Compromised agility or agile mediocrity can be achieved in a command-and-control environment. Full-on agility can’t. And so you miss out on all the benefits that come along with it: A whole new level of improved quality and increased productivity, creativity, accountability, leadership, energized work, motivated people and fun.
If you’re an executive manager serious about being agile and you’re in a command-and-control environment you should start changing things to achieve lasting success. Start with the culture and the organisation and then move onto the people.
Agility will not happen when scientific management prevails. The values and principles are diametrically opposed. Disband the command-and-control institutions and get rid of the traditional management mindsets. You need to be thinking of agile as a leadership mindset and an omnipresent culture that is built on trust, honesty and courage, and
- allows teams self-organise
- empowers people at the coal-face to make their own decisions
- facilitates collaboration, open communication and information sharing
- tolerates mistakes and encourages constant learning
- drives a continuous flow of business value to the customer
- energises people and creates a buzz
- seeks to eliminate waste and bureaucracy
That said, agility will not happen without the right people. Given long enough, I’m convinced a command-and-control will create theory-X people. You want theory-Y people who have the right mix of talent and integrity to get things done. Don’t have people tell other people what to do. Ask people to make commitments to one another about their work and what they will deliver. And ask them to hold one another accountable to those commitments because delivering against commitments builds trust.
Dissolve groups of people who are siloed according to their roles, e.g. QA, Architecture, Project Management, etc, and instead build cross-functional teams organised around single and coherent products or services. These teams should include all the necessary skills - programmers, testers, sysadmins, DBAs, etc - to make decisions, take immediate action and get things done. People in a team work together so colocate them. Give teams the space to succeed and trust them to get things done.
Don’t use managers. Find leaders who will facilitate teams, maintain focus on the big picture and common goals, and preserve the new culture.
Without the vocal support and encouragement of executive management coupled with visible demonstration of adherence to common values and principles, an organisation will not commit to change.