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I Don't Care About "Agile"

 

All ideas are great, until they are confronted with reality.

The concept of Management By Objectives by Peter F. Drucker was great, except for the fact that it didn’t take into account that managers could easily abuse it to enrich themselves with big bonuses.

The idea of Shareholder Value, supported by Nobel-prize winner Milton Friedman, was great in theory and perfect for rational minds, as long as we ignored the fact that economic decisions are almost never rational.

The Balanced Scorecard by Kaplan and Norton is a very good tool for managers. But most managers think they’re driving their organization like a machine, instead of riding it as if it’s a horse, and digital dashboards don’t sit well on horses.

The list of failed management ideas goes on an on…

Now we are in the age of Agile Management, Lean Development, and Complexity Thinking, with Scrum, Kanban, and Cynefin trying to ride the waves. And the first signals of disillusion have already been heard. I hear, “It’s not working here”, “People don’t want to change” and “These are fads like all the others”.

And yes… they may be right.

If you don’t change the culture of your organization to one of learning instead of controlling, if you don’t see your business as a community instead of a computer, and if you don’t focus on improving through people rather than processes, you will get exactly that. The ideas won’t work, people won’t change, and it’s all just a fad.

No great idea survives contact with the ignorant.

Of course, words like Agile and Lean were conceived to try and change the mindsets of managers and the cultures of businesses. But if these words don’t succeed, we shouldn’t mourn their defeat. The Agile and Lean brands may be destined to end up on the same pile of discarded words as all the others. Not because the ideas weren’t any good. But because they couldn’t cope with the real world.

I don’t care.

My goal is not to define, use, and protect the word Agile.

My goal is to be happy while learning new things and creating value in a network with other people. I will use any cool words that can help me with this. And right now, I’m an optimist. For me, Agile is still an awesome brand.

Until it isn’t.

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