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.
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.
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. mindset) contains 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 SynergisticEnterprise.
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.
Rightshifting Transitions (Part 2 – Analytic to Synergistic) ~ FlowchainSensei