Can you feel it? A Sparkle Thermometer for Agile

"If you look around the whole world is coming together now
Can you feel it, can you feel it, can you feel it”

Can you feel it - The Jackson 5

I believe that Agile organisations are ‘sparkling’ organisations. But what is ’sparkling’? How can we determine the ‘degree of sparkle’ in an organisation? Which aspects influence it? How can this be helpful to improve the Agile Mindset?

In this blog I cover these questions as the start of a series of blogs and I ask for your input to define ‘sparkling’. Hopefully this contributes to more and more sparkling Agile organisations!

Agile organisations are ‘sparkling’ organisations

I believe that Agile organisations are ‘sparkling’ organisations. Working in a small autonomous team, delivering value to a happy customer in short iterations – how cool is that! Yet I see many organisations struggling with the switch to Agile. Being Agile is clearly more than the technical introduction of a new method such as Scrum or Kanban. Or firing some managers and saying that ‘all teams are now self-managing’. If you do not introduce and implement Agile properly, it will not deliver the benefits that are possible. On the contrary, the introduction can turn out to be a frustrating journey with disappointing results.

Personally, I cannot imagine a situation where a real Agile organisation does not sparkle. In fact – for me, the ‘degree of sparkle’ is a good benchmark for a genuine Agile mindset in organisations, in contrast to situations of ‘Agile Not Used Smart’ 😊.

In his latest book (“Right to Left: The digital leader’s guide to Lean and Agile”), Mike Burrows describes exactly the same idea with a clear statement: “Did you know that there are two kinds of Agile? First, there’s the kind capable of generating real passion in the shared experience of creating winning outcomes for customers. And then there’s the kind that achieves only modest improvements in performance and delivers products that seem to delight no-one. Instead of the passion and engagement of the first kind of Agile, this second kind generates frustration at disappointing results and resentment that unfamiliar ways of working have been implemented for so little benefit.” 

‘Degree of sparkle’ as indication for a genuine Agile Mindset

If we consider Structure, Process and Mindset as the foundation of an Agile organisation, it may be easy to measure Structure and Process. But how to measure Mindset?

I love the view of Steve Denning on the Agile Mindset, as he describes in his popular and highly recommended book ‘The Age of Agile’: “When people don’t have an Agile mindset, our research shows that even if they are implementing every tool and process and practice exactly according to the book, no benefits flow. Conversely, when people in the organization have an Agile mindset, it hardly matters exactly what tools, processes, and practices they are using. The mindset makes things come out right.” In a recent article on Denning adds that a true Agile Mindset is ‘uplifting’.

In my opinion the ‘degree of sparkle’ is a good indication for an uplifting, engaging and passion generating Agile Mindset.

Hard to measure – easy to feel

But how can we determine the ‘degree of sparkle’? I think it is hard to measure, but actually very easy to feel! My experience is that it is clearly noticeable if there is a positive vibe in an organisation. You can feel the energy, dynamics, passion, fun and action. And as indicated – that is, in my opinion, a good indication of the quality of the Agile Mindset. At the same time the following applies: if the sparkle is missing on certain aspects, that is an important signal that there is still work to be done. It makes clear that the Agile journey has not reached its destination yet!

It would be nice to develop a kind of a Sparkle Thermometer to determine the ‘degree of sparkle’, as an indication for the quality of the Agile Mindset.

A series of blogs to develop a Sparkle Thermometer – together with you!

I like to start an experiment to develop a Sparkle Thermometer, together with you. In this experiment we can explore different aspects that influence the ‘degree of sparkle’. What is the effect of certain structures, processes and technology? How sparkling are managers and leaders? To which extent are people and teams in flow, do they work autonomously, have a clear purpose? Are they engaged and happy?

I will support this experiment with a series or blogs, to describe the different aspects and to explore possibilities for improvement – on our way to increasing agility and customer value.

It would be great if these blogs are a sparkle themselves, igniting a dialogue in which we learn from each other and we actively contribute to more and more sparkling Agile organisations.

What is sparkling? Need your help!

First question we have to answer: what is sparkling?

When I think about sparkling myself, these words come to mind: energy, action, flow, movement, fun, positivity.

What words come to mind, when you think about sparkling? Please share your words in the comments below. I will create a wordcloud based on the responses. If a word is mentioned more than once it gets bigger in the wordcloud, so it is important that you also share words that are already mentioned by others! This wordcloud then forms the basis for the Sparkle Thermometer that I will use in my blogs.

I’m looking forward to your reaction.

Have a sparkling day!

Vincent Snijder

My personal mission statement starts with the sentence: “I sparkle and want that to be contagious”. This drives me in everything I do. That’s why I love to support people, teams and organisations on their journey to an Agile way of thinking and working. 

Vincent Snijder is an experienced leader. He embraces the Agile mindset to create sparkling organizations - adaptive to change and a great place to work.

Vincent is partner at Inspinity.