Simon Powers teaching an old model mapping frameworks to Laloux Reinventing organisations model circa 2017

Change. Chapter two. by Simon Powers

The basics of agility.

It’s been a long and hard journey to write this book. I know every author says the same thing. I have had the additional challenge that the body of knowledge that we have about organisational change is growing so quickly it has been difficult to keep up and not have to rewrite the book every couple of months.


My definition of agility is this:

The Agile Onion

If you were thinking Agile is a set of different methodologies for getting software built, then you are only very partially correct. That viewpoint fits well into a subset of the ‘practices’ part of the onion. But Agile is a whole lot more than that.


For example, ‘Tools’ in the middle are really easy to see. You can see big boards with post-its or Jira instances easily. But on their own, they are pretty useless.


The ‘practices’ include:


‘Principles’ are things like, ‘we complete all the work we start in a sprint’, or ‘our highest priority is to produce working and useful software every 2 weeks’. Having these allow the team and organisation to optimise around their principles, cutting away crazy decisions like having a silo database team.


‘Values’ are even more important and even more intangible. We know from ‘5 Dysfunctions of a Team’ by Patrick Lencioni that the first starting block for any high performing team is trust. If trust isn’t encouraged through respect, courage to speak out, openness and honesty, which are all values, then high performance is going to be a distant concept, perhaps bringing up images of Formula One teams rather than teams at work.


The complexity belief

The people belief

The proactive belief

Explanation of complexity

Cynefin, created by Dave Snowden, is a useful sensemaking model to determine what solutions we should use depending on the type of problem we are facing. There is a lot to this model, I am only going to cover the basics to set the context for agility.

Complicated problems

Complicated problems have predictable solutions. This means that if we do the same thing twice we will get the same result. The most efficient way of solving complicated problems is to hire specialists (domain experts) to derive a solution.

Complex problems

Explanation of the people belief

Michael Sahota gives us one view that the agile manifesto can be simplified to people over process. The people belief enables us to make decisions that optimise our behaviour to succeed in solving complex adaptive problems with lots of people.

The proactive belief

Putting it all together

These three beliefs define the agile mindset. If you understand the true nature of the problems you are trying to solve, engage people in the right way, and proactively and iteratively work towards the outcome you need; you have the agile mindset and a fighting chance of success!

Notes on this chapter

Much of this chapter has been published as individual blog posts although the text here has been significantly updated. This chapter is the fundamentals of agility.




CEO and Founder of the community of practice, training, and coaching company: Adventures with Agile.

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Simon Powers

Simon Powers

CEO and Founder of the community of practice, training, and coaching company: Adventures with Agile.

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