“Older managers will never get it.” But is that statement not perhaps dangerously ageist?
- Thus Steve Jobs was 42 when he finally showed that he had figured out how to run Apple (1997).
- The founders of Agile and Scrum were all in their 40s and 50s by the time they figured out how to manage the staggering complexity of software development (by borrowing techniques originating in lean manufacturing and then greatly evolving them). They discovered that code and complexity respond to intelligence, not authority.
- Most of those who are now at the cutting edge of figuring out how operate Agile and Scrum at scale are in their forties or fifties or even older.
We are also seeing a generation of software developers who grew up in a world of Agile and Scrum. The only management they ever knew was Agile and Scrum. They had never experienced hierarchical bureaucracy, with top-down command-and-control, and big bosses telling little bosses what to do, even when they didn’t have a clue what to do, and so on.
And now this generation is moving up the managerial ladder. Their initial reaction when they encounter the hierarchical bureaucracy in big organizations is one of shock: why would any sensible person run an organization like that? In some cases, they buckle under and say: “If that’s what I’ve got to do to get my bonus, then that’s what I’ll do.”
But the more intelligent and gutsy ones are saying, “No, that’s stupid. The future of the organization depends on continuous innovation and clever management of software development. So let’s run this organization in the only way that makes sense, with Agile and Scrum, and self-organizing teams and managers as coaches, with an ideology of enablement not control, and let’s figure out how to operate at scale, with vast ecosystems of developers” and so on.
And: “Why limit Agile and Scrum to software development? If this is a good way to manage staggering complexity, when not apply it to the rest of the complex problems we have to deal with.?” So Agile and Scrum is spreading across the board.
The result is that we are now seeing islands, promontories and even continents of Agile and Scrum in some of the largest old organizations, even as the very top still often grinds along in the old unproductive way. (That’s what the Learning Consortium for the Creative Economy is all about–connecting those islands, promontories and continents and enabling them to learn together.)
So is it physical age of managers which is key, or the state of mind, assumptions and attitudes that are critical?
In fact, are some of the most radical thinkers, who not only “get it” but are “taking it to the next level”, some of the oldest?
This is great, Steve—and reminds me of the time that Forbes put Peter Drucker on the cover with the headline “Still the Youngest Mind.” He was 87 at the time.
Rick Wartzman, Executive Director