Responding to change over following a plan. A giant lateral leap in thinking for all the managerial world. One of four core ideas of the Agile Manifesto, bound to change the world.
One sentence which is fundamentally flawed.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong about responding to or, as some say, embracing change. Not at all. In a reality dominated by, somewhat obsolete and almost Victorian, waterfall mindset, it was something revolutionary. A truly mind blowing concept. Mere acceptance of fact, that project reality is not carved in stone forever, made all the difference.
Then again, it’s flawed.
Responding to change is reactive. The reality has changed, so we must adapt to it. Not doing that is likely to jeopardize whatever we’re doing, but that’s just a reaction. It means you’re one step behind. The change has happened, whether you wanted it or not, and it’s time for you to do something. And, thing is, every single competitor of yours claims to do it. After all, deep down in 21st century, you don’t want to be ‘that company that STILL does waterfall’, right?
How could you change the manifesto to remove the flaw then?
Just replace ‘responding’ with ‘inducing’. Inducing change is what you want, what you should aim at, what can change the world. It’s how disruptive innovation is born – and it’s been this way since the beginning of time. Have you ever heard of the Spartans? Undoubtedly, the best warriors of their time? Maybe you’ve seen any of the ‘300’ series movies? So, what on Earth happened to them? How come Greece is not known as Sparta? Well, during the battle of Leuctra, they were demolished by outnumbered and, obviously, undertrained enemy, forces of Thebes-led Beotian league. How could this be? Well, the Beotians used their phalanxes in a completely unorthodox way – and, they also combined them with cavalry charge. Actually, it was the first recorded use of combined arms in our history. A truly innovative approach to warfare. Long story short, majority of Spartan nobility died on that single day, along with all their power and most of their heritage – apart from the legend of them.
Now, if Steve Jobs merely ‘responded’ to change, would we have iPhones and a plethora of other smartphones now? Oddly, probably yes. Each of those devices would likely sport a proper QWERTY keyboard though. Because nobody really wanted, or expected, a keyless phone prior to iPhone’s appearance. Apple didn’t respond to a change, they created it.
The same goes for cars. Four wheel drive for road cars was pioneered by Jensen, with their Interceptor FF model – but Jensen was too small to make an impact, and, car rallying was beyond their focus. But, mere decade later, it was within Audi’s focus. The first Quattro model changed the automobile industry forever, with – used to be – unthinkable things, like abundance of all wheel drive BMW 7-er or Mercedes S-class variants. All thanks to Audi not responding to the change. Audi induced the change, reshaped the reality, created possibilities that didn’t exist before.
So, want to be truly Agile? Go ahead and respond to change, for sure. But, please, make sure to induce it as often as possible. Scared of failing? Well, do you really think you can change the world without failing? Tell that to Mr. Edison.
He failed seven hundred times. And, yet, he changed the world.