Field notes from Agile 2011: The battle is over but the war continues

The battle is over

The foregone conclusion at many sessions at Agile 2011 was that Lean/Agile methods at the team level work. Really well. People want to get better at it, but whether or not to use these methods at the team level is no longer a point of debate.

But the war continues

Agility at the enterprise level continues to elude most organizations. Initial adoption of agile at the team level can bring tangible results very quickly. However, the long term success of individual agile teams will be limited until the entire organization can move beyond some closely held assumptions. At the highest level, these detrimental assumptions are what Steven Denning describes as the 5 interlocking principles of 20th century command-and-control management:

  • Purpose of the firm is to make money
  • Managers act as controllers of individuals
  • Work is coordinated by hierarchy and bureaucracy
  • The main thing is efficiency
  • Communicate by directives (command and control)

 He proposes a replacement set of interlocking principles for the 21st century:

  • The purpose of the firm is to delight customers
  • Managers are enablers of teams and individuals
  • From bureaucracy to dynamic linking
  • From value to values
  • From command to conversations

Yikes. We won’t get there overnight.  Fortunately, others (including Alan Shalloway) shared a vision of enterprise agility that is much more within our grasp. More on that later.

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