Old Habits die hard

Author: Mike Leber

August 25, 2015

Its is quite a long time ago, that some courageous, creative and innovative people found better ways for successfully dealing with knowledge work. And it took quite a few years, that they could build upon deep experiences, coming together and – rather by coincidence – formed the Agile Manifesto. Not that the manifesto should be taken religiously. Many other wise men had already found out decades before, that the new age of work would need different approaches, humane, learning-focused, to beat larger, but also slower competition (Drucker, Deming, Ohno, Gore – just to name a few).

However, what the Agile manifesto helped out with, was spreading the word, making later followers aware of opportunities, so that we see Agile approaches everywhere nowadays. No IT organization, not in search for Agile, Scrum etc. And also many non-IT organizations becoming aware, that the purpose of this whole thing is actually not at all “IT”, but rather end-to-end business agility. Agility, which only makes sense, if the customer can recognize it, if the organization can become more flexible to act upon inbound signals and people can design for a more fluid workforce for outbound responses.

However, the empire strikes back. And we could probably find any type of dysfunctional behavior out there, one could somehow think about. So, if Agile has matured and become the dominant way of working, then there are organizations (maybe its some of their special departments), who find ways combining 19th century thinking directly with new ways of work. Personally I do share lots of respect with individuals and organizations, who just struggle to make a big move. But reading the following extract from a job description (originally posted by Tobias Mayer @tobiasmayer on Twitter, Aug 22nd 2015 – and yes, one could google for this offering) makes me see only ignorance and resistance, but plain stupidity.

stupidAgileJob

 

Now this is certainly a totally extreme example. Searching for the text, I could not find the original, but landed at a job portal, where the offering was not online anymore. And even, if it was just a joke, it carried somehow a lot of reality. Let’s just look at, what the Agile hype did to our IT ecosphere (and now the non-IT reader may question, what they might reconsider before picking up Agile): Agile project managers, business analysts, testers, all gone their separate Agile track, nowadays devops (by those, who believe this is mainly a technical challenge, while it isn’t). Now all of them want to represent the main role, which makes Agile really work. And to be clear, they refer to, what’s written in the Agile manifesto and they refer to Scrum.

So, to which extent ever the above job offering was real, we are not far away. Because all these Agile warriors, who still want to carry their own flag, did not understand, that Agile separates the individual skill and contribution from the main focus on hyper-collaborative and especially learning environments. There is no Agile project management, no Agile business analysis, no Agile testing – there is only an Agile way of working very closely together, via educated experiments and fast feedback loops. Just that this way of real Agile (Craig Larmann calls the other way round “fake”) is simply very hard for most organizations.

Now, what can you do? First recommendation: stop pursuing oxymorons. Do not waste your or other people’s time. If you really want to increase Business Agility and can’t disrupt your organization, can’t free the way for a new empowered workforce, then there is still an Alternative Path to Agility. Either way, you should first step back and try to see reality. Whats really challenging by your organization for your customers, for your teams, for your employees? What’s really holding you back from doing a better job? Why would any other approach be successful now, that you probably already tried a few others before? How Agile would you expect your business to grow to survive over the next 3-5 years? And what are you willing to do from a leadership perspective, independent from your position in a hierarchy?

This had to be written before various other posts about the Adaptive Organization, already in the queue, could be published. So what is your experience? Do you really break with old habits, when it comes to Agile? Or did you consider the Alternative Path?

Before you think to deep, relax and listen to Mick Jagger – Old Habits Die Hard:

Mike Leber

1 Comment

  1. Tobias Mayer

    Good article—strong words that need to be spoken.

    PS the job posting is genuine—it came to me by email from a recruiter. IT may have been written by the recruiter, which could go some way to explaining its absurdity.

    Reply

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