The biggest hurdle for companies undergoing an agile transformation is the perceived loss of control. At its core, agility means self-organization. The more decentralized decisions are made, the more flexibly the organization can react to new situations and the more adaptable it is as a result. So far, so good. But the more decentralized decisions are made, the messier things appear for the existing management and especially for the management in companies with a high proportion of engineers, as is often the case in Germany. However, this disorder is not a flaw, but an expression of creativity and liveliness. Only those who can accept this and recognize that this lively disorder can be reconciled into a coherent whole with the right leadership can overcome this first hurdle in their agile transformation.
How can we become (more) agile? Many of my conversations begin with this question. So someone wants to work differently, wants to become agile or more agile. The expectation is mostly to be taught new and better methods to do their job in a better way. But this question of how to do agile almost always doesn’t go deep enough. That’s why I usually answer it with a few clarifying questions. Which problem should the desired agile methods actually solve? What do you want to achieve? Why do you want to work agile? And finally, what is the subject, the product, on which you want to work agile? But one after the other.
Servant leadership in general and the misunderstood role of the Scrum Master in particular is mostly underestimated. The effect of this kind of leadership is rather indirect; like a gardener it creates good conditions for successful cooperation. If a Scrum Master, like a football coach, stands only at the touchline during a match, his contribution is easily overlooked. So sooner or later Scrum Masters will be offered “real” work, i.e. the coach will simply be brought in. And those who are not well aware of their actual task and who are trying to avoid conflict will accept this work with gratitude. The much more important long-term work on the system and the continuous improvement of the organization are left behind, but nobody notices this anymore, because everyone is busy with “real” work.
The term dichotomy goes back to the Greek dichotomía (διχοτομία) and means dividing in two. A false dichotomy is the suggestion that there are only two mutually exclusive alternatives to a question in dispute, although there are actually others or the two alternatives offered do not contradict or exclude each other at all. This rhetorical trick is popular with salespeople, for example in the form of the question of whether one would rather buy the blue or the white shirt, which deliberately omits the possibility of buying neither of them. And I also use the pattern occasionally to “facilitate” the choice of clothes for my daughters, which they of course mostly see through easily.
Anyone who imitates Spotify or introduces SAFe or obtains imitated or falsified agile frameworks and disseminates them as best practice will be punished with futile ritual practices of not less than 20 hours per week and employee. The way into the agile cargo cult hell is well paved with best practices, blueprints and frameworks and is bordered by billboards saying: “Don’t invent the wheel again!” Agility, however, is less a question of methods than of principles and stance.