When I first got exposed to the idea of ‘agile
‘, I didn’t get it. It seemed to be something all the suits were talking about. I still see it that way partially, but I’ve also given the concept a lot of thought and listened to others. For me, agile means ‘flexible’.This is what google says:
Moving quickly and easily. Supple and acrobatic.
When I was younger, I had rigid thoughts on business. I came from a business school and thought I knew quite a lot (which I don’t). You then enter business life and use all your mental models and convictions to organize your work. And you bump into blocker after blocker, because things don’t turn out the way you thought they would. Your (mental & academic) models don’t match with reality.
I love Buddhism
. Buddhists see ‘things’ as ‘empty’. Whatever you see, whatever happens around you, is all ‘empty’. Your mind puts labels on them. Something happens and you think ‘that’s good!’. Your boss disapproves your plan to launch a new initiative. You think ‘that’s bad’, ‘management always blocks innovation’. In reality, the event is an event, empty of meaning. You can simply accept and embrace what is. And then dance with it, finding a way to move your plan. That’s agility.
What happens in business is that most people form more rigid labels about everything over time. The older we get, the more we get convinced that ‘this is the way things go in business’. We build habits, routines and rigid processes. We keep doing things as we’ve done in the past because it worked. Now agility is the opposite.
We don’t attach labels. Things are empty. And when something occurs, we move. We inspect the empty ‘thing’ and then we ‘adapt’ to what happened.
Another notion from Taoism
is ‘flow as a river
‘. A river looks like this:
Now this shape is there because the water flows wherever it can. If it bumps into a big rock, it’ll find a way around. It’s not going to stay there, bumping into the rock until it moves. It doesn’t stop there. It keeps flowing until it reaches the sea. That’s agility.
Sprint. See what happens. Accept. Inspect and adapt. Sprint again. Keep moving. Flow.