Practical Constraints: Resistance is Futile

Every trans­for­ma­tion entails fric­tion with the sta­tus quo. Those who sim­ply accept the prac­ti­cal con­straints that are brought into play dilute the trans­for­ma­tion. The new is then only some­how amal­ga­mat­ed with the col­lec­tive with­out bring­ing about a sig­nif­i­cant change. The trans­for­ma­tion itself is trans­formed and its pro­tag­o­nists are either assim­i­lat­ed or repelled. 

A lit­tle change, reor­ga­ni­za­tion and opti­miza­tion has not been enough for a long time now. Today, trans­for­ma­tion is the name of the game. Trans­for­ma­tions are there­fore every­where, in many forms and shades. A dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion for the busi­ness mod­el, because data is sup­posed to be the new oil. An agile trans­for­ma­tion for the orga­ni­za­tion because of its flex­i­bil­i­ty and speed in times of great com­plex­i­ty and uncer­tain­ty. A cul­tur­al trans­for­ma­tion, because self-orga­ni­za­tion and cre­ativ­i­ty sim­ply won’t thrive in stale cor­po­rate cultures.

How­ev­er, there are worlds between the equal­ly jus­ti­fied and rad­i­cal aspi­ra­tions of these endeav­ors and the drea­ry real­i­ty. Instead of the grace­ful but­ter­fly that was hoped for after the trans­for­ma­tion, the unat­trac­tive cater­pil­lar turns into a some­what more col­or­ful cater­pil­lar, dis­ori­ent­ed and exhaust­ed by the unsuc­cess­ful the­ater of trans­for­ma­tion.

After all, we are not Spo­ti­fy, they say, when the lofty aspi­ra­tions of trans­for­ma­tion meet the dull every­day life of a cor­po­ra­tion. Exact­ly! And that is pre­cise­ly the point. But the objec­tion actu­al­ly means some­thing com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent: We will nev­er be Spo­ti­fy, we don’t even want to be, and we have a thou­sand good rea­sons for that.

Fric­tion with these prac­ti­cal con­straints is nec­es­sar­i­ly part of every trans­for­ma­tion. The ques­tion is there­fore only who will be exhaust­ed first and what will wear out first. In most cas­es, it is not the con­straints. The word alone sug­gests immutabil­i­ty. A prac­ti­cal con­straint is log­i­cal­ly found­ed in the mat­ter at hand, was always this way and will always remain this way. There is no doubt about it.

Of course, the Man­i­festo for Agile Soft­ware Devel­op­ment says “Work­ing soft­ware over com­pre­hen­sive doc­u­men­ta­tion”, but we absolute­ly must have these hun­dred dif­fer­ent arti­facts for our devel­op­ment process. After all, we are not Spo­ti­fy! And “Indi­vid­u­als and inter­ac­tions over process­es and tools” is some­thing we have under­stood in prin­ci­ple, but we absolute­ly require these 42 roles and are there­fore glad that we can map them so well in SAFe. After all, we are not Spo­ti­fy! I believe in agili­ty and dig­i­tal­iza­tion, but please do not touch my lit­tle silo and my role as boss. After all, we are not Spotify!

We are the Borg. Low­er your shields and sur­ren­der your ships. We will add your bio­log­i­cal and tech­no­log­i­cal dis­tinc­tive­ness to our own. Your cul­ture will adapt to ser­vice us. Resis­tance is futile.

Star Trek: First Contact

In this way any trans­for­ma­tion can be dilut­ed. The new is sim­ply some­how amal­ga­mat­ed with the col­lec­tive with­out chang­ing very much. The trans­for­ma­tion itself is trans­formed and its pro­tag­o­nists are either assim­i­lat­ed or repelled. Resis­tance is futile.

But with­out fric­tion with the sta­tus quo, there is no real trans­for­ma­tion. It may seem crazy and not very con­ducive to your career to ques­tion or reject con­straints, but that’s what it’s all about. It’s about per­sis­tent­ly pur­su­ing the vision and see­ing and think­ing things dif­fer­ent­ly than the con­straints dic­tate. Every prac­ti­cal con­straint brought into the field is thus an oppor­tu­ni­ty to push the trans­for­ma­tion for­ward a lit­tle. Be brave, be rad­i­cal.

Here’s to the crazy ones.
The mis­fits.
The rebels.
The trou­ble­mak­ers.
The round pegs in the square holes.
The ones who see things dif­fer­ent­ly.
They’re not fond of rules.
And they have no respect for the sta­tus quo.
You can quote them, dis­agree with them, glo­ri­fy or vil­i­fy them.
But the only thing you can’t do is ignore them.
Because they change things.
They push the human race for­ward.
And while some may see them as the crazy ones,
We see genius.
Because the peo­ple who are crazy enough to think
they can change the world,
Are the ones who do.

Think dif­fer­ent, Apple, 1997

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By Marcus Raitner

Hi, I'm Marcus. I'm convinced that elephants can dance. Therefore, I accompany organizations on their way towards a more agile way of working. Since 2010 I regularly write about leadership, digitization, new work, agility, and much more in this blog. More about me.

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