Agile Improvement: It’s This Simple

By Daniel Joseph Mezick for OpenSpace Agility

There are some ‘agile experts’ that are dismissing the invitation-over-imposition solution as “too simple.” With dismissive hand-waving, they claim that the problem is “complex” and not merely “complicated.”

Then they offer no suggestions on how to actually move the machine. Such criticisms are non-starters that do nothing to advance progress or the conversation. Not actionable.

The problem is not complex. It is not complicated. The fact is that the problem is fairly simple:

  1. Most all the improvement (if any) comes from self-managing teams.
  2. Self-managing teams are managing DECISIONS that affect their work. Not all of the decisions, but many. They must be participating. And they must be invited, (that is, “authorized”) to do so.
  3. If the magnitude and frequency of team decision-making falls below key minimum thresholds, BAD THINGS HAPPEN. Employee disengagement. Resentment. Top-performer-employee turnover. Little if any real improvement. Agile in name only. Etc.

Social systems are “first-order, non-linear feedback systems.” I’m quoting Jay Forrester. In such systems, small changes can make a huge impact.

The problem is simple.

Team autonomy and decision-making levels must be above a key minimum to produce real and lasting improvement. Worldwide, the Agile industry is representing that team autonomy and decision-making levels do not matter. And that practices do. And that they can be forced.

It’s not complex. It’s not complicated. It’s actually incredibly simple:

  1. Stop forcing practices on teams, and
  2. Replace that with some clearly bounded decision-making authority.

Come on now. We can do better. And it’s not complex or even complicated.

Or is it? You be the judge…

By Daniel Joseph Mezick, September 2018
Originally published at OpenSpace Agility.

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