The ‘copy & paste’ approach to agile transformation

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I recently came across this picture. It made me laugh.

Then I remembered the number of organisations approaching agile transformations in the same way… and the laughing stopped. Immediately.

Typically characterized by statements such as…

We’re going to take what they did at my last company and do it here.”

or

Spotify…” (need I say more?)

… the ‘copy & paste’ approach to agile transformation doesn’t work.

And here’s why:

First, such an approach assumes that because something might have worked in a specific time & space before, it will do the same in a different time & space. In my experience that’s rarely the case. If ever.

Secondly, a ‘copy & paste’ approach to agile transformation misses the importance of context. Agile transformations happen within complex adaptive systems, made up of multiple, interconnected complex adaptive sub-systems. And since complex adaptive systems are in constant flux, no one system is ever the same from moment to moment – let alone the same as another complex adaptive system!

Thirdly, a ‘copy & paste’ mindset assumes agile transformations are predictable. They’re not. And that false assumptions often leads to attempts to ‘manage’ the transformation using Waterfall. Good luck with that!! Because as Einstein said, “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”

Hence why ‘copying & pasting’ is risky!

Now that’s not to say you should ignore any previous agile transformation experience. But instead of going in with a predefined ‘solution’, maybe use previous experience to help identify patterns… and then use those patterns to ‘inspect and adapt’ your way to an agile transformation approach best suited to your organisations’ context and strategic objectives.

Thoughts?