Natural harmonious diversity

What is the root problem Agile and Lean transformations are trying to solve and how to really solve it?

Organizational transformations aren't a bad idea, perse, I would say. I consider changes in the dynamics of an organization, e.g. by Agile or Lean transformations, I positive thing - I applause all endeavors to become more agile. The problem isn't going to be solved by implementation programs, though. Implementing Agile, by adopting the Scrum framework for example, isn't going to solve the problem. Although characteristics of Agile will arise when the root problem is addressed when moving towards the desired situation. What is the problem to be solved, actually?

The problem to be solved

As is the case with all continuous improvement endeavors, the current situation is not considered the ideal situation. A better state than the current one can be envisioned or imagined - a smoother way of working, maneuvering and behaving. The vision of something more ideal inspires and drives the change. The incentive for change is not change for the sake of change, but the ideal is.

The problem from a high level organizational point of view is that the organization as a whole responds slowly (or not at all) to inner and outer stimulans. And of primary concern is the inner stimulans, as the inner stimulans was the driving force for creating the organization in the first place (leading to the realization of a dream/vision). When trying to aim for the highest level of agility, the primary focus should be to feel, think and act as one organism, albeit the organism is made up of individual parts. Akin to a bee-hive,  where each individual is still an unique individual separate from the whole (i.e. the hive), but acting in accordance with the hive's reason of existence or primary objective.

The problem is the gap between the ideal behavior of the organization as a whole and the actual/current behavior of the organization. The ideal behavior is no time-to-market, i.e. there's no delay between the inception of an idea to the actual manifestation of that idea in the outer world. Note that we're talking about the ideal, which might seem an impossibility, but something is only impossible until its done. The ideal is the same as reaching full maturity of agility. Every step taken towards the ideal - no matter how far out that ideal might be - is a step towards higher levels of agility and responsiveness. And yes, towards maturity and the potential of the organization and individual.

Implementing agile as the solution for the problem?

Implementation of something which is in essence intangible is impossible. On the other hand, implementation of tangible things, e.g. models and frameworks, rules and policy, is possible. Agility is not characterized by implemented frameworks or methods but by the overall maturity level of the organization and consists of subjectively desired behavior which is intangible and incompatible with "implementation". The same can be said for Lean.

Innate authentic behavior is key here, and mentality is the area of concern when dealing with behavior. Inception of agile or lean mentality is the only sustainable option when aiming to become agile and responsive. That is, when the agile mentality arises authentically, opposed to mentality arisen due to outer forces, as illustrated in the movie Inception. Individual authenticity becomes paramount, which includes aligning individual goals, vision and mission with the organization's.

Implementation or cultivation

It is not as much about implementing agile, but about fostering agile thinking, incubating of an agile mindset and thinking. And that doesn't come easy.

Would agile implementations alone help solving the problem? As a side-effect, it could. Adopting agile frameworks can lead to higher levels of awareness and autonomy. Which in turn can contribute to an environment where critical thinking and self-awareness are supported - which in turn leads to asking questions, the one and foremost being "why ...?".

Why would any organization turn towards implementing agile? When that question is honestly answered, people from within the organization can reflect on the implementation - if it is really fulfilling or suiting the underlying motivation sufficiently. Reflecting on behavior from within the organization leads to insight, wisdom and (self-)knowledge.

The underlying issue

Agile implementations are commonly limited to the area of (product) development, with the goal to reach higher levels of productivity, predictability, adaptability, etc. It can also be regarded as optimization within the margins, sub-optimization, which is not addressing the underlying (root) problem, as described above. The underlying and more difficult issue at hand is the lack of natural authentic, authoritative and sovereign behavior. Authentic and authoritative behavior, from whatever level in or position within an organization, can only arise when the origin of that behavior is genuine and of the same spirit.

That is, when the motivator or trigger of behavior is originating from the same underlying spirit - sharing the same foundation of code/rules which is underlying all actions.

