Dolphins can have conversations underwater, bats can see with sound, and birds breathe through hollow bones to fly. What if humans could do those things? Would it be worth evolving as a species to talk underwater or fly?
Would it be in our best interest to transform in ways suited for marine or avian life or is it better to simply evolve our existing strengths? If we take Darwin at his word, every species should evolve based on its environment, needs, and challenges, in order to thrive – not the needs, environment, and challenges of other species.
Many of us would agree that “In order to thrive…
…every enterprise needs to evolve based on its environment, needs, and challenges as an enterprise”
…every organization needs to evolve based on its environment, needs, and challenges as an org”
…every team needs to evolve based on its environment, needs, and challenges as a team”
And yet, when it comes to implementing a new way of working, we say things like…
“We just need to go SAFe”
“We need more scrum teams”
“We should use the Spotify method”
“What are Amazon, Google and Netflix doing?”
Whereas those are great places to get started, we can be a detriment to ourselves when we stop there. By definition, Agile frameworks are built up from similar values and principles so it’s no surprise that SAFe’s Communities of Practice, Spotify’s Guilds and Chapters, and the Singularity value that guides bamboo organizations set standards and further the personal development of the team members. If we’re able to understand the underlying value these concepts provide, then we are constrained to the existing interpretations.
I had a scrum team once that found Stand-up/Daily Scrums too difficult to commit to as they came in at different times (ranging from 7am-10am) and there was no good time for the team to meet without breaking someone’s flow. Rather than force the team to adopt standup, I observed the first and third agile values (Individuals and Interactions over Processes and Tools & Customer Collaboration over Contract Negotiation) and asked them to propose whatever would work for them – my only acceptance criteria was that there could be no conflicts between their proposal and the Agile Manifesto.
They proposed moving to the same area of the building (they were co-located), investing in a whiteboard, and updating the whiteboard with updates, blockers, questions, and concerns everyday as soon as they got to their desk. Additionally, they adopted a flag system – each team member had a red, yellow, and green flag to symbolize if they wanted to be left alone, could answer a quick question or 2, or if they were able to talk/huddle freely without impacting their workload.
The team organized as and when they needed to, using the whiteboard to provide visibility and plan for the day – they weren’t having Stand-up/Daily Scrums but they weren’t missing out either!
Luckily for us, organizations are far better able to adapt than any animal in the animal kingdom because not only can we evolve over time, we get to choose how and when we evolve. The only thing worse than not changing at all can be forcing changes that don’t provide enough value that outweigh the friction they cause (i.e. multiple failed implementations and “transformations”).
So before you make your next change, ask yourself – are we just transforming or are we evolving?
Gigi Singh is a Senior Consultant at Project Genetics, focused on advancing Agile within the Project Genetics’ practice. She is a believer of Agile and a builder of teams with a solid history as relentless change agent implementing Agile methodologies that build engaged, high-performing teams through experimentation, collaboration, and culture.