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Competitive Advantage of Not Adopting Agile

Authenticity is a buzzword reentering the bullshit BINGO play board, so let’s talk about Agile in the context of authenticity.

Podcast: Audio rendition of this page content

As I’ve discussed almost ad nauseum—or perhaps I’ve already crossed that line—enterprises adopt Agile and scalable Agile frameworks because they seek more agility—to be more agile. They don’t want to be caught flat-footed and be accused of being lumbering, so they seek practices that may give the appearance of being nimble. Without much forethought, they are enticed by the name Agile. They also believe the hype of the other companies claiming to be Agile and the lie that this somehow contributes to better financial results.

Spoiler Alert:
Other companies are likely not agile, and they are not seeing better results.

First, all of the weight of the organisation ostensibly prevents them from being agile in anything but name. Next, none of this will result in anything statistically significantly better unless one wants to take credit for some placebo effect. I’ll grant you that one.

My advice is to drop the pretense and carve out a space to claim. We are not Agile and neither are you. We are an 18-wheel long haul tractor trailer combo. We don’t pretend to be pickup trucks or Ferraris, but we are durable and reliable. Can we turn on a dime? No, and neither can our competitors. Can some other entity turn on a dime? Probably, yes. And as they scale, they will encounter similar issues.

The second law of thermodynamics tells us F = ma, Force is equal to mass times acceleration. This is instructive. Apologies in advance for the quick algebra detour. Force, or F, is the amount of energy required; mass, or m, is the size of the entity or organisation; acceleration or a is the speed or velocity. Rearranging terms we can see that

a = F/m

As a reminder of elementary physics, let’s remember that the a, acceleration, represents a change in speed or direction. As it happens, this makes it easy for us to functionally swap the a to equate to agility. Fortunate mnemonic. Lucky us.

Effectively, this tells us two things. In the first case, all else being equal, as we increase in size, we lose acceleration. We slow down. In the second case, we notice that at a given mass, in order to maintain the same speed, we need to increase the amount of force or effort. Therefore, if we increase in size, we need to increase force (energy, money, resources) just to maintain acceleration.

My recommendation for this New Year’s resolution is to swear off the fact that you are neither Agile or agile. Get over your mid-life crisis and own your predictable stability. Your minivan is not a Maserati. That train has sailed. Don’t tie yourself in knots creating an unnecessary layer of complexity just to keep up with your peers, who don’t have what they claim to have. They have no girlfriend in Canada.

Besides, think of all the money you can save not sending your people to Agile training.

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