Agile and Corporate Purpose

Back to Ask the Authors

Q: Purposes and values are the very core existential identity of company's being. Shouldn’t its purpose be critically scrutinized?

Author Darrell Rigby responds: I agree 100 percent. In chapter three of Doing Agile Right, we talk about working backwards from purpose to the work necessary to achieve it. 

Think of the Agile business system as composed of five elements. Doing Agile right means skillfully combining them to achieve the company’s purposes. Let me start with definitions of the five:

  • Purposes are the ultimate missions and ambitions of an Agile enterprise.
  • Outcomes are the shorter-term changes and benefits achieved by Agile activities and outputs, typically in one to three years.
  • Outputs are the direct, immediate results of work. They show whether activities are producing results that should lead to positive outcomes.
  • Activities are the actions and processes that generate outputs, including the actions of senior executives, Agile teams, operations, and support and control functions.
  • Inputs are the resources available to help create results and include financial resources, the quantity and quality of Agile experts, organizational structures, software tools, and technology architectures.

Say a company aims to improve the long-term economic health of its local community, but its leaders aren’t satisfied with its progress and ask why. They’ll find that at least one outcome―business growth, for example―is unsatisfactory. If they dig deeper and ask what’s behind that disappointing outcome, they find at least one output―development of innovative product perhaps―is unsatisfactory. And so on, through activity and input. Once you get to root causes, you can figure out which of them most constrain further progress and what to do to fix that.