The Agile Enterprise Is A Thing But Not THE Thing

The Agile Enterprise Is A Thing But Not THE Thing

mindsets

A Thing

Many proponents of Agile in the field of software development suggest that the whole enterprise (company, firm, organisation, business) could benefit from adopting Agile – i.e. the principles set out in the Agile Manifesto – across the board. I suspect that most of these proponents have little to no clue about the realities of running a business.

For sure, the idea of a whole business – including e.g. Sales, Legal, HR, Finance, and more again – becoming “agile” sounds attractive. The fourth item of the Agile Manifesto seems most relevant here:

“[We have come to value] Responding to change over following a plan.”

In today’s business climate, who would not wish for a business that could better respond to the vicissitudes of the market, technology and people? That could better adapt its plans in the face of change? That could duck, dive and spin on a dime to keep in the “sweet spot” of maximum customer satisfaction, sales, revenues, costs, quality and profits?

Agility with a small “a” – and the agile enterprise – that’s a thing.

THE Thing

Few indeed are the Agile adoptions – even in the limited confines of the software development business unit – that succeed in a sustainable way. Jeff Sutherland, one of the originators of Scrum, suggests that less than 25% of Scrum adoptions succeed, longer term.

Aside: I use the term “succeed” here to mean “realise the benefits or beneficial outcomes that people were seeking”.

To understand why the Agile Enterprise is not THE thing, we might do well to understand the implications of adopting e.g. Agile principles.

I have written much about this here in this blog, but to sum up:

Successfully and sustainably adopting Agile ways of working means adopting Agile ways of thinking and being – ways diametrically at odds with the ways of thinking and being typically seen in most organisations.

I describe those ways of thinking and being – ways congruent with Agile – as “Synergistic”, and those ways typical of most organisations as “Analytic”.

These two ways of thinking and being CANNOT exist for long in the same organisation. Sooner or later (with a half-life of circa nine months) something has to give. Most often, it’s the Agile ways of thinking and being that have to go, not least because those who hold the whip hand (shareholders, senior management, the Core Group) cleave so firmly to the Analytic mindset.

Synergism – that’s THE thing.

Hints

Whilst Agile hints coquettishly at the Synergistic, Agile memes comprise a very small subset of the Synergistic memeplex. For example, Synergism as a memeplex (a.k.a. mindsetcontains many memes concerning people and their relationships with each other, memes barely hinted at in the Agile memes.

The Synergistic Enterprise

So when we see the advantages of Agile and wish to see those advantages conferred on our long-suffering businesses (and shared with their long-suffering people) we may leap to labelling that “the Agile Enterprise”, but in fact we’re really talking and thinking about something else – the Synergistic Enterprise.

Why does what we call it matter at all? Well, for me it matters because attempting an Agile adoption across the Enterprise, couched in those terms, is bound to fail. Whereas, if we understand what we’re actually trying to achieve – a wholesale adoption of the Synergistic mindset – we may just have a chance of pulling it off.

– Bob

Further Reading

Rightshifting Transitions (Part 2 – Analytic to Synergistic) ~ FlowchainSensei

3 comments
  1. Bob – this is what I have been thinking for time – but couldn’t quite get to synergistic. I am not sure if the principles of n enterprise Agile adoption actually should or can link back literally principle by principle to the Agile Manifesto – however I do think the key principles of Scrum do Inspection, adaption and transparency and add collaboration and team work – I have applied Scrum to HR, Call Center, Operations,Change Management delivery, Business Analysis and Process Improvement, teams overlaid with the the agile mindset and way of being lesser and more degrees of success. Knowledge workers seem to adopt Scrum and Agile more readily while other types of workers and situation don’t and you may achieve only some of the practices and a blended version of the principles. In my mind this perfectly ok. If we are helping organisations move to different ways of thinking about work and how work is done – baby steps are better none ,

  2. Dave Clark said:

    Sort of touches upon the concious and connected business that’s underpinning the NGN way. Hence why we’ve adopted agile concepts with relative ease

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