Agile working was being used 70 years ago by Lockheed Skunk Works and by the Venetian Arsenal in 15th century Italy. It has now been defined as a methodology. However I believe that agile working is more than a methodology. It’s a way of working that a traditional, command and control, company cannot quickly achieve by just sending people on agile working training and then applying a step-by-step approach to ‘being agile’.
True agile working is achieved by high capability individuals working to a common cause, and finding creative and adaptable solutions to problems.
This article, Let General Stanley McChrystal Explain Why Adaptability Trumps Hierarchy, contrasts the approach of the surgical team of Drs Caterson and Carty, where adaptability is part of their world (“Operations are unpredictable. You always have to adapt.” Dr Matthew Carty) and that of General Motors where command and control working, information silos and politics resulted in a ten-year delay in fixing a fatal ignition switch problem which killed at least 13 people.
Traditional top-down structures sustain a hierarchy but limit adaptability. In contrast, adaptive small teams operate as a network based on shared skills, knowledge, beliefs and common objectives.