Everyone is Agile!

Organisations are undertaking significant change, implementing the latest tools and frameworks and spending significant amounts to "bring" agility. What if, the ingredients of the agile “secret sauce” already exists?

What if everyone in your organisation is agile?

Humanity wouldn’t be where we are today without the innate ability to recognise and respond to the complexities, ambiguities and uncertainties of life. There wouldn’t be explorers, innovators or captains of industry, the inability to learn and adapt would have kept us doing what was known. We wouldn’t have peace makers, communities and nations, the complexity of collaborating would have been insurmountable. In fact, we may not have descended from the trees, the plains would have been a big, scary, unknown place.

The following examples intend to explore how everyday situations would be different if we couldn’t exhibit behaviours complexity requires. Cynefin’s probe, sense, respond terminology is used to simplify the discussion.

Traffic accidents would be normal. The behaviour of a freeway is defined by the relationships between the vehicles, not the vehicles themselves, hence a complex system. Consider how a driver selects the appropriate speed either just do what the speed sign says or set a speed (probe), monitoring the space between your and other vehicles (sense) and adjusting to maintain required distance (respond), rinse and repeat. Merging lanes follows the same approach, indicate (probe), monitor gap (sense), merge/stay (respond).

Team contests would be decided by analysis, not play. Imagine if results could be predicted from individual player skill or previous results rather than the relying upon the variability and uncertainty of a real contest, a whole season could be played in minutes. In sport results emerge through an instantaneous, repeated process of making a play (probe), asses it’s effectiveness (sense), adapting (respond). The faster this loop can be navigated the more adaptation, the more likely the win.

Communities and tribes would be very different. Ever wondered why the greeting “how are you today” is useful? This seemingly innocuous statement is probe to gather information, their response is sensed to enable us to respond appropriately. While people differentially exhibit this behaviour empathy wouldn't occur without being able to probe, sense and respond to another's changing state.

These are just three examples of how humans use probe, sense and respond to survive and thrive in a complex world every day. A little thought and many more become apparent.

If we believe humans are implicitly agile, a different question arises,

“What inhibits people from bringing their agile competency to the organisational context”?

A topic to be unpacked in later posts.