Sunday, April 16, 2006

The challenge of modern business managers: How to solve the agility / maturity dilemma?

There are two contradictory schools of expertise for how the organizational management system should be realized and developed:
  • The Maturity School
  • The Agility School
Representatives of the maturity school say that one should build a consistent system for management that covers organization’s all activities. Then the organization is capable to fulfil successfully all relevant requirements from organization’s stakeholders. This is typical approach e.g. among traditional quality experts and their quality management systems based on international standards.

The agility people think in a completely different way. They say (see The Agile Manifesto): “We are uncovering better ways of doing business. Through this work we have come to value:
  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools.
  • Working solutions over comprehensive documentation.
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation.
  • Responding to change over following a plan.

That is, while there is value in the items on the right, we value the items on the left more.” Their approach is also very well justified and it has recognized advocates especially among modern software and ICT businesses.

Thus, we have really a dilemma: A situation that requires a choice between options that are equally unfavorable or mutually exclusive. And business practitioners easily confront with these both options in their every day activities. But how to solve the dilemma that seems to be already in principle impossible to be solved?

The dilemma cannot be solved at the operational level where the problematic situation exists. One should consider the question at higher level of comprehension. Then it is possible to find that solution is in maturity – not necessarily in building practical operational system(s) – but in maturity in having profound knowledge and understanding reality of the business case holistically. Then one can recognize how comprehensive and what kind of systematic approach is suitable and how to behave in an agile way in practice.

One may find this solution to the dilemma already from the ancient poem #26 of Chinese Lao Tzu:

"Heaviness is the root of lightness.
Stillness is the master of agitation.
And so the wise person:
Travels all day, not departing from the heavy baggage wagon although there are grand sights, he sits calmly aloof.
Why is this?
A 10 000 chariot lord,
mindful of his self, takes the world lightly.
Light, then lose the root.
Agitated, then lose the mastery."


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