Agility requires orientation. It’s exactly this alignment that enables effective autonomy and decentralized decisions, which make agile organizations so adaptable. But agility also requires common standards and conventions to ensure that effective cooperation of autonomous teams. So the question is not whether such standards are required in agile organizations, but rather how they are created and enforced.
In a few hundred years, when the history of our time will be written from a long-term perspective, it is likely that the most important event historians will see is not technology, not the Internet, not e-commerce. It is an unprecedented change in the human condition. For the first time a rapidly growing number of people have choices. Peter F. Drucker concludes this insight with the somewhat sobering statement that most of us are completely unprepared for this challenge. The more possibilities there are, the more difficult the decision becomes, because every yes automatically means many no. That’s why no is not only the most difficult word of our time, but also the most important word to keep the focus on both the personal and the organizational level.
Agility hinges on the prevailing assumptions about human nature in the organization. Wherever people are generally distrusted and where the belief prevails that people must be motivated to perform, agility will not thrive, but only fear, cargo cult and label fraud. The problem is not people, but demotivating and dehumanizing structures and processes.
From his decades of experience with the agile transformation of organizations and in particular with the introduction of the LeSS framework developed by Bas Vodde and himself, Craig Larman has summarized several observations as “Larman’s Laws of Organizational Behavior“. These “laws” nicely describe in various facets the inertia of hierarchical structures that implicitly always tend to preserve the status quo of middle and top management and established power structures in general. This hits the misunderstood and underestimated role of the Scrum Master particularly hard.
Not everything that has transformation in neon letters on its cover actually is a transformation. It all starts with the erroneous assumption that agility can boost employee performance just like some sort of concentrated feed. Misguided by this promise of greater efficiency, an agile transformation is then ordered from the top and proven blueprints (Spotify and Co.) are evaluated and rolled out. This ultimately leads to an “agilization” of the existing encrusted structures and processes without rigorously questioning them. In the end there is hardly any transformation left but only agile label fraud: Same same but different.