David Morris


In a recent chat on LinkedIn, one of the contributors contrasted the installing of an agile framework with creating one from scratch. As I read that, I was immediately struck with the analogy of cut flowers vs a potted plant.

This was in my mind, as my ex father-in-law recently passed away in the UK. Being based in NZ, I had arranged for some living lilies to be delivered, which the widow loved, as all the other flowers she’d received were cut and would soon fade and die.

Off the shelf frameworks

In my analogy, trying to plug-and-play an agile framework is like buying a bunch of cut flowers. If you’ve hired a consultancy, then the flowers are probably expensive exotic ones too. For sure, they are beautiful, fragrant, and can make people feel so much better. Until … they fade and die.

In so many organisations, a newly installed agile framework is fresh and shiny. It gets attention from senior leaders as well as frontline workers (and hopefully middle management too). However, once the sparkle has gone, once things get harder rather than easier, and your leadership are focusing on the next big thing — then your agile framework can fade, people revert to older ways of working, and you stand at a poorly attended big room planning event wondering what happened.

A home-grown framework

Contrast that with someone who has grown seedlings or planted cuttings to see what could flourish in their micro-climate. Then continued to cross pollinate, grow, and look at the results each season. The result might not fully resemble any plant, flower, fruit, or vegetable you’ve ever seen before — but it will be the perfect plant for them!

In a similar way, when considering how you want to achieve business agility, consider starting from where you are today. The seedlings might be where your biggest points of pain are (maybe your bottlenecks and organisation impediments), look at what you can do to make an improvement. The cuttings might be an idea you’ve seen tried in another organisation and you want to see if it would fit in and work for you.

By progressively identifying those improvement opportunities, keeping in mind why you’re striving to improve, simply priorities and experiment. Rinse and repeat. Keep going.

Involving others

To make this even more successful, involve those impacted by the changes your considering in designing the potential shape of the change. As well as getting greater buy in, you are sure to end up with something that is more robust and owned by everyone involved.

I’d love to hear what your experience is. Do you love working with off-the-shelf frameworks are do you prefer approaches like Disciplined Agile or Lean Change that choose elements that work from a broader toolkit?