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Agile is spreading, and management will be the last to know

A few months ago, I watch a stunning video about how bacteria overcome antibiotics. It's stunning how fast the adaptation can occur! I believe agility is transforming the world of work in a similar way. I believe top management is most resistant.

It is stunning how quickly bacteria overwhelm the antibiotics. In just 12 days, E. Coli bacteria can adapt to survive in an environment that has 1000x the concentration of antibiotics which would kill the bacteria at the beginning of the process. The bacteria adapt constantly - they are agile! Antibiotics adapt very slowly - in this case, not at all. So I guess that makes them waterfall if the agile counterpart is fast enough.

How bacteria overcome antibiotics


Jurgen Apello recently assembled a list of Agile Models, Methods and Movements. As I write this, there are 150 entries in the list. At least 25, and perhaps as many as 50 of them are not about software. There are methods for Product Innovation, Building Cars, Education and Schools, Personal Time Management, Collaboration, Coaching, Marketing and more.

Some of them are about organization and management: Radical Management, Management 3.0, Beyond Budgeting, Sociocracy and Holacracy are among the more prominent. While there are some examples, see for instance the SD-Learning consortium, AFAIK none of them is mainstream at the C-level.

The field of software development corresponds to the zone of level 1 dosage of antibiotics. Today agile software development is now mainstream in development groups, even as many people and companies still struggle to do it well. 

The next level is the immediate leadership of customers, managers and stakeholders. This corresponds to level 10.  There are many adaptations, including frameworks like SAFe and LeSS, but this domain is still more traditional than agile. (I am currently working on a course for Stakeholders. Please contact me if you'd like to help with solution validation! Thanks!)

Each new Agile framework is an adaptation to a new domain. Non-software areas, like building cars and other tangible products, correspond to dosage level 100. Here agility is just starting to make inroads.

And the most resistant? The C-Level of big companies and organizations. These institutions are most insulated from all kinds of change and disruption. They are represented by the 1000x level antibiotic dosage.

I believe stakeholders of software projects will be the next group to adopt/adapt to agility. Many other domains will start applying the lessons of agility soon. Top management (and government) will be the last to know! 


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