This research is only possible through the gift of time, knowledge, and leadership from the research team. Our gratitude goes to them for their tireless dedication and effort over more than 12 months to bring this research to life.
Our thanks to the principal contributors Mark Green, Ashay Saxena, Aviva Israel, Deanna Spowart, Ignacio Inchausti, Isabelle Kluger, Jazmin Chamizo, Rakesh Singh, Rituparna Kar, Yeu Wen Mak, and Zita McKenzie Lubis. In addition, special thanks goes to Bruno Augusto Ferreira, Tara Woods, Teresa Ying, Vinnie Gill, and many others for their active support through the research.
We wish to specially acknowledge Cultural Infusion who provided their Diversity Atlas tool to support our research. This tool enabled us to capture the cultural and demographic diversity of our research participants quickly and easily. Special thanks go to Rezza Moieni for the endless hours of support volunteered to help educate our team.
Thank you to the hundreds of research subjects who shared their lived experiences with our researchers. Stories that were often heartbreaking, sometimes uplifting, but always insightful.
Lastly, thank you to the companies who allowed us to interview their staff to build a baseline understanding of the relationship between agility and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I). Special thanks to Ableton AG, Broadcom, ING, Lean TECHniques, Standard bank, ThoughtWorks, Xero, as well as all other organizations who requested to remain anonymous.
All data collected through interviews and surveys was anonymized, securely stored, and made accessible only to those on the research team. Organizations who had assisted by putting their team members in contact with the research team were not provided with any form of collected or summarized data specific to that organization, to ensure individuals could not be identified. Names of individuals, companies, and other potential identifiers have been removed or anonymized.
It is impossible to make sweeping generalizations about the lack of DE&I in agile organizations, when those organizations take so many forms, with so many individual objectives. Most agile organizations are purely consumers of agile, using new ways of working in the pursuit of better business outcomes.
Some organizations seek to help others perform agile transformations on a large scale, while others aim to solve very specific problems or train individuals in targeted ways that may not intuitively overlap with the pursuit of DE&I.
The ‘flavor’ of agile each organization pursues will be based around their core objectives. So, if a decision is made to initiate a transformation in a pilot team, the ‘flavor’ of agile chosen – and in turn, the industry bodies, coaches, and certifications selected to support that transformation – will reflect the organization’s overall mission.
When organizations who center their culture around DE&I engage in transformations, leadership will generally seek coaching and support from organizations which value equity and inclusion. As discussed, for any model of agile to succeed in delivering business outcomes, it must intrinsically address DE&I.
A recurring trend among respondents was that, regardless of organizational manifestos, their employers did not place enough emphasis on either sustainable agility or building an environment of equity and inclusion. As mentioned earlier, agile transformations are sometimes used to solve specific problems rather than creating an overall agile mindset.
No single body bears responsibility for this: respondents indicated that leadership (who often don’t specifically set out to transform their internal culture), coaches and industry bodies (who may not be guiding the community towards DE&I as a specific focus) and individuals (who do not actively interrogate acts of exclusion and inequity in their teams) are just not taking the time before, during, and after agile transformations to consider equity and inclusion – despite it being critical in order for business agility to reach its full potential.
Transformations face several other challenges. For example, teams shifting to agile ways of working can experience confusion when it comes to understanding value streams and ownership of work/accountabilities, often because they haven’t been given a solid understanding of why the transformation is taking place. Respondents struggling to understand agile transformations in their workplaces reported a general attitude of,
“We’re doing it because most organizations are doing it.”
As opposed to a transformation in pursuit of empowerment, enablement, improvements to flexibility, autonomy, resilience, and so on. The same can be said of organizations pursuing improved DE&I.
There’s often an element of desperation in these context-less transformations. Organizations experiencing difficulties may look to their successful partners and/or competitors for answers. For example, by copying the Spotify model without understanding why that model is effective for Spotify’s specific situation.
With no consensus as to why a transformation is taking place, or what benefits it will offer an organization, it is difficult for employees to be invested in the transition or to believe in the promised outcomes.