Imagining the ideal

Imagine the ideal organization: you are the CEO, the CIO, the board member, the marketing adviser, the software developer, the telephone receptionist, the program and project manager, the tester, the driver, the kitchen manager, etc. You are all the roles at the same time, just imagine it for a minute... Would you not take every decision with full mandate, authority and sovereignty? Would you not act immediately when you feel inspired to do so? Would you not act authentically within each and every situation, having the dream in mind which you try to realize?

That's the ideal: every part, each individual, in the organization knows what to do, and why, and has full sovereignty and authority to act. Changes in the inner environment (changes in goals, sharpening the vision) and outer environment (sensing changes in the outer world) are automatically and immediately responded to. There's no delay.

Again, this is the ideal, which might seem quite a leap from the current paradigm. That doesn't mean we can't take steps towards that ideal, no matter how far out there this ideal might seem. Every step taking towards the ideal is an improvement.

Countering forces in the ego-system

The ideal described above, also demands a radical change in our relationship towards another and towards nature. In the ideal, selfish and egocentric behavior isn't rewarded, but will be a major impediment towards reaching the goal of true agility. In the ideal, the vision, mission and goals are foundational to every movement made within and by the organization - all in complete alignment with its parts. Other and covert agendas don't exist in the ideal - and will also be a major impediment towards reaching the goal of true agility A "do as I say" ("because I'm the boss") mentality can exist in our current state of affairs, but not in the ideal - again, these mentalities will be major impediments.

That's also the beauty: in a world where harmony, sustainability, creativity, originality, authenticity and self-expression are intrinsically  valued, egocentric and selfish behavior will disappear completely. Sharing wealth, abundance, knowledge and health - among others - will be default behavior, instead of the current paradigm we're in now where the richest are getting richer and the poorest poorer. It won't be survival of the fittest anymore (if that was ever truly so) but thriving of the harmonious.

Recipe for the solution of the problem

An out-of-the-box recipe or formula can't be given for solving the problem, nor is that desirable or possible. Every individual and every organization is unique and therefore one recipe can't be applied to all. Vision, inspiration, authenticity, honesty, transparency, creativity, originality and intention are key ingredients to come to the unique recipe, which is crafted from the inside of the organization.

How to stimulate natural authentic behavior? How to create an environment where every part of the whole is authoritative and is sailing the ship as much as the captain - albeit that that part is playing another role at that specific moment? In a flock of birds, or a school of fish there is no specific or personified captain who is directing every movement of the whole: all parts are acting as one organism, motivated by one underlying spirit (the intangible captain, connected to all parts of the whole).

Co-incidentally, organizations become lean when self-awareness is cultivated, when purpose is aligned, when authenticity, authority, sovereignty, self-expression and ownership are the foundation. Agile and lean characteristics as symptoms of changes in behavior reaching towards higher levels of organizational maturity - effects instead of (primary) causes.

Step-by-step transition

We can't just move from current to ideal with one step, from controlled and hierarchical structures and values to anarchy (i.e. no external authority) and sovereignty. No, gradual evolution, growth and maturing is paramount - for which there isn't and can't be one formula or recipe.  When moving to the ideal a healthy organizational climate and environment is essential. Such a healthy organizational climate and environment has purpose, vision, knowledge, awareness, mindfulness (e.g. knowing what leads to what, being aware what is going on right here and now), trust, transparency, support, safety, experimentation, open networking, free information flow, accessibility, empowerment, support and change as it's foundational characteristics. In the transition we also have to deal with the aforementioned countering forces in the ego-system.

Knowingly or unknowingly, when lean organizations, responsive organizations and agile organizations are taking to their extreme (meaning: taken to their potential, or ideal) the individual becomes as important as the whole, as the individual is inseparable from the whole in the ideal. The organization is the individual and the individual is the organization. Each individual in the organization knows what to do, how to do it and why, in each moment - with complete mandate, being sovereign - as a natural hive, consisting of unique individuals / unique personalities, seemingly moving as one. Each and every individual moved by and guided in the same spirit.

Natural harmony, without external control. True agility and freedom. Taking one step at the time, the ideal comes closer, no matter how far out the ideal might seem from our current standpoint.

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