Start with the vision – where to start with an adaptive organisation

I came across an article published on Linkedin by Oleg Vishnepolsky, the Global CTO at DailyMail Online and Metro.Co.Uk, claiming, that agile does not work and it never did. He is claiming, that agile as a term has transformed into something good, which stands against the evil. And he is right with his premise: Nowadays Agile is seen as the silver bullet. The way of agile programming is the only way to do things nowadays. We tend to forget, it should be not about agile, but about adaptive organisations. Oleg Vishnepolsky came also up with a new solution. Instead of thinking in agile methodologies, we should rather embrace the common-sense methodology.

Agile methodology is common-sense methodology for adaptive organisations

The problem I have with the statement is, that he criticises organisations for claiming to be agile while not even knowing the agile manifesto. But, when he is talking about the agile methodology, there might be even a misunderstanding in the article itself. As we learnt before, if we look at the agile manifesto as a guideline on continuous learning to become better, then the agile way of doing things is more than just a methodology. Because Agile itself does embrace the idea of using common-sense methodology. Only if you are learning along the way and adapt the way you do things, you are truly agile. Hence, we do retrospectives every sprint.

Change to Agile: Do not overthink the methodology, the values matter

Often when people want to transform into more adaptive organisations, they start with a team applying certain methodology. Then they want to scale that methodology to other teams. This might be dangerous as this usually will just be on the basis. It will be lacking one of the most important engagement factor in any change management: Why do we change. Ideally the majority embraces and even carries on with the change. If your team does not understand the reason of changing to an agile environment, it will be difficult for the team to follow. Especially, if you were doing “okay” along the way.

The bigger your organisation, the harder it is to initiate change within the team. What many people tend to forget, is, that the bigger team is, the more diverse it will always be.  This is true, even if you have a rigorous “cultural-fitting” process in your recruitment process. The more people you have, the more people you need to align. I have heard from organisations, who worked over 1 year to create the vision and constantly enhance the values to set only the foundations for an agile environment. For a company, that has more than 10,000 members, this is even a fast process.

Set your vision first, because “culture eats strategy for breakfast”

World acclaimed management-guru Peter Drucker said above quote. As mentioned in an earlier post, in our current possibilities of tracking success in an organisation, we tend to forget, that any organisation and team is a construct of human interactions. Those interactions are merely defined by the people working together. It is important for leaders, not to tell people how to interact with each other, but rather create an environment in which people do want to interact positively and constructively. Value based cooperation and communication starts with the leader herself. If she is acting constantly on a daily basis based on the values she wants to embrace, the more she will attract people, who believe in the same values. In the end, it is not the values on the wall we create an organisation around, but the values we decide to act upon. The vision gives the values the reason to exist. A good formulated vision is the guiding tower or compass on the way to the culture, the company sets out to embrace. Therefore set the vision first, then the value naturally will follow.

Learning as the foundation in adaptive organisations

Adaptation is a form of mutation to a new environment. Adaptive organisations, therefore describes flexible organisations, which are able to react to a constant changing environment. This is more important today than before. We know, that the world is moving faster everyday. Therefore, being adaptive to this changing environment is the key. The agile manifesto with it’s values manifested on learning is a great guideline. We need to learn constantly in order to adapt to the environment. Therefore, the first value and step to adaptive organisations should be a value which encourages learning. When we create our core values for semdi solutions, we tried to have learning as part of all 5 values. But in the end, it is even in manifested in our company name: semdi is an acronym for semper disce, which is latin for “always learning”!

Common Sense is to keep learning

And here is the final element in the equation for the linked article by Oleg Vishnepolsky: In a nowadays world it is not important to be agile, if agile is only understood as a methodology or a framework. But if you understand the agile manifesto as  a guideline to help learning, then you already apply common sense.

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