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The Agile Business Conference—held in Docklands’ Excel this year—seemed well attended. Perhaps this was because Leith’s serves up a decent conference buffet menu (it was quite good) but more likely, I think, because “integrating IT into the business” really is coming onto the agenda. This is a disruptive change and the people issues involved will be at least as important as the technolgy issues, probably more so.
Conference attendance is a useful “hype curve” indicator. People come to conferences when they think something will be very important but it hasn’t got beyond innovators and early adopters yet (that is, it’s at the top of the hype curve), so impartial information gathering is all-important. And you want to meet people from where you want to be, not from where you are now.
Once something becomes mainstream, conference attendance falls off, as serious players increasingly take on people with experience of the new order and simply get competing vendors to line-up their technical evangelists for assessment.
Systems Theory, something I think may be key to understanding the dynamics of Agile organisations undergoing change.
Systems aren’t static; they exist in dynamic equilibrium; everything can change but the state, the business outcome, is dynamically stable—up until when you prod it too hard and it changes to another stable state (which may not necessarily represent the outcome you expected). And there’s another Systems effect for organisations managing Agile change to be aware of—you can move a system to an unstable state by applying effort to overcome inertia. Then, once the pressure is off (management takes its eye off the ball) everything slips back to its initial state. It is important to keep the pressure up—via mentoring, perhaps, and continuous improvement—to institutionalise changes, until you can bring the organisation to a new state of dynamic stability for a little while. Once you’ve achieved change, the job is just starting!