Your Company Needs a Clear Model for Work

I’m worried about a trend I’m seeing, which is jeopardizing companies’ product development.

In the last couple of years, I’ve noticed growing disenchantment with Agile, especially in tech. This push-back is based on an interpretation of Agile as a tactical and rigid process that doesn’t align with how a company actually runs.

My view of Agile is different. Ways of working consist of mindset and implementing tactics. Mindset, which is the more important part, is the high-level choices that people make in getting work done. In the Agile case, they include putting people first, adaptability, customer collaboration, and frequent value delivery. You can implement these choices in many different ways.

The significance there is that Agile provides a model for work. It presumes that by optimizing for these four high-level choices, an organization would produce better customer and business outcomes and therefore be more successful. That presumption rests on a certain set of beliefs about people, work, products, customers, etc.

What worries me is that some companies that reject Agile (even when they understand the mindset behind it) don’t choose another model or develop their own. Instead, they execute a hodge-podge of tactics that may be good in many cases but don’t all work together. That creates dissonance and tensions that are hard to pinpoint and resolve, and limits overall success.

A model gives coherence to work and makes it possible to lead consistently (and to be less dependent on specific managers who may come and go). Some models, such as Lean and self-managing teams, suggest specific ways of working; other models, such as the Theory of Constraints and the one in my book Deliver Better Results, describe how to improve your way of working. Waterfall, used for decades but now much-maligned, is also a model: its prediction is that if each specialized function in a sequence does its job right, the result will be right and we’ll be successful.

Your company needs to subscribe explicitly to some model for work. It might not be the Agile one, and that’s totally fine. But it needs a clear model that everybody understands and follows.


Copyright © 2023, 3P Vantage, Inc. All rights reserved.