Agile Forest

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Is Agile dependent on culture or leadership support for success?

I recently read Silence by Shusaku Endo. It is a book about the early missionaries to Japan in a turbulent time when they were not wanted (to an extent that they were actively sought out and tortured).

As I read the book I was reminded of the analogies that Agile often has from its critics that it is a cult or similar to a religion, and as I read the book I changed the language and words in my head to see to what extent it fit against the criticism.

One page in particular stood out for both its beauty and applicability. I would like to share it with you with the words changed to Agile to see your thoughts on it. Think of it with a lens on the success or failure of transformations:

(Page 117)

“A tree which flourishes in one kind of soil may wither if the soil is changed. As for the tree to Agile, in a another company its leaves may grow thick and the buds may be rich, while in this company the leaves wither and no bud appears. Coach, have you never thought of the difference in the soil, the difference in the water?”

“The leaves should not wither; the buds should appear,” said the coach raising their voice. “Do you think I know nothing? People are familiar with the work of the Agile community; and it is well known that when many projects gave permission for evangelization the number of Agilists reached three hundred thousand.”

The old man constantly kept nodding, all the time rubbing his hands together. Whilst the other managers with tense expression were listening to the words, only the old man seemed completely on the side of the coach. 

“If the leaves do not grow and the flowers do not blossom, that is only when no fertilizer is applied,” the Coach said.

The analogy here that management support is the fertilizer, that culture is not the differentiator to success or not.

Do you feel that the tree would flourish regardless of the soil and water?

2 thoughts on “The success of an Agile Transformation depends on…

  1. Peter Merel says:

    Hi Renee, thanks for a very interesting perspective. I haven’t read Endo – shall have to!

    Attempting a transformation without sufficient executive support goes nowhere, but I like the other metaphor here – that transformation is about growing a self-sustaining capability, not pushing change. That’s the idea behind “exponential” transformation. I’d appreciate your feedback on it if you have time and interest –

    1. Hi Pete, I agree that some great transformations come from self-sustaining not pushing. Often the relationship between Agile and religion is made due to the cargo cult nature. There is a lot of push out there.

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