There is a huge world of difference between Enterprise Agile and Agile Enterprise. They are both valuable and accomplish very different things.
Enterprise Agile addresses the question – “How can we use elements of Agile to improve typical corporate environments while staying within the existing paradigm of traditional (Tayloristic) management. This is Orange level in Laloux Culture model.
In the diagram we see that traditional management practices are in part replace by Agile ones. In this case we are adopting Agile practices and may well have small pockets of Agile culture as well. SAFe is a good example of practice adoption. We typically see a very structured approach to orchestrate activities that are all about top-down steering and control.
The industry term Scaling Agile is about how can we scale Agile practices to support the Enterprise. It is essentially Enterprise Agile that is focused on adoption in large-scale environments. In contrast, Agile as a mindset or culture is about a way of being and does not require specific practices to scale.
With the Agile Enterprise the we are evolving an organization that is very adaptable and resilient to change. Anti-fragile is a good description for this type of organization.
In the Laxoux Culture model this would be represented by Green or perhaps even Teal levels.
In an Agile enterprise, there is leadership at all levels. The people who are closest to the work are the ones driving decisions. Here we replace top-down control with a clear organizational purpose, shared values, visibility and trust. Since everyone is contributing to the shape and direction, the results are emergent. Like a living organism, everyone is sensing and responding to the environment. The intelligence that emerges from the collective is what allows our organization to be ‘Agile’.
Fostering an Agile Enterprise will usually require a complete reboot of the cultural operating system of the organization. As such it is a much more significant undertaking that adopting Agile practices.
Both Enterprise Agile & Agile Enterprise Have Value
It is important to re-iterate that both Enterprise Agile and Agile Enterprise have value.
Enterprise Agile allows organizations to improve their operational capability so they may execute better.
Agile Enterprise is about creating an adaptable future-proof organization.
It’s not about which is better. It’s about what is right for your context.