I am writing this blog post to explore a concept. So bear with me, I’ll probably ask more questions than I’ll answer.
Why do most Agile fail in our companies (or government organizations for that matter)? My view is that we cannot actually transition from a command and control management paradigm to Agile / Complex management paradigm. The reasons are not fully clear to me, but I believe that it has something to do with the fact that we actually (typically) try to use a pre-determined way to make those transitions happen.
Case in point: When we try to move from Waterfall software development to Agile software development, we will typically draw a plan up for the transition with “steps” or “phases”. Those “phases” or “steps” will typically be “stable points” in the evolution of our system (the company or organization). However, the Agile / Complex management paradigm assumes, at its core that software work is complex, therefore there is no predictable causality. The consequence of this is that the “steps” or “phases” in between the command and control paradigm and the Agile paradigm cannot themselves be “stable” in the sense that predictability can be recognized.
By following the argument above I’d state that: transitions fail because we try to move from a command and control paradigm to an Agile / Complex paradigm by applying command and control models. It is impossible to ‘move orderly to a complex environment’.
What does it mean in practice for us? Well, for starters we cannot “plan” the transition in the same way we tried to plan our waterfall projects in the past. We can, and should have a goal or an idea of where we want to be. But after that we must embrace the new paradigm, or “Adopt the new Philosophy” as Deming put it. There are no intermediate steps between the “old command and control mindset” and the new “complex / agile mindset”.
As this is an idea I’m still developing, I’ll probably return to this subject and write some more, but in the meanwhile: what do you think? Does this make sense? What did you get from the above?
Photo credit: Marc Soller @ flickr