Embracing Agile with the incredibles

Yesterday my 4 year old daughter and I were watching (again) one of our favorite films, The Incredibles. And then Steve Denning’s post about embracing Agile came to my mind. But what do these two things have in common?

I’m not happy Bob. Not. Happy. Ask me why Bob – Ok, why? … Your customers make me unhappy Bob: You’ve gotten complains? Huph: Complains I can handle. What I can’t handle is your customers’ inexplicable knowledge of Insuricare’s inner workings. They’re experts! Experts, Bob! …

Bob & Huph – The Incredible film

Then Denning’s words echoed in mind. How many companies only care about their shareholders and use customers as a vehicle to increase shareholder value rather than considering them the highest priority of their business?

Bob: Are you saying we shouldn’t help our customers? Huph: The law requires that I answer no

Bob & Huph – The Incredible film

I wonder if that could be an example of Denning’s reference to bad conduct?

Bob: We’re supposed to help people Huph: We are supposed to help OUR people! Starting with our stockholders, Bob. Who’s helping them out, huh?

Bob & Huph – The Incredible film

The organization

After a few calming breaths, the story continues with

Huph: Insuricare is like an enormous clock that only works when all the little cogs (a.k.a employees) mesh together…well-lubricated, cooperative cogs

Bob & Huph – The Incredible film

This reminds me of the Orange organizations described by Frederic Laloux in his book Reinventing Organizations, which in my modest opinion seem to be good candidates for considering Agile as a methodology…or even something dark happening in the IT basement, as Denning points out in his Embracing Agile article.

I’d be surprised if Insuricare was invented by Brad Bird (The Incredible film’s director) as a company embracing Agile but, I can’t help thinking that many organizations, which are nowadays moving ahead with Agile, have similar situations, if not identical.

It’s all about values and culture

During my Scrum Master Certification course in 2010, one of the slides said “You can’t do Agile, you can only be Agile”. Back then I didn’t understand it fully, Agile was more of a process or methodology to me and the values, mindset, etc. were nice and helpful but complementary. As Denning puts it in his Embracing Agile post, “taking a short training course” is not enough.

Luckily for me, my values and mindset were already aligned with Agile and that helped me enormously to first understand the difference of being Agile and doing Agile myself, and then be able to help others to do the same.

So coming back to our story where we left off

(Bob has just stopped listening to the “clocks and cogs” speech from his boss)

Huph – Look at me when I’m talking to you, Parr! Bob – The man out there… he needs help! Huph – Do NOT change the subject, Bob! We’re discussing your attitude! Bob – But he’s getting mugged! Huph – Well, let’s hope we don’t cover him!

Huph & Bob – The incredible film

What values and mindset do you think Huph is showing here? Surely his behavior is not moving the organization any closer to get the customers satisfied.

All’s well that ends well
This long scene finishes with Huph’s body going through several walls facing down onto a copy machine.

This is certainly a way of managing resistance or making people change their minds, but I don’t see many Agile practitioners throwing people from the C-suite through any walls for the organization to get full benefits of Agile (or do I?).

I do see though, many of us playing this constructive role claimed by Denning of helping organizations to understand what is involved in being Agile and encouraging them to really embrace it.

So what would you say about your organization? Is it being Agile or doing Agile? What’s is your highest priority? Did you ever help to redesign your office space by “removing” some walls?

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