Using a Combat Metaphor to Apply Agile Principles to the Company
The Cutter Edge has just published my article Using a Combat Metaphor to Apply Agile Principles to the Company. The metaphor draws from Britain’s struggle for survival during WWII:
The agile team goes through psychodynamics similar to those of the combat unit when it expects “casualties” in the form of forthcoming layoffs. A record-breaking Scrum implementation 12 months down the road is not too meaningful for an employee who suspects he or she might not be with the company in six months. Under such circumstances, you must satisfactorily answer the question on the minds of employees, “What is in this agile rollout for me?!” Agile team dynamics are likely to be jeopardized unless this question is answered.
What is needed under such circumstances is a reconstituted social contract between employers and employees. Without a working social contract, the friction and antagonism can bring down a system. For example, in 1942, the turning-point year of WWII, 833,000 person-days of coal mining were lost due to strikes in the UK coal industry. Even a world war in which the UK was fighting for its life could not compensate for a broken social contract.
They did not do software in 1942 – all they had were Alan Turing‘s code breaking Bombe machines. The core issue – broken social contract – applies however to software development, particularly these days. Scholars such as Correlli Barnett attribute much of the post war decline of Britain to the failure to reconstitute the social contract.