«I think that inclusion and equity in the agile way of working can bring a lot of value. I feel that my organization is making an effort to incorporate it into our corporate values. As we are starting our journey to becoming Agile, it becomes even more clear that inclusion and equity should play an instrumental role.»
Put simply, the why and what of transformation are critical to get right, before pursuing the “how”. Without purpose, agile is often mistakenly reduced to a series of tools and methods. A shared purpose is an engine that unifies teams, clarifies goals, and gives context to methods.
This obligation also creates resistance to change, as observed by respondents. When a shift to agile ways of working takes place, it’s not unusual for older or more experienced staff — who have developed effective ways of working inside a traditional structure — to feel like the changes are targeted towards younger staff. This may be because mindset shifts are more difficult for staff with longer tenures.
This contributes to the “frozen middle,” where senior staff and middle management — who would ideally be enthusiastic agents of change — are not given the necessary support to understand or embrace it and can end up working against positive transformations.
To solve this, agile coaches must find new ways to assist workers struggling with drastic shifts in mindset, and to demonstrate greater empathy and patience with any team members experiencing feelings of insecurity. Organizations, teams, and leaders must also ask why they are undergoing a transformation, how business agility will help their existing systems, what long-term benefits agile can offer their teams beyond immediate band-aid solutions, and how business agility will enhance organizational values. This is especially true in the realm of diversity, equity, and inclusion, which agile needs to be successful.
Assumptions & gaps
It is important to acknowledge potential gaps in the research.
While the research team recruited many people who were eager to engage, either through surveys or online interviews, there were many more groups from diverse demographics who did not believe they had the necessary knowledge of agile to adequately contribute. This may be because those groups had been previously excluded from agile organizations and teams.
Some potential reasons for this exclusion are:
- A lack of appeal: agile approaches as they are currently being implemented may be flawed at their foundation and failing to create inclusive and equitable cultures and environments.
- Industry factors: agile is still not universally known and is typically deployed in more prosperous, white-collar, technology-focused environments and industries. As a result, this research is unlikely to truly reflect the total experiences of those who live and work outside systems of prosperity and/or power.
- A lack of opportunity: existing DE&I approaches may be framed as exercises primarily for people of dominant groups to broaden their understanding, rather than opportunities for marginalized groups to have their needs embraced and actioned.
- Deliberate exclusion: hostility has been observed towards DE&I approaches, which may lead to people of diverse demographics feeling that specific initiatives, and in turn their involvement in those initiatives, is unwelcome.
- Hiring policies: agile organizations may seek to employ people who already have agile experience, which as previously discussed is a way of working more commonly deployed in privileged, white-collar industries.
- Ways of working: agile methods may unintentionally exclude or marginalize people from diverse demographics, leading to fewer people from those backgrounds remaining in agile organizations or teams.
Additional skewing may be attributed to the contact networks of research teams. Some respondents were sourced through direct contact with their employer organizations, weighting the pool of respondents towards those with pre-existing connections to research networks, established organizations in developed nations, or organizations known to the Business Agility Institute.
Bridging the inclusive & equitable agility divide
|Attracting & retaining talent|
Becoming a coach has historically been considered an opportunity for experienced employees in many organizations, which comes with an elevated level of authority, respect, and responsibility. But seniority or experience in a particular field doesn’t automatically translate into coaching expertise.
For this, they need coaches who not only understand their goals, skills, and ways of working, but who also have experience in human relations, teaching, equity, and inclusion. In other words, coaches drawn from the ranks of employees based upon previous performance or expertise in a specific field are often inadequate for the needs of modern agile teams.
A good coach is an expert in people first and foremost;
- how they work,
- their experiences and needs,
- how their unique perspectives enable them to reach their full potential,
- what environment they require,
- how they function in teams,
- where their skills may take them,
- what training is needed to excel,
- and so on.
