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  • JimiWikman
    JimiWikman

    Can Lean and Agile work methods damage your business?

    The more I look into the different work processes I see a pattern. Just as people are either extroverts and introverts we have work processes and methods that are defined by one of those two types of people.

    Waterfall and RUP are slow and methodical where the concept of thinking before you act are dominant. As a counter to this we have Agile and Lean that focuses on speed and rapid development.

    For me who walk the path of both the extrovert and the introvert I see that as larger companies are getting stressed about time to market where smaller companies seem to do twice or even three times as much in the same time. It becomes natural to look for faster processes so Agile and Lean often become the savior to dying dinosaur companies.

    The problem with that is that large organizations rarely can utilize the power of Agile and Lean because of their sheer size. Instead they bastardize the way of working into a reactive and ad-hoc version that is not just hurting the people, but it can also damage the company for a very long time.

    The power of Lean and Agile is not speed. It is focus and communication. This is what makes it such a powerful tool in the right workforce. The concept of experimentation and deliver value often is a beautiful one, but it only works for small and focused organization.

    If you have development cycles of 6-12 months, or even longer, for new products then it is not possible to deliver value often and experimentation becomes a problem instead of a way to constantly evolve for better position in the market.

    The beauty of Agile and Lean turn into a constant struggle of wasted money and features no one need or want that comes out to late to be relevant. Control and thinking long term or even trying to see the larger picture is sacrificed for the illusion of innovation.

    And that is not even the worst part....

    Agile and Lean can feel difficult and stressful for people who are introverts. This is why you have a certain type of people drawn to startups and small, fast paced organizations. Most of the time these people are extroverts that love social interaction and fast thinking in creative environment.

    When that situation get thrown into a large organization where the speed slows down dramatically, the social interaction becomes unfocused and confusing due to multiple stakeholders and silo structure that create boundaries then people start to get frustrated.

    The smooth and creative discussions where solutions are founded and implemented by the whole team becomes endless fractured meetings with way to many people that drags on for weeks. The rapid changes to adapt to new ideas and unforeseen problems is replaced by directives and hasty decisions that makes no sense to the team. Chaos and confusion sets in and the flow of cooperation start to feel random and thoughtless.

    The extroverts are starting to suffer and the joy of creation and social interaction are starting to feel less enjoyable. The lack of influence start to feel like a prison and soon the creative aspects start to die out and a sense of apathy sets in. We have made the extroverts become producers instead of creators.

    The Introverts also suffer from the irrational and stressful way of working. The feeling that things are just steamrolling with no thought or apparent logic start to wear their patience down. The silent thinkers become even more silent and now start to brood.

    Constantly trying to keep up in a workplace where taking time to think is considered less important than the almighty time to market. Without the opportunity to reflect and organize their work they start to loose energy and just as their extrovert colleagues they fall into apathy.

    With our rapid thinking creators and our wise thoughtful organizers silenced and reduced to pale and tired producing units no one is there to help business to sort through their ideas to make sparkling diamonds from dusty coal. Ill advised features are slipping through and poor decisions are made because no one have the energy to care anymore.

    People start leaving the company and business start to suffer.

    It is not that Lean or Agile are bad methods, quite the opposite! In the right team and the right company they are among the most powerful ways of working as we know it.

    It is when they are used in the wrong team and the wrong company that their inherent good qualities become something that have the potential to ruin people and business. This is the same for RUP, Waterfall, Safe and all other methodologies as well. Used in the right setting they are amazing and in the wrong setting they are harmful.

    Agile and Lean will not automatically make your time to market shorter. The right way of working will. What that way of working is depends on the way your company is structured and what people you have working in your company.

    I find that in most cases it's not an Agile or Waterfall way of working that is the problem. It is that the way of working is not clearly defined and communicated. This leads to confusion and it put a strain on people when they have to invent their own way of working without any real guidance. Uncertainty and fear of failing are tombstones for any company.

    The best way of working often fall in between the slow and rigid and the fast and fluid. Pick the best parts that best suit your company and the people that works in it. Empower them to work in the way best suited for them and they will never cease to amaze you.

    Do not run because your competitors do. Stop and think of the best way for your company to work better together. Then build an airplane together and fly by the competitors no matter how big their head start is!

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