Agility in a Post-Agile World
I’d hit the pause button on writing for the last week or so. I’ve been thinking. The rhetoric on LinkedIn is clearly indicating “Agile fatigue.” It is as though most practitioners are sensing that something is fundamentally wrong, but they’re not quite sure what it is or what to do about it.
My thoughts have led me to the conclusion that large organizations are a lost cause. We all know that changing a culture is the hardest thing to do in a large organization. These entities have survived multiple decades of organic growth. So many of the behaviors of senior leadership have been baked in by virtue of being rewarded with promotions.
People rarely “shoot the horse that brung em.” Until Agility, organizations relied on variations of command-and-control management. The very identity of leadership is encapsulated in those principles. Undoing it is an impossible task at scale. Agile professionals have been trying to put lipstick on a pig. It’s not working, and everyone seems to know it.
This is why I’ve decided to shift my attention to startup and growth companies. These organizations are still nimble enough to make significant adaptations in a reasonable amount of time. Whereas large organizations would take years, possibly decades, to undo a command-and-control architecture, smaller organizations can do it in a year or two -- maybe less.
This brings me to my second observation. Scrum and other Agile manifestations were originally designed to help product development teams (specifically software) work better. There were many hints at how an organization could run better with Agile practice, but nothing was spelled out. Consequentially, many have attempted to fill in the cracks with whatever seems appropriate. There is no corollary to the Agile Manifesto.
I have concluded that there are some fundamental leadership practices that, coupled with team-level Agile principles, create an organizational environment suitable for the fast adaptation required in modern technology-driven, global markets.
In the coming weeks, I plan to share some of these ideas. Be advised this stuff isn’t easy. It butts up against some deep psychological propensities of traditional leaders. I have written about some of these topics before. Now, I hope to give them new context.