Creating Generational Legacies

Friday, September 9, 2016

8 ways to break down the wall of a beourocratic mindset and become agile

Hi David

Thanks for these interesting insights, which resonate with me.
A few points.

"the principles of agile - it’s very hard to disagree with them as desirable outcomes."
It may be very hard, but many managers do disagree. They look at the diagram of the Agile network (picture #4) and see a nightmare.

For instance, at one of the sessions at the McKinsey Global Agility Hackathon, after a fairly good presentation of an Agile organization, the McKinsey partner said, "That sounds like having a triple root canal operation."
So it will take quite a few bankruptcies of big firms before there is more general acceptance.
On the meaning of mindset, I agree with you idea that it is like an onion with the different layers. In the Learning Consortium and elsewhere, we see managers have "got" the Law of the Small Team, but not the Law of the Customer or the Law of the Networks.  We also see managers who have "got it" for the team, but not for the organization or as a view as to how the world works. And so on.
On the acquisition of an Agile mindset, we hope to shed some light on that in the Learning Consortium report to be issued next month. Some hypotheses include:

- it's easier if you can start with the young and less experienced (like the military boot camp). For someone with 15+ years experience being successful in a bureaucracy, it's much more difficult.

- training by itself is not enough. It's an experiential thing.

- the pace of change varies greatly from individual to individual. Some get it very quickly. Some, probably never. And everything in between.

- the environment plays a huge influence. In an Agile environment, it's hard not to be Agile and survive. In a bureaucratic environment, it's the opposite.

- it's neither top-down or bottom-up. You need both top-down and bottom-up.

- peer-to-peer learning works better than top-down instruction.

- it's more difficult to achieve Agile mindsets in the back-office functions.

​- the war is never won: even in strongly Agile firms, it's takes constant effort to prevent backsliding, at a time when most of the rest of the world is strongly bureaucratic. New external recruits at a high level in the organization (e.g. a new, externally-recruited CMO, CFO or head of HR) represent a particular risk.


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