And yet, training and mandatory skill sets for coaches often do not emphasize an understanding of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion — the very study of how people can work better together. This gap between what a coach needs to succeed and what they’re provided is an ongoing cause of conflict within agile organizations.
By contrast, coaches with DE&I experience present organizations with new opportunities. They can be placed throughout teams to act as constant mentors and guides, helping teams work in inclusive and equitable ways from day to day while also optimizing team and business outcomes.
“If you don’t have agile mindset, it doesn’t matter how many agile practices you employ you should not consider yourself to be agile.”
The agile mindset is a set of attitudes, beliefs, and habits that support working in an agile or business agility environment. Key to the creation of an agile mindset are concepts like pride in the work, collaboration, transparency, respect, honesty, and open communication.
Evidence suggests that some people struggle with the shift to an agile mindset, despite agile and business agility being centered around the empowerment of individuals. This may, in some instances, be due to agile as a brand losing credibility in business contexts; agile is often touted as a catch-all solution to organizational conflicts caused by structure and hierarchy.
The result is that leadership are deploying agile as a band-aid solution without examining the root causes of problems and asking team members to use agile ways of working without understanding why those methods are effective or how those processes relate to their current problems and mindsets.
The result: burnout. This is compounded by change fatigue, where leadership implement endless quick-fix solutions without proper knowledge or coaching.
People in these situations may find it difficult to feel at home inside agile systems of work, even if those systems are functioning properly. Moving from a strictly managed hierarchical working model to an autonomous, spontaneous, ideated business agility approach can be difficult. Likewise, becoming part of an autonomous team without shared knowledge and experiences can be alienating.
Even with agile coaches on hand to assist, adapting to an agile culture and mindset isn’t simple for many individuals. It requires employees to unlearn traditional ways of working drilled into them over decades: hierarchical decision-making, responsibility being passed up and down chains of command, etc.
Respondents noted that a common cause of these issues was that people often struggle to adapt when entering areas or organizations that don’t immediately fit their expectations and beliefs. This can refer to individual differences — cultural, mindset, ways of working, and so on — or differences between teams and working communities, where methodologies and systems of communication clash.
Primary hypotheses and findings
At the outset of the research process, the teams had two key hypotheses:
- Despite the positive intent, mindset and values of agile, agile organizations are at risk of further excluding marginalized staff and customers.
- Organizations who embed Diversity, Equity & Inclusion directly into their agile transformations outperform those organizations who don’t.
It is necessary to clarify key parts of these hypotheses.
There is the potential for agile organizations to have developed DE&I frameworks which improve inclusive and equitable environments for their staff, customers, and communities. However, it is still possible that exclusion occurs even in the most DE&I-focused agile organizations, or as the direct result of agile practices and cultures.
There is no absolute way to measure performance between organizations without complete access to private business metrics. Additionally, it is difficult to correlate cause and effect, or determine which sets of metrics are more or less important in terms of gauging overall performance.
For this research, alternative methods of comparing organizations were determined. First, to measure performance in terms of the perception of respondents inside those organizations: for example, asking whether they felt situations surrounding DE&
I had improved or worsened after agile transformations. Second, to measure performance from a broader societal perspective, by comparing an organization’s performance against common standards of what is considered inclusive and equitable for staff, partners, suppliers, and customers.
Results from the collated research indicated that, as per our first hypothesis, agile organizations are currently (consciously or unconsciously) perpetuating systems of exclusion and inequity and will continue to do so unless DE&I is explicitly encoded into their agile culture and ways of working.
As per our second hypothesis, respondents also believe that agile organizations with embedded DE&I would reach higher levels of performance, as they were more able to leverage the skill sets of employees, understand their diverse customers, and remove barriers to success.
One of the core tenets of agility is to create a system of continuous reflection, ideation, and improvement, and this is equally relevant to the field of DE&I. This report will provide organizations and individuals with the scaffolding to help them critically examine their own policies, consult with diverse groups and policymakers, and embrace new opportunities for true inclusivity and equity.
