#Agile Is Simple

It’s no secret that the mechanism behind the way #Agile appeals to some of us and repels others, fascinates me. A PhD in #Agile Anthropology should feature on my retirement bucket list should it exist.

For those of you with time on your hands, I’ve compared it to weigh lifting, looked at its sine qua non nature, and explored its possible array of motivations through the perspective of Maslow’s pyramid of needs.

To me, the main source of the fascination comes from how it’s simultaneously intensely simple and intensely complex. The complexity that’s beautiful is how it relates to our humanity both individually and as a group. The complexity that’s ugly is man-made and commercially driven. 

An editor asked the other day if l would write a book to expound on my adage of “it’s all about the WoT, not the WoW” – l wouldn’t. What do we need an entire book for? 

The idea in itself is not one of those that needs a qualifying “deceptively” before “simple”, it really is clear-cut, clear and brief – “obsess about people (be it the customer or the team) as you split work in a fashion that lets you be fast and flexible”. 

Hopefully, irrespective of what ultra-complicated framework pays the bills, we can all agree on that being the idea behind #Agile. 

And then a sea of acronyms, morally questionable knowledge sales business models and a basal need for complexity as it’s associated with higher value kick in and it all transforms into the mishmash that makes transformation after transformation fail. 

It’s no secret that I’m adamant it’s infinitely more important to grasp the non-deceptively simple concept and invest heart and mind into it than it is to bet on any consultancy’s deck. As a result, the other day l was speaking to a client and they brought up what they thought was slight hypocrisy on my part – the fact that together with our amazing partner Catapult CX we put together an Agile @ The Top Bootcamp for execs “Aren’t you guys consultancies too and isn’t there a deck and a framework?” he snickered. 

Here’s the thing – we aren’t and there isn’t. Neither of us makes money on selling knowledge in the sense that’s motivating the morsels-culture of the consultancies l criticized before. Catapult sell results, PeopleNotTech makes and sell software. We’re not incremental knowledge merchants, there is no business model that benefits from either multiple bums-on-seats or generalized confusion, on the contrary – we only do well when our clients “get it”. 

We don’t have armies of people to repeat the same cookie-cutter scaling hypothesis or to “shadow” organizations through learning mantras and ticking new process boxes while no one really “got it”. No cool-aid. No decks, no acronyms and certainly no “framework” – the only acceptable measurements of success in shifting mindsets in lieu of teaching them a sleuth of acronyms is, once we’ve had them fall in love with #Agile, have they had the impetus to Trello their household chores; do they miss a stand-up if it gets canceled and seek to replace the engagement and communication otherwise; can they conceive ever being part of a Prince project again; do they care if it’s Scrum or Kanban or SAFE; are they continuously thinking of the end result to the consumer; are they addicted to speed and results? 

If you’re in the consultancy game reading this, no matter how loyal you are to one of the major big ones -or even some of the emerging small ones- you must be able to admit (if not out-loud) that the model is glaringly broken in that you make money keeping the “getting it” in sight but ever so slightly out of reach for a living. You don’t make money on your clients really getting it, you’re wired for a world where the process is slow, sequential and plentiful and you can both obscure and reveal it to them, not one where they can make their own way to fast, solid results. You know that’s true. And l bet it’s an uncomfortable truth as it’s ultimately an unsatisfying way of engaging that doesn’t feel truly valuable to either party and you’re better than that.

Ever the optimist, l have to believe this will change in the next 10-15 years as the world of enterprise tries to change fast enough to compete with the natively fast and smart and that consultancies everywhere will find a way to charge for real value and mindset change not for decks and FTEs. Once they figure out how to charge for causing the “a-ha! moments” that let a leadership team fundamentally change not only their ways but their hearts and minds, then they’ll shift from breaks to accelerators. 

#Agile is simple, yes. But it isn’t easy. It’s not for the box-tickers, the acronym-lovers, the sequential thinkers, the deck-addicts, the lazy ones, the ones that have checked-out, the ones who need the complicated framework decks to hide behind and blame when it all “just doesn’t work”. It’s not for the faint of heart or the weak of mind. The good news? Most of us here are not that, so we needn’t bury the beauty of its power under hourly-billed complexity.

Have a simple #Agile week everyone.

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