Agile and Organisational Resilience – Part 2: Beyond Agile & Lean

This series of articles examines how organisations can create opportunity following a crisis. I will argue that as the world becomes more complex and undiscernable, how organisations prepare and deal with inevitable failure can give them a competitive advantage. So much so that intentional failure can provide more upside than the downside.

Many readers will be from the fields of Agile and Lean. Following on from my introduction to this series, this article will consider the maturity of these ways of working, but then put them to one-side until the end of this article series.

Why put them to one-side, especially considering I’m an Agile Coach? Well, to be frank, their current application is becoming commoditised. Their essence and original intent are being over-shadowed by large consultancies, large-scale change initiatives, sheep-dip training programmes and certification one-upmanship. Such organisations and initiatives often pay little more than lip-service to Agile’s and Lean’s simple yet powerful approach.

Using Geoffrey Moore’s Adoption Curve, there’s a lot to suggest Agile application is travelling across Early Majority. My opinion isn’t unique; Dave Snowden and many in the agile community recognise this trend.

Where would you place the maturity of agile and lean the adoption curve?

If we consider ourselves as change-agents, co-developing new emerging ways of working to help our clients and colleagues, we need to look beyond Agile and Lean – particularly in its current commodified application. This is my intent for this series of articles.

Another reason why I shan’t dwell on Agile and Lean is that I believe they have little application during an organisation’s crisis. However, later I will argue they play an important role once a crisis has been stabilised.

There’s a great deal of literature on how Agile and Lean deliver customer value at pace in a complex environment. I’m not going to repeat it here other than to say these approaches are particularly useful when dealing with known problems and opportunities. The challenge is that knowledge and understanding do not exist during shock events and crises that will inevitably engulf an organisation.

There’s a degree of overlap and complementarity between Scrum, Lean and Lean Startup, yet each has distinct emphasis.

Putting Agile and Lean to one-side, in my next article I’ll be returning to organisational resilience. I’ll be telling the story of Nokia, a company that has fallen out of favour yet has an impressive history of resilience.


Agile and Organisational Resilience – Part 1: Introduction

Only a crisis produces real change.
When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around.

Milton Friedman

When last have you listened to Maurice Ravel’s Boléro? It’s a beautiful piece built on a steady crescendo which leads to a sudden finale of collapsing flutes, trumpets, cellos and violas. This crescendo and finale is a wonderful musical metaphor that is facing many organisations.

These are crescendos that lead to profound alterations in an organisation’s existence and direction. They end in a sudden cascade of chaos, disorientation and bewilderment. Often they lead to deep changes which cannot be anticipated or rehearsed.

Such cascades are unforeseen shock events. These events trigger a crisis. How organisations deal with these crises depend on their awareness, preparedness, experience and adaptability. These intangible factors cannot be directly engineered or copied from another organisation.

The management of a crisis, if done poorly, can lead to an organisation’s demise. If handled well they can lead to recovery and a return to normal.

However, if and when the situation has been stabilised, I believe these crises are opportunities to grow beyond normality. This is important because, in a fast-changing competitive market, returning to “business-as-usual” is likely to lead to more undesirable failure.

The Agile and Organisational Resilience article series

In this series of articles, I will examine how organisations can create opportunity following a crisis. I will argue that as the world becomes more complex and undiscernable, how organisations prepare and deal with inevitable failure can give them a competitive advantage. So much so that intentional failure can provide more upside than the downside from the moments of chaos and confusion.

This is an illustration which I’ll be returning to throughout this series of articles.

Many readers will be from the fields of Agile or Lean. For other readers, they may be new. In the next article, I will be explaining the current maturity of these concepts and then set them aside to return to the theme of organisational resilience. Towards the end of these series, I will explain how Agile and Lean can provide competitive advantage immediately following a crisis.

There will be about ten articles in this series. To help keep your attention, I will be keeping each article to no more than about 500 words.

Shares, comments and considered counter-arguments are always welcome.

Lastly, listen again to Ravel’s Boléro: