The Failsafe Agile Transformation

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”

Rather than answering Alice’s question, the Cheshire Cat reviewed it.

“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.​

“I don’t much care where — ” said Alice.​

“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.

The global enterprise agile transformation services market was already an 11-figure number in 2018 and it’s expected to reach $63 billion by 2026. That’s a lot of big reorganizations. And what the Cheshire Cat told us was that if we don’t know where we want to go, it doesn’t matter which way we take.

Suppose we know where we want to go — we have a goal. Does it then matter where we start? Or are there solutions that bring us to our goal, whether we start from A, B, C, or D? POÄNG comes to mind.

POÄNG

In 1976, Noboru Nakamura designed the wooden cantilever armchair POÄNG for IKEA. So far, 35 million POÄNG armchairs have been produced, one of IKEA’s biggest successes. Like most IKEA furniture, you assemble it yourself at home. That’s why it’s delivered with an assembling cheat sheet. It’s foolproof. There’s no way you can come up with a better way to assemble this chair than what’s described in the cheat sheet. You can be in Stockholm, Bangalore, the Sahara desert, or even on a high mountain in Peru. This is still the best solution. Can we apply this to enterprise transformation then? I was thinking about this topic one morning when I looked out of the window and suddenly saw a guest in our backyard.

A huge moose was eating from the apple trees in our garden. I went upstairs to tell my family. From upstairs, I also saw a roe deer enjoying our planted flowers in another part of our yard. For a second, I considered opening a zoo at home. Don’t get me wrong. We sincerely want these friends to feel welcome in our home. But we don’t want them to eat our fruits and our flowers. That’s an entangled problem. Like the wolves in Yellowstone.

Entangled Reality in Yellowstone

The reintroduction of wolves — just a handful of them — in Yellowstone National Park changed the park’s entire ecosystem. A trophic cascade resulted in clearer water in the rivers. Valleys and gorges regenerated when deer avoided them. The populations of songbirds, bears, beavers, and many other species grew. The regenerated forests stabilized the riverbanks, and soil erosion in the rivers decreased. Is adding wolves to get clear water a context-independent solution? Will the water become even clearer if we add some more wolves? Could this solution be used in my backyard? The answer to all these questions might, unfortunately, be “no!”

Are enterprise agile transformations entangled Yellowstone problems or simple POÄNG problems? Do we first need to discover where we are, or can we simply apply a universally failsafe solution? I think you know the answer to that question, but don’t hesitate to ask a consultant🤨 .

Consultants

The consultant might show you a detailed implementation roadmap, said to be the industry standard. It seems that the more expensive the consultant is, the more certain he is that you will succeed. Be careful though. This particular recipe may have received a score of -56 (that is fifty-six negative!) in a recent NPS survey.

From all these stories, we are now in a position to summarize:

  • Context-independent solutions are convenient.
  • However, when humans are involved, context becomes complex.
  • And in complexity, context-independent solutions might be devastating.
  • Context-specific solutions require an understanding of where we are.

And here’s an analogy:​

🩺 A doctor never prescribes medication before an examination.​

Staffan Nöteberg is the author of The Pomodoro Technique Illustrated, published by The Pragmatic Bookshelf and most recently Monotasking with Simon & Schuster.

To save 35 percent on the ebook version of The Pomodoro Technique Illustrated, enter promo code innovation_2022 when you check out at The Pragmatic Bookshelf. The promo code is valid through April 30, 2022, and is not valid on prior purchases. You can also read The Pomodoro Technique Illustrated on Medium.

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Staffan Nöteberg

Staffan Nöteberg

🌱 Twenty Years of Agile Coaching and Leadership • Monotasking and Pomodoro books (700.000 copies sold)