Change or Fade Away

Patrick Tomasso

Everything that is living changes in response to the environment around it.  Everything.

Failure to change, failure to adapt and evolve, usually means stagnation and death.  This is applicable to animals and it is applicable to businesses.  Yes, those businesses that don’t change can still survive, but is survival enough?

Any organization, whether it is private sector or public sector, needs to change as the clients and citizens that it servers change.  To stay a valuable part of society the organization needs to stay relevant.  Failure to stay relevant, failure to change to match society, is a sure-fire way of showing up on the list of extinct organizations.

Bureaucracy is the default operating system for virtually every large-scale organization on the planet.  Founded on the ideology of controlism, it elevates conformity above all other operational virtues.

I don’t know about you, but this sums up my current situation.  I’ve talked about “controlism” before.  I’ve talked about bureaucracy before.  But this quote seems to encapsulate both those topics very well.  The quote is from the book  “Age of Agile: How Smart Companies Are Transforming the Way Work Gets Done.” Indeed, they are the first two sentences of the Foreward.

In a couple of sentences, it encapsulates everything that is wrong with dead and dying organizations.

Today’s creative economy needs a radical rethink of our top-down, tradition-encrusted management principles and processes.  The challenge: building organizations that are as innovative as they are efficient, as passion-filled as they are pragmatic.

People seem to think that Agile is a way of developing software, but it’s much more than that, it is a mindset about how to approach resolving problems.  Whether those are software problems or business problems, the ideas are the same.

Born out of the Agile Manifesto the concepts are simple, straightforward, but so significant in their impact that over fifteen years later the true impact is still unknown.  In essence, the Agile Manifesto values:

Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
Working software over comprehensive documentation
Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
Responding to change over following a plan

These four lines spawned the Agile software development methodology and all of its variants.  And, years later, they spawned a revolution in how to manage an organization.  And not just startups.  This sort of thinking, this approach to business, is applicable to both old and new businesses and, more important, to both private and public sector.

Yes, the public sector needs to be agile just as well.  Many public sectors organizations try to emphasize to their staff that they are doing this for the betterment of society.  But that wears thin when it seems like what is being done is for perpetuating the status quo.  It’s not that the public sector is being run poorly, they are merely following “the dictates of good management.

The Age of Agile believes that operating a business in an agile fashion is better for everyone involved.

… this book explores how some organizations are learning how to operate in a way that is potentially better for those doing the w rokd, better for those for whom the work is done, better for the organizations themseves, and better for society.

If you are in an organization that claims it wants to be agile, claims that it wants to be innovative, then you need to step back and look at how the organization is being run.  If the organization is basically the “same old same old”, a static, hierarchical structure, then you have to wonder whether or not there is going to be any innovation, any transformation of the business, if the people trying to do the transformation are unable to see that they too need to change.

You don’t come into work on Monday morning and say “I’m going to be innovative this week”.  Being innovative, being transformative, requires a cultural change in the organization.  A cultural change that understands the old model, the traditional method of running an organization, is old and tired and no longer works in today’s society. A cultural change that understands that something “of value to the business” isn’t worth pursuing unless there it is “valuable to the customer/citizen”.  Instead of focusing on “business value” the organization needs to focus on “customer value”.  Even in monopolies and public sector organizations, the customer/citizen needs to come first.

An agile business will succeed in today’s society.  A traditionally focused business is doomed to failure.

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