In Learning

If you have never read the full site, it may surprise you to know that Dilbert is mentioned three times.

There is grand talk of how the problems of irrational demands through the imposition of corporate power structures isn’t merely a software development problem but something that runs through all Dilbertesque organizations.

In order to succeed in the new economy, to move aggressively into the era of e-business, e-commerce and the web, companies have to rid themselves of their Dilbertesque manifestations of make-work and arcane policies.

Strong stuff.

Today we see the rise of those who are not just challenging the approach to software development, but the very fabric and organisation of companies today. Whether it be Radical Management, or Management 3.0, the threat and enemy is seen very clearly as command and control management hierarchies.

The success of Agile today has come not from radical changes to an organisation but from promising management things that they always wanted. Predictable delivery, higher value solutions, flexibility. In return, management has hardly changed compared to what it was only 10 short years ago – Scott Adams still seems to make good money by laughing at these organisation. And yet one of the great debates of Stoos, is why haven’t things changed faster in organisations as a whole.

So has Management made Agile respectable? Tailored it for the specific benefits it wanted, but rejected anything that might lead to significant change. It is interesting to note that Kanban (an evolutionary change approach), is designed to help companies which would not have otherwise considered Agile (no surprise the founder’s twitter handle is agilemanager). This would not be the first time this has happened. Companies have embraced the statistical side of six sigma, but have ignored the more radical suggestions from Deming’s system of profound knowledge. We have certaintly not seen the abandonment of slogans, management by objectives, work standards,  management by numbers, vigorous programmes of education and self improvement for example.

It could be argued that management has already stormed the Agile Barricade and quite happily taken over it, but there are those who still long for significantly greater change.

Over my career, I have spent a long time in the world of management and at the moment am working with Emergn on a groundbreaking product. The product aim is simple, to make it easier for vigorous programmes of education and self-improvement. It does not prescribe an answer to management, but I have hope that education and learning is the the right approach.

There is no one answer.

But if the spirit of Agile is to be kept alive, we have no choice but to go beyond software development (as it was really always about more in my opinion). Organisations and society have always benefited from change, innovation and management improvement. The best way to keep Agile safe from management is to continuously challenge Dilbertesque organisations in all ways possible.

The only thing we have to fear is standing still.

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Showing 8 comments
  • diaryofscrum

    I think it’s important we explore the best approaches to sharing our ideas with management. To many managers our controlled environment honed for effectiveness is such a different world to their chaotic one with little time for double loop learning. I’ve found whilst management appreciate what we do and the benefits it brings, there is little interest in adopting similar principles themselves. Nobody likes being told that they are doing it wrong particularly by lowly developers. Have you had any success with this?

    • ValueFlowQuality

      Yes, but less success than I would hope. Indeed you can see that Scrum is for developers, not for managers is an attitude. There are those who do try to go beyond this, but I fear that we will not make the radical change envisaged.

      • Olivier Compagne

        Part of the problem is that principles are great, but we need concrete methods. Developers have Scrum or other agile processes; what do managers have? 

        We need to translate the principles to clear management methodologies. I work with a young consulting company and we’re developing a process applying agile principles to leadership and management. We call it “Holacracy”, and it is now mature enough I think so that we have something valuable to contribute to this field, and are open to feedback.

  • Bob Marshall

    I too believe that education is the path forward. Unfortunately, Yourdon wrote 20+ years ago that “the average programmer’s bookshelf tends to zero” and I am very much convinced the same applies to management.

    And let’s not point the finger of Fundamental Attribution Error blame at any individuals or groups, but rather at the behaviours they exhibit. Actually, I’ll retract my first paragraph in favour of “Hate the sins, love the sinners” ~ Gandhi. I believe the best path forward is love. 

    Not only Gandhi holds this to be so, it’s at the core of e.g. Positive Psychology, and Kahane wrote a great book on the subject a few years ago: “Power and Love: A Theory and Practice of Social Change”.

    “The only thing we have to fear is the sky falling on our heads.”

    – Bob

  • $31020432

    I think the best of the ‘Dilbert’ comments on the signatories page was: “I was previously frustrated by serial processes and the uncertainty that the industry could invent lightweight alternatives. I can now be frustrated by the knowledge that strong alternatives exist, but they’re not understood or embraced by my clients or coworkers.” – oh yes, how true! 

  • Ben Linders

    I have seen organization where management seriously supported agile, by encouraging, enabling and supporting employees in adopting agile practices. It takes time, but it works, and delivers results. I have also seen organizations that try to implement agile using command and control mechanisms, which results in much difficulties to get agile practices accepted. The difference is not in the agile practices, but in the the way change in managed!

    • ValueFlowQuality

      Completely agree, in writing this post, it should be noted that I write from a manager’s perspective

  • denise tinsley

    I hear a great amount of talk about using Agile. It can be used successfully but you will find most managment types find it too unpredicable. They try to make it predictable and controllable via spreadsheets and status meetings disquised as stand up meetings and of course drive by “Are you done yet” questions at your desk throughout the day . Before you know it they scrap it and and back to waterfall. This does not have to happen but it does happen frequently. 

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