Or why I believe that the future is bright even if painful…

I have recently written about some of my personal pains regarding my work and me lacking a defined Ikigai. I also posted my sadness in relation with the current status of Agile in the world. How it’s being sold. How it’s being perceived. And how I feel about the whole buzzword than is becoming a buzzkill.

But here’s the thing. Age is curious. Because it means we are here for a little be longer every day. And each of those days is an opportunity to learn. Boy, have I learned! I am being bombarded daily with information. Of all sorts. And then it gets interesting.

Most of us start in Agile through our companies. That usually means Scrum, Kanban, perhaps XP and not much else. If we’re lucky we discover several methods and techniques that help us manage work, time, constraints, people. Things like The Pomodoro Technique or MoSCoW or the Walt Disney Method. Nothing directly related to a specific Agile “flavour” or framework but that often is being used alongside said framework or method. And we will probably cross paths with Jira or VersionOne or Basecamp or some other tool. This is all fine but unless we really fall for Agile usually we don’t go much further than that.

In case we do fall in love with Agile — as I have — we tend to search online. Suddenly Agile is much more than Scrum or Kanban. If we are an hardcore develop we more than likely go towards XP practices, such as TDD. Or we deep dive into DevOps. Some of us will look elsewhere, searching for something new in people or corporate management, like Sociocracy or Management3.0. Others look into Agile practices and thinking in a more scientific approach, which means going around studying Toyota or Cynefin or OODA or a combination of all of them and more. And then there are the “new”wave — meaning it’s gaining world wide traction more recently — of “Agile” thinking like Holacracy or Lego Serious Play or OKRs. Heck, everything is Agile nowadays. By the way if we just do some googling we discover that currently there are several “Agiles” going around. Agile Manifesto, Heart of Agile, Agnostic Agile, Agile Learning Manifesto, Agile Marketing Manifesto, and so on, and so on… And I don’t think there is one common knowledge base that unites them all, which leaves room for misunderstanding and confusion for all the “mortals” around trying to learn something about Agile.

And so we have reached a point in which Agile is the “big momma” of new ways of working. And most people throw that around without thinking of what they are really saying. This brings me to my point — finally — which is: whatever approach you take, whatever tool, whatever framework, whatever country you’re in, whatever company you work for or own, whatever are your political or religious beliefs, being Agile means focus on people. Mind you, there are several guides and knowledge processes in Agile that state you should focus on the system. But even those advocate that in order to allow for a better environment for people.

Finally, to conclude, the main purpose of this diatribe (well, not really) is this: all my “Agile” life I have read, listened, learned a multitude of theories and authors on all things Agile. But I have also read, learned and discussed life, inner peace, suffering, psychological safety, communication. What’s curious about all this?

From Viktor E. Frankl to the Dalai Lama. From religion to management3.0. From OODA and High Performance Teams to Sociocracy. From Simon Sinek to David Marquet. From all walks of life, wether it may be ancient Japanese philosophy built into what became the Toyota Way to the ultra-pragmatic approach from the US armed forces, they all come down to this: Agile will evolve, as long as people see it fit to evolve. If being Agile means psychological safety and sharing a purpose, Agile will prevail, grow and be here for the long run. If being Agile means fighting between consulting companies, each selling their own “flavour” and trying to diminish others (companies or “flavours”), eventually people will no longer see it as part of a safe and nurturing environment and Agile will wither and die.

And this is why I believe the future is bright, although painful. We all need our own forming-storming-normig-performing struggle. We need to find our purpose. The reason to get up in the morning and a belief in our lives and our work. As teams, as companies but also as individuals. We need to go through the growth pains of Agile. But in the future, we will come out the other end stronger and really Agile. Regardless of what colour of Agile you defend. We will understand that much like our planet, in order for a ecosystem to survive, everything that is Agile must survive and create a symbiotic relationship. And so I yearn for the future. Our truly Agile future.

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