Beginning in July 2020, the research team heard from 425 individuals spread across 26 countries, of which around fifty percent were based either in the USA or Australia. This is likely a result of the demographics of the networks in which the primary researchers operated, as well as the higher percentages of agile organizations in those countries.
Subjects tended to have bachelor’s degrees at a minimum, possibly because many agile organizations seek team members with Higher Education, and possibly because survey targeting may have focused on team members in high-level roles. More than half of all participants were bilingual. Around 50% of participants worked in either the Finance or Technology sectors.
Responses from men and women were evenly spread. 84% of respondents identified as straight and 7% as LGBTQI (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning, and Intersex). This broadly reflects social demographics but should not be taken as evidence that employment inside agile organizations is already at or near gender parity.
Rather, it should be noted that people from minority and marginalized groups may be more motivated to take part in research studies where they are able to express their experiences of inequitable working conditions, which could cause a skewing of respondent statistics.
Of all respondents, 57% were currently working in an agile organization. A further 22% were working as partners to agile organizations. This spread of responses among agile and non-agile organizations was essential to capture a wider array of impressions and insights.
Of significance to this research were the number of responses which reported discriminatory circumstances in the workplace. These included issues of disenfranchisement, lack of support, prejudicial perceptions of disabilities, mental wellbeing concerns, personality types, and more.
Business agility generally takes control away from middle management in favor of placing decision-making powers in the hands of the people most often impacted by them: team members. Processes, too, are given to team members, to choose the tools they need to get the job done.
To manage these added responsibilities, teams must;
- work together smoothly,
- understand each other’s feelings and decisions,
- ensure all voices are included in the process of choosing team directions,
- monitor workflows and opportunities to make sure processes are inclusive and equitable, and
- find non-destructive ways of managing debates, conflicts, and democratic decisions.
They must also be aware of how their decisions affect those outside their teams and organizations. This includes customers and potential future team members, all of whom interact with agile teams in different ways. Teams which do not consider how they are perceived and how their policies and behaviours affect outsiders will lose customers and repel diverse talent, thus missing out on future opportunities.
Other factors impacting employees (some of which can be solved through better coaching, and others which may require more systemic transformations) are more visible to outsiders than others. For example, when discussing inequity or bias in the workplace, many people think first of breaches of basic codes of conduct, such as misogynistic and predatory behaviour, overt discrimination against LGBTQI employees, racial microaggressions faced by BIPOC, etc.
Some of these problems and incidences, as reported by interview and survey respondents, included:
What can de&i bring for the customer?
Making Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion a vital part of an organization’s operations directly benefits the customer. A workforce that doesn’t reflect the diversity of their customers is at risk of not understanding those customers. Whereas a diverse and empowered workforce can better communicate with and understand their customer’s needs, match products with demographics, create more innovative solutions, and increase an organization’s overall representation in the community it serves.
This can be enhanced by matching the lived experiences of the product team with those of potential customers, helping team members find better solutions to the problems their customers face. A diverse workforce is also better able to communicate and create bonds with their customers.
A diverse workforce will have greater investment in products and services developed for their demographics, resulting in better overall projects and increased business outcomes. Diverse teams have greater credibility among clients and will be better positioned to explore new market opportunities in diverse communities. In short, inclusion is a fundamental aspect of creating more successful products.
“Embracing diversity and inclusion [is] why we are so successful and why we’ve seen year-on-year net promoter score (NPS) improvements from customers. [It’s] also why we’ve been such a successful and profitable business.”
Many products are not suitable for specific groups: for example, sight-impaired people may struggle to use products with complex fonts or small screens, as they were not consciously designed with accessibility in mind. In addition, a lack of diverse perspectives may lead to homogenous approaches to solving customer problems, or well-intentioned but flawed attempts to impose (for example) an able-bodied person’s understanding of disability onto a disabled person’s lived experiences.
Common agile methods reinforce this. The drive to quickly build and market a product, learn from feedback, and iterate upon that initial product, can lead to a rushed release that is ignorant of a diverse market’s key needs. In addition, an iterative method will not eventually lead to a good product for diverse customers if their needs were not considered and designed for in the early stages of the product life cycle.
