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Lesson Learned: Traditional Versus Agile Practices

This topic contains 2 replies, has 2 voices, and was last updated by Eugen Oetringer 6 months ago.

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    Eugen Oetringer
    Eugen Oetringer

    Lesson 1: Two decades of implementing (best) practices conflicting with those needed for agility won’t go away by scaling up agile best practices. At the cross-organizational level and with the popular solution thinking, the amount and the costs of obstacles to overcome is a different magnitude than in the IT or product development departments. Transformation risks and the risk of falling back into old habits are extreme.

    Lesson 2: The solution possibility to the conflicting practices was published in 2011 in Management 3.0. It was just one word. Despite this word was presented as well, it got lost in the information overload.

    Solution Possibility

    A single word to solve the seemingly insurmountable conflicts between traditional and agile (best) practices.

    Do’s and Don’ts   

    Publishing or presenting solutions to tough problems like the one above does not work anymore. Hence, do not tell the solutions. Instead, coach people such that, ideally, they find the insights themselves. For the example above, it turned out, a certain exercise and the associated coaching was very effective. It was especially effective when workshop participants of conflicting practices had to listen to each other in a problem solving way.

    Donna Fitzgerald
    Donna Fitzgerald


    Not sure what problems you are discussing in IT. There are best practices for managing a project, for developing software and for operational things like QA. According to the Cynefin model, the application best practices is ONLY appropriate if the problem is simple and there is a repeatable linear process that will get the work done. “Best practice” used to be a term with real meaning (the Fed-ex/Nascar story) but no one remembers that anymore and now it’s just code speak for “linear repeatable process.”

    So can you be clearer as to what problem you are trying to solve? And for which area of IT?

    Eugen Oetringer
    Eugen Oetringer

    I realize now that my communication wasn’t well-enough connected to the ways readers think and act. Thank you, Donna, for pointing me to it. Let’s see whether the following clarifies it:

    If, per the Cynefin model, organizations would have applied best practices ONLY when the problem is simple and there is a repeatable linear process, best practices such as Governance, ITIL and Project Management would not have been implemented or kicked out. But they are ‘everywhere’. Despite the negative associations they have these days, people know, there is value. What was missing was decision-maker-aligned guidance as to when they provide value versus when they become counterproductive. Let’s have a closer look into what this means for agile scale-up projects.

    Over the past two decades, we have seen the following: Decisions had to be made daily, at all levels. With the guidance missing, it was human nature to follow key practices of the above best practices:

    • Try to create repeatable linear processes
    • Predefine the decisions to be made.

    For complex situations, this led to service issues and bureaucracy. The ‘best practice’ of ongoing improvement became popular. With each round of improvement, more processes steps and predefined decisions were added into the system. They were embedded into IT-tools, strategies, architectures, rules, regulations AND INTO OUR VERY THINKING. Contrary to this are key practices for agility:

    • Flexibility
    • Decision making within the team
    • Self-organization.

    Right now, the cheer size of this impediment (costs, agile scale-up risks, unhappy clients, people being afraid of moving from one extreme to the other), appears to have little attention. At the same time, a one-world solution is waiting to be applied (see also Lesson 2 in my initial contribution).

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