Practical Constraints: Resistance is Futile

Every transformation entails friction with the status quo. Those who simply accept the practical constraints that are brought into play dilute the transformation. The new is then only somehow amalgamated with the collective without bringing about a significant change. The transformation itself is transformed and its protagonists are either assimilated or repelled.

A lit­tle change, reor­ga­ni­za­tion and opti­miza­tion has not been enough for a long time now. Today, trans­for­ma­tion is the name of the game. Trans­for­ma­tions are there­fore every­where, in many forms and shades. A dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion for the busi­ness mod­el, because data is sup­posed to be the new oil. An agile trans­for­ma­tion for the orga­ni­za­tion because of its flex­i­bil­i­ty and speed in times of great com­plex­i­ty and uncer­tain­ty. A cul­tur­al trans­for­ma­tion, because self-orga­ni­za­tion and cre­ativ­i­ty sim­ply won’t thrive in stale cor­po­rate cultures.

How­ev­er, there are worlds between the equal­ly jus­ti­fied and rad­i­cal aspi­ra­tions of these endeav­ors and the drea­ry real­i­ty. Instead of the grace­ful but­ter­fly that was hoped for after the trans­for­ma­tion, the unat­trac­tive cater­pil­lar turns into a some­what more col­or­ful cater­pil­lar, dis­ori­ent­ed and exhaust­ed by the unsuc­cess­ful the­ater of trans­for­ma­tion.

After all, we are not Spo­ti­fy, they say, when the lofty aspi­ra­tions of trans­for­ma­tion meet the dull every­day life of a cor­po­ra­tion. Exact­ly! And that is pre­cise­ly the point. But the objec­tion actu­al­ly means some­thing com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent: We will nev­er be Spo­ti­fy, we don’t even want to be, and we have a thou­sand good rea­sons for that.

Fric­tion with these prac­ti­cal con­straints is nec­es­sar­i­ly part of every trans­for­ma­tion. The ques­tion is there­fore only who will be exhaust­ed first and what will wear out first. In most cas­es, it is not the con­straints. The word alone sug­gests immutabil­i­ty. A prac­ti­cal con­straint is log­i­cal­ly found­ed in the mat­ter at hand, was always this way and will always remain this way. There is no doubt about it.

Of course, the Man­i­festo for Agile Soft­ware Devel­op­ment says “Work­ing soft­ware over com­pre­hen­sive doc­u­men­ta­tion”, but we absolute­ly must have these hun­dred dif­fer­ent arti­facts for our devel­op­ment process. After all, we are not Spo­ti­fy! And “Indi­vid­u­als and inter­ac­tions over process­es and tools” is some­thing we have under­stood in prin­ci­ple, but we absolute­ly require these 42 roles and are there­fore glad that we can map them so well in SAFe. After all, we are not Spo­ti­fy! I believe in agili­ty and dig­i­tal­iza­tion, but please do not touch my lit­tle silo and my role as boss. After all, we are not Spotify!

We are the Borg. Low­er your shields and sur­ren­der your ships. We will add your bio­log­i­cal and tech­no­log­i­cal dis­tinc­tive­ness to our own. Your cul­ture will adapt to ser­vice us. Resis­tance is futile.

Star Trek: First Contact

In this way any trans­for­ma­tion can be dilut­ed. The new is sim­ply some­how amal­ga­mat­ed with the col­lec­tive with­out chang­ing very much. The trans­for­ma­tion itself is trans­formed and its pro­tag­o­nists are either assim­i­lat­ed or repelled. Resis­tance is futile.

But with­out fric­tion with the sta­tus quo, there is no real trans­for­ma­tion. It may seem crazy and not very con­ducive to your career to ques­tion or reject con­straints, but that’s what it’s all about. It’s about per­sis­tent­ly pur­su­ing the vision and see­ing and think­ing things dif­fer­ent­ly than the con­straints dic­tate. Every prac­ti­cal con­straint brought into the field is thus an oppor­tu­ni­ty to push the trans­for­ma­tion for­ward a lit­tle. Be brave, be rad­i­cal.

Here’s to the crazy ones.
The mis­fits.
The rebels.
The trou­ble­mak­ers.
The round pegs in the square holes.
The ones who see things dif­fer­ent­ly.
They’re not fond of rules.
And they have no respect for the sta­tus quo.
You can quote them, dis­agree with them, glo­ri­fy or vil­i­fy them.
But the only thing you can’t do is ignore them.
Because they change things.
They push the human race for­ward.
And while some may see them as the crazy ones,
We see genius.
Because the peo­ple who are crazy enough to think
they can change the world,
Are the ones who do.

Think dif­fer­ent, Apple, 1997

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