Scrum, sprints, guilds….they were still doing the same job so what was different?


I had the same realization when I worked with the HR department. Lots of HR teams have re-branded as ‘people teams’ but again, what do the new words mean, why bother?


I’ve worked with supportive and knowledgeable people teams and i’ve worked with some unhelpful and process driven people teams. It wasn’t until recently that I realized the importance of words being supported by strong leadership and purpose.

“Strategy Without Execution Is Hallucination”


When a company introduces the spirit and values of agility in it’s people, processes and strategy or when it renames HR to the People team what we really are looking for is a change in behavior.


I once remember a conversation about the use of the word ‘resources’, one company CEO demanded the word be banished from all conversations, processes and internal communications. A strong statement that they cared about people and did not wish to dehumanize them with the phrase resources.


That got me thinking that words are used to change behavior, once the behavior is changed and the right habits are in place the words become less important. In some companies we can talk about people as resources because the behavior and culture is already at a healthy level.


The same can be said for Agile, some will say it’s just common sense, and I agree, but the words are there to remind us of what values and principles we are aiming for and to help influence a change in our behavior.


So remember, next time you are invited to a retrospective or Kaizen, these are not just silly names for project updates or briefings these are your opportunity to embrace and influence change, collaborate as a group and talk about how you feel about your purpose, the team and the wider business.


The people team should also remember that they are there to support the growth, development and success of people rather than just becoming admin and pointing people to pages on the intranet. Cultivating talent and leading by example, ensuring learning and development is a core value rather than just something available if people have time.


If you are crafting words then choose your words carefully and embrace the power of change, if you are someone questioning “yet another new internal communication with new words” really think about why these new words are being used, what is Agile, Kaizen and Scrum? better still go and ask whoever wrote it or said it, as they should know the change they are trying to influence and the behavior they want to see.





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