V for Vendetta (and A for Agile)
Today I was thinking about why I feel discouraged by many Agile transformation stories, and a speech by Slavoj Žižek called “How To Rebel” came to my mind. In this speech he asks a very important question: “What happens AFTER the populist ecstatic movement takes over from the élite?” He is talking about revolutions and says that “…the measure of a successful… social change… is how will ordinary people feel the change the morning after, when things return to normal.” He discusses the famous movie “V for Vendetta”:
“Do you remember the final scene? Thousands of unarmed Londoners, they all wear the famous Guy Fawkes masks, march towards parliament. And without orders the military allows the crowd to pass. The people take over. OK. A nice ecstatic moment. And then the film ends. But, to put it in brutal terms… I would be ready to sell my mother into slavery to see V for Vendetta part 2. What happens then? You know, it’s easy for the people to win. What happens then? … How do we break out of this cycle where revolt, or whatever we call it, rebellion, is just this momentary transgression, happy moment, carnival, and then things return to normal… The true problem is daily life. That’s the really difficult to change. The ordinary daily life.”
This description is very similar to what I see in many of Agile stories. We bring something new: iterations, gamification, planning poker, all kinds of inspirational talks on self-organization, and everybody feels as if it is a beautiful carnival. People are energized (at least some of them), and see it as if this is a new beginning.
But then the “next morning” comes (and at that point the Agile Coach usually leaves for next client). And ordinary life is still the same, nothing has changed and things get back to ordinary (while some new terms and role’s names can preserve). Repeat this process for several times and nobody would believe that change is even possible. The “We have already tried Agile, and it just does not work here” attitude is a blocker for any transformation.
So the question is “What should we do instead?” For now I don’t see any answer other than “Be patient and move slow”. Stop telling those “‘A’ for Agile” stories about revolutionary change, and focus on sustainable transformations. This can look boring (and sometimes it is boring), and they probably do not sound like a good selling story. But if we aim at making this world a bit better by helping organizations to adopt Agile, we should live by Agile values before teaching others how to do this. This (among other things) means being open and building trust. Telling the truth — even if the truth is “you will need a lot of work to become Agile, not just 2-day training and a certificate” will lead to losing a contract.
What do you think about the problem of a “new ordinary life”?
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