Deviation From the Norm

It’s obvious that the Agile movement is not producing the kind of transformative results that are entirely possible. If current approaches actually worked well, then by now, thousands of organizations would have reached a state of self-sustaining, “freestanding” agility.

Clearly, that is not the case.

Stories abound about typical failure patterns.  Organizations that seem to start well eventually slide back to waterfall practices. Organizations employing coaches spend millions to obtain a mere 25 to 30% improvement in whatever they are measuring!

And they seem happy with that!

Meanwhile, the Agile-obtainable multiples of 2X, 3X, even 4X improvement in those same measures is not even discussed. It’s just left on the table.

Coaches in some cases are setting up camp for years in large client organizations. Organizations never actually realize the benefits of rapid learning and adaptation that the Agile approach purports to deliver. Clearly current coaching methods are not delivering lasting agility. If they were, we’d be celebrating hundreds– even thousands— of successful and sustained Agile transformations.

Clearly this is not happening.

Yet it’s possible. And almost within reach.

Software development at scale is a very difficult undertaking. The Agile mindset and related principles, patterns and practices can help tremendously. At issue is how to achieve this. What’s clear is that no one knows how to repeatedly generate long-lasting & sustained improvement at scale. How is this actually done? Who actually knows how? As a consulting and coaching community, we have failed to deliver the promise of Agile to our clients and the wider world. We are stuck.

Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible. Frank Zappa (click here for 20 second video)

Without deviation from the Agile coaching norm, Agile progress is simply not possible. Coaching is the leverage point. Something has to give.

We need to throw out current “best practices” in Agile coaching and question everything we are doing. Because what we are currently doing is not creating any lasting progress. If it was, we would all know where to find hundreds, even thousands of case studies that document how organizations are sustaining genuine agility… long after the coaches leave.

The time has come to begin a new story…a new dialogue…a conversation that assumes nothing…and questions everything. A conversation that stops asking “why”…and starts asking “how“. A conversation that focuses on how to minimize coaching days…not increase them. With all due respect to “agile enablement firms” and well-established tools vendors, we need a better way. We need deviation from the norm. We need a new deal for organizations. A deal where they can take a legitimate shot…at rapidly reaching a state of self-sustaining agility…an agility that does not require an army of coaches to be lasting and sustainable over time.

One approach is to focus organizations on principles over practices.  And this is a difficult undertaking. It doesn’t sell well. Practices sell. Organizations and coaches are very happy to begin using practices without grounding them in the principles of the Agile Manifesto. With the practices-first approach, everyone is happy. And it does not last.

Likewise, coaches and client organizations are all too happy to convey way too much authority to external coaches while conveniently sidestepping the difficult business of making sure that the organization itself takes 100% responsibility for its own learning.

We need a principles-first approach that places responsibility for the organization’s learning within the organization itself, not on some external authority named “coach”.

Related Post:

Perfect Agile Coaching

Open Agile Adoption: The empirical path to a rapid & lasting Agile adoption