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11/29/2013

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.