First researches around iterative and incremental methods can be track back to 1930’s supported by Walter Shewhart and William Edwards Deming works. In the 50’s, theirs concepts have been used initially for software development at IBM and Motorola, but theirs documentations really started in 80’s to conclude with the publication of the « Manifesto for Agile Development ».
In early 90’s, agile software development paradigms started to be used in organizations described as an « agile business management model ». The main idea is to help organisational structures to accept and adapt themselves to changes as part of their ongoing operations, sometime linked to « Lean Management ».
However I have the feeling we overtaxed Agile concepts too much and sometimes in wrong places. Why? I guess because agile methodologies are still slow compare to market/business evolution.
Indeed, taking the example of agile methodology applied for solution development/improvement can be resume to multiple occurrence of 6 iterative steps: Plan, Design, Build, Test, Review, and Lunch. Each step may need different audience and ressources to be involved which by the time you get an agreement/deliverable, business situation may have changed already.
One option would be to bypass some steps and reduce the cycle into two steps only. Indeed, in some cases we know exactly how to fix/improve a situation/process using a portfolio of best practices. Thus, if we don’t to « reinvent the wheel », we don’t need to plan, design and even test. It comes down to deploy the change and review it how it interacts within operations: « Test and Learn » you said? 🙂
Such best practices portfolio can either comes from the market, the community or from internal operations. However it all comes from knowledge and lesson learnt from time to time trying to resolve or improve solutions/processes. You tried to reiterate whats works and avoid (or adjust) what didn’t: you basically learnt from your tests. Now you also need to be smart enough and fully aware of your operations processes to know exactly when to use which best practices: being an expert won’t help you here since you might be « think as a silo » and take wrong decision, but your dexterity skill will make the difference.
Dexterity concept comes with the fact our current world is constantly in movement and evolving. Thus, organizations must learn to adapt, adjust, restructure, reinvent,… almost in real time and with as less impact as possible, to always fit customers requirements and emerging technologies. More than simply detecting and testing possible innovations more or less systematically, the idea is to identify, live, new requirements and simultaneously know all applicable solutions (available or emerging) to provide a time to market close to zero.
Dexterity skill is acquired and improved during an entire career. Most of the time, advanced dexterity skill is found in the older employee from the company who grown the ladder, step by steps, getting complete knowledge of all organization processes. This is why seniors profils are more than ever important to retain in a such volatile market. Also, the entire knowledge of an organization cannot be hold by one single person, but imagine the potential if all dexterous people merge their knowledge and think together. This has already a name: collective intelligence 😉
Further readings: Manifesto for Agile Development; Today’s Accelerated Pace of Innovation Gives Birth to the Kinetic Enterprise; Digital dexterity; Collaborative Innovation Is The Future Of Information Technology