There's an interesting discussion under way at Mike Cottmeyer's site entitled, "Why is Agile so hard to sell?"
A lot of the discussion there is focused on the problems of scaling Agile--how do you aggregate the results of a lot of small teams?
My take is that the problem is not so much that Agile and Scrum don't t scale. We now have many examples of large-scale implementations of Agile. The real problem is rather that the whole dynamic of Agile in terms of delivering value to customers is incompatible with traditional management which is aimed fundamentally at making money for shareholders.
Agile makes money "obliquely" by delivering value: making money is a consequence not the goal. Traditional management sets out with the goal of making money and ends up manipulating customers and employees as needed to achieve the goal. (As Julian Birkinshaw points out in Reinventing Management: Smarter Choices for Getting Work Done, Jossey-Bass, 2010, oblique goals tend to be more successful in complex, chaotic environments.)
Agile management and traditional management thus represent two very different philosophies and they lead to radically different management practices. When the two sets of management practices come into contact with each other, traditional management tends to crush Agile, whether on a small scale or a large scale.
The good news is that there is now a widespread recognition that traditional management is failing even on its own terms. It is becoming less and less productive. It doesn’t fit today’s marketplace or today’s workplace. There is a now a fairly large-scale movement to reinvent traditional management in a way that represents an evolution of Agile values, i.e. a fundamental focus on delivering value to customers, rather than exploiting them. I have described this evolution in a series of recent blog posts beginning here.
The reason that Agile is hard to explain to traditional managers is thus that it represents a radically different philosophy. I have sketched out in a blog post how Agile CAN be explained to a CFO here.
More fundamentally the need is to explain to traditional managers that their way of managing is an increasingly anachronistic. The exemplars of the new management philosophy like Apple, Amazon and Zappos are so successful in the marketplace, as compared to their traditional counterparts like Walmart or GE, that the continued evolution in this direction is inexorable. The only question is how rapidly it will happen.
To learn more ...
To learn more about reinventing management, read the whole series:
- Reinventing Management: Part 1: Overview
- Reinventing Management: Part 2: Delighting the client
- Reinventing Management: Part 3: From controller to enabler
- Reinventing Management: Part 4. From bureaucracy to dynamic linking
- Reinventing Management: Part 5: From value to values
- Reinventing Management: Part 6: From command to conversation
And read books such as The New Capitalist Manifesto by Umair Haque, The Power of Pull by John Hagel, John Seely Brown and Lang Davison, Reorganize for Resilience by Ranjay Gulati, Leadership in a Wiki World by Rod Collins or The Responsible Business by Carol Sanford.
For a comprehensive review of the principles and practices involved in reinventing management, read my book: The Leader's Guide to Radical Management: Reinventing the Workplace for the 21st Century.