On the other hand, diverse teams working in more inclusive and equitable environments will have a better understanding of those key needs, allowing them to extend into new markets, build respectful relationships with customers, create greater opportunities for innovation, and reduce groupthink.
Organizations cannot afford to ignore these key markets; for example, 20% of Australians identify as having one or more disabilities. Their needs might be overlooked if organizations do not integrate DE&I into their fundamental practices.
What can organizations do?
Organizations have the potential to pursue new opportunities and improve business outcomes by creating truly equitable and inclusive work environments. In fact, it is imperative that agile organizations concentrate on improving DE&I in their workplaces.
However, DE&I cannot be an accidental byproduct of an agile transformation. The two must be intrinsically linked, through intention and action, or the organization’s existing culture will clash with a half-hearted cultural change. Proactive steps must be taken before and during organizational transformation to cement the importance of DE&I in the workplace and to ensure there are ongoing practices, post-transformation, to continue those improvements.
Organizations must also communicate and demonstrate the inclusive and equitable cultures they wish their teams to model. This requires continual reinforcement to overcome entrenched cultures of bias or marginalization, especially in cases where teams may see the change as a temporary fad, or a move to appease complaints.
A powerful step that would aid in this process is by ensuring the agile professionals they employ have updated their skill sets and certifications to better reflect the intersection between agile and DE&I. Building the necessary culture and knowledge base to recognize instances of exclusion and inequity – or to recognize when tools and systems are passively contributing to the same problem – will likely take place on the ground, and be led by individual coaches, trainers, and agile/DE&I experts.
Мы поместили область клиента в центр модели, чтобы она отражала цель вашей организации. В зависимости от ценностей и структуры вашей организации, вы можете дать одно из следующих определений вашему клиенту: клиент, который платит; более широкое сообщество; окружающая среда; общество; или определенное сочетание этих категорий. Независимо от того, какое вы дадите определение своему клиенту, ваш клиент — это то, почему вы занимаетесь этим бизнесом и, следовательно, ваш клиент стоит в центре модели.
Круг, внутри которого находится клиент, отвечает за Отношения (Relationships). Этот круг охватывает три области, отражающие текущую среду организации. При этом категория каждой области может меняться в зависимости от типа вашей организации (например, частная компания, публичная компания,
некоммерческая, государственная организация и т. д.). Независимо от этого, ваши сотрудники (Workforce) несут ответственность за предоставление ценности клиентам. Ваш совет директоров является наивысшим уровнем выражения намерений и проявления ответственности со стороны акционеров. А ваши партнеры (Partners) — это поставщики, дистрибьюторы и другие стратегические партнеры, которые позволяют вашему бизнесу работать.
Дальше идут характеристики бизнес-гибкости. Сначала рассмотрим три блока в разделе «Лидерство» (Leadership), которые покажут, как сформировать гибкую организацию. Первым идет блок Управления людьми (People Management), где роль менеджеров определяется как роль лидеров, которые, помимо прочего, вовлекают, наделяют полномочиями, делегируют, выступают в роли коучей и вдохновляют.
Далее идет понятие «Одна команда» (One Team). Это культура сотрудничества, в основе которой лежит общение и прозрачность в отношениях между отдельными лицами, командами и подразделениями. И, наконец, «Стратегическая гибкость» (Strategic Agility), которая определяет, как гибкая организация формирует, коммуницирует и реализует адаптивное видение.
