Balancing Traditional and Agile Belief Systems- Israel Gat on the Equipoise of Agile

Recently I’ve again been pondering the balancing act of implementing new agile practices alongside extremely well entrenched, existing enterprise practices. While it’s always fun to criticize our past behaviors from the perspective of the rear view mirror, it’s also the fact that most of these prior practices actually worked dang pretty well pre-agile. After all, as most every software enterprise is by definition, successful prior to agile (or they wouldn’t have gotten as big as they have!), a healthy respect for what-it-is-that-got-us-here is an element of agile wisdom. And yet, if we don’t address many of these legacy practices and mindsets, we will not receive the full benefit of the new model.

So we are constantly faced with the dilemma of “how much to change” and “how fast to try to change it.” Too much and we risk the entire initiative as the organizations antibodies set in; too little and the benefits will be mitigated.

In thinking about a current project, I remembered that Israel Gat, BMC VP, discussed just this issue in a post entitled the Equipoise of Agile. It is located at the Agile Thinkers Blog, but it isn’t a stand-alone post so you’ll need to scroll down a way to find it. Here’s the intro:

Equipoise is the equilibrium formed by offsetting conflicting forces. The equipoise of Agile is the skill of an Agile leader to orchestrate conflicting forces and pressures in and around Agile in a manner that utilizes Agile principles, without denying the realities of the non-Agile world. It is the ability to function and get teams to function amid contrast and ambivalence that are systemic. – Israel Gat

It bends your mind a little bit to be able to intentionally operate with conflicting belief systems, at least for a transformation period, but I’m convinced that is the right mind set with which to approach the enterprise transformation. Patience helps too.


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