How safe is Agile from management?

If you have never read the full agilemanifesto.org 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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