Agile Management

In early January 2012, I’ll take the two-hour train ride from Zurich down to Schwys and on to Morschach, where I’ll board a cable car for the ride up the mountain to the skiing village of Stoos. I’ll let Steve Denning explain why:

Help the #Stoos Gathering Transform Management

Why doesn’t management advance? Why are most big organizations still run in a way that leads to steadily diminishing returns, dispirits those doing the work and frustrates those for whom the work is done? There is no shortage of good ideas for improvement. Some good ideas have been around for decades. This isn’t rocket science.

And yet overall, very little has changed. Why do most firms–and their investors–still focus on maximizing share value, which even Jack Welch called “the dumbest idea in the world”? Why do firms ignore Peter Drucker’s insight that the only valid purpose of a firm is to create a customer? Why is command-and-control still the order of the day? Why is it that even promising improvements don’t seem to last?

The Stoos Gathering
On January 6, 2012, twenty thought leaders from around the world will gather for two days in the ski resort at Stoos Switzerland to discuss what can be done to accelerate the transformation of management in organizations around the world.

We will be searching to see what can be done to create and energize organizations in ways that make them better for the organizations themselves, better for the people doing the work, better for those for whom the work is being done and better for society as a whole and to do so on a sustained basis.

The Agile Manifesto
The four of us believe that this is possible. We have seen how in 2001 seventeen software developers came together at Snowbird and crafted some ideas in the Agile Manifesto that did inspire many people working in the software industry to do things differently .

Granted, the agile movement is still evolving. But there has been huge progress. Tens of thousands of organizations around the world are developing software in a better way–better for the organization, better for the developers and better for the ultimate user.

Subscribing to something larger
We believe that one reason why this happened is that the Agile Manifesto created a kind of banner or umbrella or set of values that all of the people present could subscribe to, while still continuing to pursue their own individual variations on the theme. The individual activities were transformed into a large scale global movement, because the participants saw themselves as part of something larger.

The question that we will be exploring at the #Stoos Gathering is whether we can discover synergies that could accelerate the transformation of the way whole organizations are run. To succeed, we will need to find elements that we can all subscribe to and that will energize and accelerate the movement for global change.

Getting into this
I’m learning a lot from sources like these and from conversations with generous peers.

“Agile” means different things to different folks. It’s sort of like instructional design. Some people think instructional design is ADDIE. Others of it see instructional design as a large bag of multidisciplinary concepts and techniques. A priesthood of ID purists lash out at people who stray from strict doctrine. The strays respond that old-style ID is irrelevant.

Both instructional design and agile development are touted as superior to waterfall design. Iterative design makes sense in a rapidly-changing world. However, change is not evenly distributed. Agile is not a panacea. While work itself is increasingly conceptual, some work remains procedural; agile’s not going to be much help there. Agile also runs into a brick wall in dealing with complex systems. 75% of scrum shots fail.

This is not going to be as simple to figure out as I’d thought. Good thing I enjoy learning!

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