A Walk Along the Rim

Grand Canyon in all its beauty
- or: How Does it Feel to be Agile?

In a recent blog post I asked myself, how one could possibly detect, wether a company is agile or not. I want to take this question a little further: What does it mean at all for a company to be agile? How would this feel like?

I am sure, there is no one answer to this question, but I would like to present you a metaphor, that is often in my head while talking and discussing about "agile companies".

It is the metaphor of the Grand Canyon. Everybody has heard of the Grand Canyon. Plenty of people are dreaming of visiting the Canyon but many of them have only seen it on pictures.

One of the most awesome things you can do there is to take a walk along the South Rim (especially at sundown). There are essentially two tracks, you can take for that. There is a very solidly built street about 10 meters from the rim and there is a small hiking trail directly along the rim (which you can see on the second picture).

Hiking trail along the South Rim
The difference between both ways is on the one hand the view you might expect, which is really good from the street, but mind-blowing from the hiking path. On the other hand the latter is somewhat thrilling to walk (you will not find to many people there :)) because it is really close to the abyss. The street on the contrary is very safe (I am tempted to write SAFe ;) - but I will not).

Why do I like this metaphor?

Agility is - at least in my eyes - closely related to flexibility. Being able to adapt to new and unforeseeable situations quickly. Speaking about organizations, high flexibility implies less structures and processes. Less structures and processes again mean a lower perceived degree of security. And that is the hiking trail. You must find a good balance there.

Everybody has the free choice to select the right path for himself, to see the Canyon. But those, who always want to stay safe (at lease perceived) will probably not come to see the whole beauty. While those taking the hiking path might be far out of their comfort zone. But after all they will be rewarded by one of the greatest views of their lifetime.


Public Secrets of Mount Change

Change is hard!

To change something does always mean, to risk something - to loose something. In exchange we always have the chance and hope to win something. Ideally, we loose something bad and win something good. But we do almost never know...

What we know is, that it is deeply human trying to adhere to the current state.We call that e.g.
So: Change is hard!

Does this mean that you should never change? No! But if you think you have to face a big change initiative, you should be able to really answer two questions for yourself:
  1. Is there a desire, necessity or urgency perceptible that will make the effort of climbing Mount Change seem smaller than bearing the consequences of standing still?
  2. Do you have a clear vision, mission or goal that will ensure that people roll down Mount Change together and in the right direction?

Only if you have clear and simply understandable answers to these two questions, you should start your efforts. For that you will not forever start and never reach the top of Mount Change. Nor will you roll down the hill and fall of some cliff because some people took the wrong direction.

Don't misunderstand me. You are not done with answering these two questions. But it is an important point to start. And you are ready to take up your hiking stick, then. Good reads on the change topic are: