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There are usually two truths why companies want to go agile 🤥
In almost anything we say, there are two truths: the one we share verbally and the intention behind it. Let me give you an example:
When somebody says they appreciated what you said on the meeting they might mean that somebody has finally said something on the topic rather than what was said.
It’s not about lying but rather more about being precise. The same goes for agile transformations. The added complexity comes with the games people play and the personal gains they pursue.
Regarding transformations, on the surface, the declarative version is usually:
“We want to be agile because we want to respond to market needs faster and be more accurate in responding to client needs.”
There are also less sexy intentions behind such a statement that remain unspoken. Below, you can read six real truths that people rarely hear or even manage to notice regarding why agile is gaining momentum in a company:
A badge for cashing out - a VC fund invests in a company and wants to cash out after 3-5 years. They know that the ‘agility’ label increases valuation, so they pursue it, usually in cargo cult form, having sprint events but not changing much.
LTI’s - an LTI is a Long Term Incentive that usually higher management is offered, promising high premiums after reaching a particular (set of) goals or when the company goes for an IPO. This optimises decisions usually for mid-term gain (3-5 years) instead of long-term, which includes their successors. LTIs are only transparent for those who have them contracted.
Not wanting to take ownership - C-suite using services from the big four regarding agile transformations and pre-defined models (sold to every company they work with) that promise the stars. Consultants come for a few months and leave everyone soon after. If things fail, the blame can go towards the the consultancy.
Fighting for own existence - decision makers need, or want, to prove their worth to their superiors or advance in the company, thus working towards quick effects rather than those that would give the most leverage for the whole company.
Show off to investors - the company is fighting for another round of funding, and they need to show things are working well, so they tend to gather, usually a lot of useless and not connected, datasets to convince them that things are progressing great.
Doing twice the work in half the time - similar to the infamous title of Jeff Sutherland’s book about Scrum, the executives can view agility as a means to doing things cheaper and faster, although what they say is different.
You can notice some of the above through hectic movements, unclear goals, lack of transparency, people not listening to each other or things happening without prior notice. I’ve seen all of them in different shapes or forms.
Are all of the above bad? Not necessarily. How they are implemented matters. If a consultancy works long-term and does a custom (instead out of the box) setup or increases shareholder value through better products, it can work. The thing is that companies don’t always succeed and take shortcuts.
Is there any solution to that?
Get to know the game people are playing. Asking directly often won’t cut it; notice what people prioritise and who gains from it.
Play their game but propose a different outcome. Show them that their goal can be achieved in better ways that make more sense, and their mission will flourish.
The above is hard if not impossible in some cases. Why try, then? To make an impact, to not burn out, to educate and show new perspectives. There is no way to avoid those dynamics because, well.. People will always have their own agendas. Similar to your and mine hidden agendas when working in our roles.
What are your thoughts on the real reasons companies go agile? Did I miss anything in the above list? Share your thoughts in the comments.
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