A few months ago, a client’s Chief Transformation Officer challenged me to write an article with my thoughts on how I might explain agile to my own mom. After a great deal of reflection, here are my ideas about it. I am not sure whether they define agile, as such, but I believe they offer a metaphor that represents what we, agilists, are trying to accomplish with our “agile transformations.”
First, I would say, imagine for a moment that organizations are your children.
Our work, as agile change agents, bears a certain resemblance to the ways mothers raise their children: the idea is to prepare them for a future that is uncertain, changeable, and very competitive, a future in which we hope they will be successful.
The meaning of success depends on the child, because every child is unique, with their own dreams, desires, ambitions, limitations, and abilities.
You generally need a certain amount of money to accomplish your goals and to live, so you take than into account when you raise your children.
Raising your kids is directed toward their independence. You don’t just do things for them and solve their problems, you teach them to solve their own problems, making mistakes and learning from them.
Sometimes you need to be strict, showing your children their mistakes and making them think about them. Other times you give advice and show them alternatives. Still other times you will need to listen to them, and let them find their own solutions.
You will often need to give them temporary tools, until they have mastered certain skills (like walkers, training wheels, or frameworks).
You should remember there is no magic recipe that will work every time. Every child is different.
Do you see where we are going with this? Sounds easy, right?
Now imagine that your child is not a little kid, but rather a 50-year-old, who was already raised and spent their whole working life dedicated to a business (a newspaper, for example), that was once very successful, but has lost so much of its market in recent years that it is almost failing.
Survival will require re-training the business, to meet an uncertain, changing, digital, increasingly competitive future, in which now strategies, skills, knowledge, and technology are all needed to enchant a new market of digital natives.
That is basically what we, agilists, try to do with the organizations we help. Make sense mom?