Далее идут три области в разделе «Люди», которые показывают, как гибкая организация должна производить ценность. Первая область — «Мышление ориентированное на рост» (Growth Mindset), которое поддерживает стремление к экспериментам и обучение на ошибках. «Совершенствование методов работы» (Craft Excellence), подход, который определяет методы выполнения работы с высоким качеством (независимо от функции или предмета) и при этом гибким способом. И, наконец, раздел «Ответственность» (Ownership & Accountability) мотивирует людей и группы людей брать на себя ответственность.Последний раздел — это «Операции» (Operations). Эти три области определяют, как гибкая организация должна построить свою работу. «Структурная гибкость» (Structural Agility) определяет отношения между людьми, командами и подразделениями для целей формирования гибкой организации. «Гибкость процесса» (Process Agility) охватывает выделенный поток создания ценности — комбинацию отдельных действий, выполняемых командами и проектами. «Корпоративная гибкость» (Corporate Agility) определяет пути выстраивания работы между подразделениями, отделами, организацией и, в конечном итоге, между организациями.
Хотя модель этого явно не отражает, нужно помнить, что организационная культура вашего бизнеса является проявлением того, как люди внутри и вокруг вашей организации взаимодействуют с элементами, из которых строится организация – операции, лидерство, люди. Измените любую область, и вы измените характер своей организационной культуры.
Бизнес-гибкость лучше всего рассматривать как непрерывную и систематическую эволюцию культуры, людей и навыков, а не как отдельное событие, связанное с какой-то операцией и сосредоточенное на одной или двух областях. Организации должны рассматривать клиента как неотъемлемую часть системы, а не отдельно, как независимый элемент. Преобразования часто терпят неудачу тогда, когда компании направляют свои инвестиции исключительно на преобразование процессов (Гибкость процессов) или организационной структуры (Гибкость структуры). При этом остальная часть бизнеса остается нетронутой и, таким образом, несбалансированной. Именно по этой причине многие организации наблюдают спад отдачи от мероприятий по внедрению гибкости.
Данная модель не является методом или фреймворком, как Scrum, Канбан или Beyond Budgeting. Однако вы увидите, где эти методы здесь можно применять, и как их нужно комбинировать, чтобы построить высокоэффективную организацию. Во всех областях бизнес-гибкости существует взаимосвязь между «выполнением» принципов гибкости (применением практик и методов) и «существованием» в соответствии с принципами гибкости (проявлением гибкости мышления). Вам нужно успешно делать и то, и другое, поскольку, если вы будете следовать только одному из этих сценариев, то это приведет вас к провалу. К счастью, Аgile существует уже довольно давно, поэтому вы можете использовать сотни уже известных практик, методов и систем. В этом документе мы расскажем вам о тех практиках, которые могут быть использованы в любой области.
Итак, давайте более подробно рассмотрим области и разделы:
Agile is the ability to create and respond to change. It is a way of dealing with, and ultimately succeeding in, an uncertain and turbulent environment [Reference: Agile Alliance].
Agility is the state or quality of being agile, nimble; the power to be quick moving and active.
Business agility is a set of organizational capabilities, behaviours, and ways of working that afford a business the freedom, flexibility, and resilience to achieve its purpose, no matter what the future brings [Reference: Business Agility Institute].
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) is a broad approach which includes all efforts made by organizations to ensure they are creating and maintaining an environment that is welcoming and supportive for all people.
For the purposes of this report, we will define each individual term as follows.
Diversity is the mix of all of us. It includes demographic differences, backgrounds, multiple identities and unique experiences, perspectives, knowledge, abilities, ideas and more. It refers to all people and differences among us. Diversity includes aspects such as gender, gender identity, race, ethnicity, cultural background, nationality, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age, physical and mental abilities, religion, education, marital status, language, personality types, life experiences, physical appearance, working preferences and different ways of thinking.
Inclusion is the act of welcoming and applying the mix created through diversity. Inclusion is focused on fostering the structural systems, processes, culture, behavior, and mindset that embrace and respect all people and all our diversity. Inclusion exists when all people are valued and able to participate and contribute to their fullest.
Equity applies a structure of fairness to the diversity mix. Equity ensures that all people have equal access to opportunities and fair treatment and eliminates discriminatory practices, systems, laws, policies, social norms, and cultural traditions.
In contrast to equality, which applies the same resources and support structures to all, equity requires resources and support structures to be tailored to the individual, providing everyone in the diversity mix an equality of opportunity and outcome.