Our needs and aspirations drive our level of agility

Have you ever been to an ocean? People choose to experience the ocean in variety of ways. Some enjoy the fresh cool breeze and are satisfied. Others stroll along the beach to collect shells. While some take off their shoes and wade in the waves, some enter fully and swim. Some dive deep into the ocean to collect pearls. There are others who drill deep for oil and become rich. Some are satisfied to just extract salt. The ocean is the same for these people. What people do with it is their choice. The choices they make are driven by their needs and aspirations.

Alex was a poor fisherman. One day a sailor came to him and offered him a chance to join a pearl hunting expedition in deep-sea. If successful, that would be rewarding of course. Alex thought about it, but eventually said no. He came up with enough good reasons that convinced him to not go. There was a need, but no aspiration. Then there are those serial startup CEOs who build one startup after another. They don’t have the need but their aspirations won’t let them sit idle. They need change. They need to do something. They need to build.

What we want and achieve is fully driven by our needs and aspirations.

And then we have Newton’s first law of motion that states “Every object in a state of uniform motion tends to remain in that state of motion unless an external force is applied to it.” For Alex in our story, though the need for money was there, his other interests held him back from going on that adventure. Unless the needs and/or aspirations are a powerful enough force to upset the status quo and propel us into uncharted territory, we would hardly achieve anything – let alone changes that are adventurous and demand a lot from us.

Is it not the same implementing agile? The word agile has come to represent so many things that you can do X and be agile. You can do Y and still be agile. The agile alliance website shows it beautifully in a subway map. While some are happy just doing agile development using scrum teams or kanban, a few venture into continuous integration and continuous delivery. There are those that do devops but there are those too that are just happy enough to “borrow” some agile principles and adapt to their environment. There is no good or bad, right or wrong. If you don’t need it or don’t want it, you will not make it happen anyways. It’s plain and simple. Where there is no need and no aspiration, well nothing really happens. Things stay where they are (or more often deteriorate). Where there is both, that’s where we hear the stories from. In reality, its never so black or white. Life is not binary. Our needs and aspirations depend a lot on the context, the situation and several other factors and they keep changing too. So bottom line,

Our needs and aspirations drive our level of agility. And rightly so. And yes, this is true for all levels – an individual, a team, or an organization.

Hrishikesh Karekar

Hrishikesh is an enterprise agile coach with interests in varied disciplines. Frequently writing on Agile and Lean related topics, he also occasionally ventures into other stuff like Artificial Intelligence as well..