The Integral Agile Framework has its roots in Integral Theory, a theory of everything as espoused by Ken Wilber. As part of this theory, Wilber postulates that everything can be viewed from 4 different perspectives. These are perspectives along the line of viewing things from within and from outside, and from an individual and a collective perspective. Viewing things, situations, systems, people, events or anything from these different perspectives provides us with a deeper understanding and appreciation of the matter.
Wilber positions this as a grid.
|From Within||From Outside|
|Individual||Looks at people’s inner experiences, and focuses on the ‘I’.||Looks at the experience of the individual or the subject from a ‘3rd person’ perspective, i.e. detached from the subject and the observation. This focusses on the ‘It’.|
|Looks at a group or a society’s experience. A collective experience that focusses on the ‘We’.||Looks at experiences and behaviours of a group of a society at large, viewed from a neutral or 3rd person perspective. This quadrant focusses on the ‘They’.|
While Wilber’s Integral Theory looks at a lot more than what we have described above, we have outlined the subject matter that is most relevant to us above.
An Agile Implementation of the Framework
We came across the Integral Theory as part of our study with the Agile Coaching Institute. Michael Spayd extended the quadrants of the Integral Theory and applied it to the world we typically find ourselves in at work. When we look at the theory above and apply the theory to our world, i.e. the world of an agile implementation or a team or a group, it evolves into something along the lines of what is below. When we talk about the individual and the collective, we talk about an individual within the team with the collective being the team itself. The perspective of ‘From Within’ evolves into us looking as some of the intangible or softer side of working within an organisation and team. ‘From Outside’ turns into what can be observable in tangible, measurable terms.
Integral Agile Framework
Roles and Responsibilities
Environment & Organisational Culture
The I Quadrant – Agile Mindset.
In this quadrant, we focus on the individual and their understanding what is their mindset and thought processes. How aligned are these with the agile values and principles?
The It Quadrant – Roles and Responsibilities
This quadrant focuses on the tangible aspects of individual’s role and responsibilities. Does the individual have clarity around these roles and responsibilities? Are these in line with an agile team and an agile culture?
The We Quadrant – Team Culture
This quadrant focuses on the team as a collective and its intangible aspects. For example, Is there a strong sense of ‘we’ within the team? What are the dynamics within the team? How are we aligned as a team with the agile values and principles?
The Its Quadrant – Environment and Organisational Culture
How is the organisational environment set up? Does it foster agility? What can we change in the environment to facilitate better agility within ourselves and our groups? How does the team perform in this environment? What are the team’s outputs? and so on.
Why do we care?
The Integral Agile Framework is fairly simple and easy to use. The 4 quadrants offers different perspectives on the problem being analysed or discussed. It is not prescriptive, but instead offers guides through a conversation of discovery through the different perspectives.
Most people are more comfortable talking about the tangible stuff in the it and its quadrant, i.e. skills, processes, organization. The framework forces us to also consider the intangible and more difficult topics, e.g. how we show up as individuals, what we believe and how we work together in the team or group we are part of. In the context of change and transformation lasting change requires focus on the left side.
Try it out…
The framework makes us look at things differently. Why don’t you try it out with yourself or your teams? There is nothing to lose, and there is huge potential to learn something new and unexpected if you try this out!
If you were going to use this framework, what questions would you ask? Here are some questions that we’ve thought of, but we would love to hear some more from you.