The dysfunctions of transformation

There are classic mistakes being made over and over as large organisations try to "do Agile", "implement Agile", or *shudder* "transform". I'm getting passionate about preventing the harm.

We hate that word "transform", although old habits die hard and I still catch myself using it. I had to do a deliberate purge through our new book. Transformation is done by fairy godmothers. Or caterpillars. Large entities don't change like that, they don't change that fast, and it isn't a finite step. Stop it. We say "advance".

Let's list some of the more dysfunctional approaches to advancing Agile culture:

  • Big bang change.
  • Change done to people instead of improvement done by people.
  • "Transformation" as a finite project.
  • Expectation that culture can change quickly.
  • Treating culture as a simple system not a complex one.
  • Belief that management know the answers.
  • Starting with a restructure.
  • ONLY doing a restructure.

(I'm so annoyed by restructures that I'm semi-seriously promoting a street demo "Down with Reorgs". Don't do them. I wrote about this in a DevOps context 3 years ago, and more generally just recently.)

Most of all: failure to change management and governance. This is our pick for biggest issue of them all. Management is the lock on advancement. The primary function of many middle managers is to control risk. They're change resistant by nature. Add to that senior management who are blissfully unaware of their own need to change and advancemt is going nowhere.

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