Creating Generational Legacies

Friday, September 9, 2016

Can a beaurocracy organisation have an agile mindset?

What is an agile organisation? 
Apparently everything that a good organisation should be.....

- Nimble 
- self-organizing teams 
- Customer focussed 
- work is done in an iterative fashion with continuous interaction with users almost in real time. 
- teams work on a common cadence, many teams can work together on large complex challenges in a coordinated fashion. 
- Working smarter not harder
- Continuous collaboration among internal silos 
- Ability to take opportunities in market place as they emerge 
- What it's not - Unwieldy clunky slow unfriendly, set in ways, focussed on internal processes

There are 3 Laws of Agile - writes Steve Denning from Forbes -

1. The law of the small team - if you can't feed them on a pizza and a few beers on a Friday night it's too big! Characteristics of Trust, face to face , performance, nimble 
2. The law of the customer 
3. The law of the network - this is the lynchpin of agile - the organisation is fluid and transparent network of players that are collaborating towards a common goal of delighting customers. The organization is an organic living network of high-performance teams. 

The organization operates with an interactive communication dynamic, both horizontally and vertically, writes Denning. Anyone can talk to anyone. Ideas can come from anywhere, including customers. As a network, the organization becomes a growing, learning, adapting living organism that is in constant flux to exploit new opportunities and add new value for customers.

He cites Spotify and Barclays as proponents of agile 
- Spotify to provide personalized music playlists to over a hundred million users every week, 
- Barclays to start becoming an Agile bank that can provide easy, quick, convenient, personalized banking at scale, 
- After listening to Pip Marlow yesterday , it has enabled  Microsoft to still be relevant in a rapidly changing world .

So - can Agile be embraced in a bureaucracy ?
It is not about “doing Agile.” It’s about “being Agile.”

It's about having an Agile mindset - When people in the organization had the right mindset, it hardly mattered what tools, processes and practices they were using, the Agile mindset made things come out right. 

Conversely, if they didn’t have an Agile mindset, it didn’t matter if they were implementing every tool and process and practice exactly according to the book, no benefits flowed. Agile is a mindset.

So the big question is..... Can a beaurocracy have an agile mindset ? 

1 comment:

  1. Hi Steve,

    Thanks for the principles of agile - it’s very hard to disagree with them as desirable outcomes.

    But the problem, as many agree, is with ‘mindsets’ as in “how do we change the mindsets of decision makers” or, as Marx put it on a bigger scale, “The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it.”

    A provocative question:

    · Where did your mindset come from? When did you last change yours? What were the circumstances? What kind of change took place?

    For me mindset is an onion concept, at the core of which lies identity and meaning. I can’t think of when I last ‘changed’ my mindset at this level. As a sister of an eccentric friend of mine once exclaimed to her brother in moment of exasperation, “Oh Peter, you have become what you always were!” Likewise with me. But one can change and add to the outer layers of the onion...

    Mindsets are changed by experience. The most effective change process that I know of is the 13-week military boot camp that is used by armed forces around the world. It takes a group of disparate individuals from widely differing backgrounds and ‘mindsets’ and welds them into basic fighting force in about a hundred days. When effective, people add an extra layer to their onion. It’s an extension of identity and meaning into a military context that first crushes individuals to build cohesive teams and then gives them their individuality back in a new and enhanced form. They ‘grow'. It’s not about intellectual propositions. It’s about using what Kenneth Boulding called the TIE triad of systems that govern societies: Threat (political: “do this or else”), Integration (social: “do this to belong to the group”), and Exchange (economic: “do this for me/us and I’ll/we’ll do this for you”).

    In practice like management we act our way into better ways of thinking (aka mindsets) rather than the other way around. Instead of our Cartesian, engineering focus on thinking and ‘principles’ shouldn’t we be asking “What kind of compelling experience would help you see your way to change?”

    In this context I don’t view Gary Hamel’s “Bureaucracy must die” slogan as helpful. For me it stirs uncomfortable memories of the reckless bombast from the late Michael Hammer during the re-engineering mania. It played to the worst instincts of American managers and ended up doing immense damage to many organizations. We need to think more like ecologists than engineers and to understand bureaucracy as product of an evolutionary/ecological process involving growth in scale and technological complexity. Of course changing from lever-pulling, incentive-dangling engineers to wise gardeners will take a very large change in the collective mindset…And that will take some very compelling experiences.



    David K. Hurst, FRSA
    Speaker, Educator and Writer on Management,

    Author Site:

    Associate Peter Drucker Society of Europe

    Adjunct Professor, Kenneth Levene Graduate School of Business, University of Regina

    Adjunct Faculty, Center for Creative Leadership, Greensboro, North Carolina

    Contributing Editor, Strategy+Business