Agile, Inclusion and Equity Research

Through the lived experience of some people with diverse attributes, the recent trend towards agility has resulted in the introduction of ways of working and associated cultures that have made inclusion worse for them. For others, it may have improved the situation. It appears there has been limited conscious design of inclusion into the agile ecosystem, yet it has been introduced widely and thus removed many workarounds created by diverse individuals.

There is a widely held belief that agile, as it is often implemented, is more inclusive – but is this true? If not, we may not be realising the enormous potential benefits agility can bring – but we may believe we are.

The Business Agility Institute would like to invite your organisation to be part of this important research project. Please email Evan and express your interest.

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We will primarily conduct a qualitative study through interviews of the following hypothesis:-

  1. Despite the positive intent, mindset and values of agile, agile organisations are at risk of further excluding marginalised staff and customers.
  2. That organisations who embed Diversity, Equity & Inclusion directly into their agile transformations outperform those organisations who don’t.

If #1 and #2 are true, we will then consider what does a version of agile look like that puts diversity, equity and inclusion at the heart?

We will interview agile Organisations & their staff, External Partners (individuals such as recruiters, contractors, suppliers) who work with organisations, and individuals who may not be within an agile organisation currently (Potential Organisational Contributors). This will require completion of 500+ interviews and we aim to release a final report in October. Interviews are expected to take 1hr each, with a pre-interview demographics exercise that would take 5-10mins each for an individual and 15-45mins for an organisation (if they haven’t already completed the BAI survey).

Background

There may exist an opportunity to not only correct any negative inclusive impacts, but also go further and create a culture and way of working that materially improves workplace diversity as has never before been possible through the rethinking of the current practices. This is akin to applying modern principles of Human Centred Design and Universal Design principles as might be done when creating a product for a consumer to agile itself. The core of agile was created ~2001 via a group of non-diverse 17 white male engineers who had a very specific purpose – software engineering – in an era when many of the more modern design principles were not widely used.

The benefits of a diverse and inclusive workforce can include increased innovation, better customer outcomes and increased revenue as demonstrated through many recent studies – thus the business imperative is considered strong. Alternatively, a diverse workforce, without inclusion, can negatively impact businesses and teams and would be unlikely to produce any material benefit over a non-diverse team.

It also is very clear that, by not designing for inclusion (and even excluding some who were previously included) the strong ethical goals often associated with an agile culture are fundamentally being disregarded eg Respect, Courage, Inclusiveness and an Open/Growth Mindset.

Privacy and Data Protection

If you would like to see all the interview and survey questions ahead of time, you can see them all here.

Anonymity

Due to the sensitive nature of what we may ask and the need to encourage respondents to be honest, we need to ensure a level of anonymity and safety. The following is our approach:-

  • All published results will be anonymised with no identifying or identifiable data.
  • No data will be sent to anyone outside the research team in order to protect the privacy of respondents.
  • Organisational level data will be stored within the team centrally.
  • Each organisation will be assigned a unique identifier which will be used for mapping to staff and other details to create a level of extraction.
  • Data of individuals will NOT have the name, email address (as often it has a name in it) and other contact details stored centrally – these will only held by the interviewer for as long as needed to complete the interview and thank the interviewee/provide any outcomes to them.
  • Data of individuals, other than above exclusions, will be anonymously stored centrally with a unique identifier.
  • Sensitive data will not be sent via any channel (email etc) unencrypted.

Systems

The research team is using three separate systems to store different data.

  1. Sensitive (but anonymised) data will be stored centrally in Google cloud. Access to which is restricted to active researchers.
  2. Anonymised diversity demographic information will be collected and stored in Diversity Atlas. Link to Diversity Atlas Privacy Policy.
  3. Non-sensitive agile maturity information will be collected and stored in AgilityHealth. Link to AgilityHealth Privacy Policy.

Interview Recording

There is likely a need to temporarily record the interviews so that the interviewer can ensure they have correctly gathered the right data ie go back and check. Our approach is:-

  • The interviewee must agree to being recorded.
  • Remind the interviewee at the start of the interview that the recording will be deleted after the notes/results are captured (ie within a week or two).
  • Remind the interviewee not avoid the use of their own name nor any company names when recording is on.
  • Where possible, record audio only.
  • Recordings will not be uploaded centrally, rather securely stored locally by the interviewer only and then deleted as soon as the results from it have been documented.

Final Report

At the conclusion of this research, we will produce a detailed report of our findings. As mentioned above, all data is aggregated and anonymised with no personally identifiable or company identifying data included. The only exception to this is in the report acknowledgements where respondents may opt-in to be recognised. The report itself will be released under a Creative Commons (Attribution, Share-Alike) license and will be freely available to download from the Business Agility Institute website.

For Contributors

Beyond contribution to the body of knowledge (and a feeling of satisfaction), as a thank you for your participation in this research, we would like to offer you:

  • A Business Agility Maturity Rating from the Business Agility Institute.
  • Your names and organization role can be explicitly identified in the report acknowledgements or you can choose to remain anonymous.
  • Your organization can be included (with logo) in the report acknowledgements to recognise your support or your company can choose to remain anonymous.

Research Team

This research is being undertaken by a volunteer team of both professionals and academics; consisting of leaders and experts in either the Agile or D&I space. We are grateful for the insights and contributions from;

  • Ashay Saxena
  • Ashish Pradhan
  • Aviva Israel
  • David Mui
  • Deanna Spowart
  • Isabelle Kluger
  • Jazmin Chamizo
  • Jenny Tarwater
  • Rakesh Singh
  • Rezza Moieni
  • Ritu (Rituparna) Kar
  • Teresa Wong
  • Vanessa Humphrey
  • Yeu Wen Mak
  • Zita McKenzie Lubis

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