The Imposition of Change in Organizations

We hold that the imposition of change, especially the imposition of “Agile transformation,” is not advised. To impose “Agile” on organizations is contrary to the respectful and people-oriented nature of Agile thinking.

Several noted authorities have warned about the imposition of change in organizations. We hold that imposing practices reduces human agency, and by extension, levels of employee engagement. Our position is that imposing change conflicts directly with the goal of improvement, and reduces the feedback that is essential to improvement…and real progress.

We are not alone in our stance. Some of the most respected management minds in the world share our position on this.

Here are some quotes from noted authorities on the harm and folly of imposing change on organizations:

“Transformations can’t be accomplished without others helping voluntarily, & people don’t help unless you engage them first. ” -Geoffrey Moore, from the book, ZONE TO WIN. (Arguably one of the greatest management minds of our time.)

“…Imposing an agile process from the outside strips the team of the self-determination which is at the heart of agile thinking.”-Martin Fowler, Agile Manifesto signatory

“… imposing agile methods introduces a conflict with the values and principles that underlie agile methods.”
-Martin Fowler

“…I’d rather have a team work in a non-agile manner they chose themselves than have my favorite agile practices imposed upon them.”-Martin Fowler

“…You know as well as I do that if the team really doesn’t want to use a methodology, IT WON’T WORK. (emphasis added.) Let them make their own assessment.” –Jeff Sutherland (Agile Manifesto signatory and co-creator of Scrum,) with co-authors, POWER OF SCRUM book, page 31

“…[A leader’s] responsibility is to make clear to the team that THEY should be in control of their own work processes, and show them how to do that.” -POWER OF SCRUM book, page 31

“…So I hope I’ve made clear that imposing agile methods is a very red flag. ” -Martin Fowler, Agile Manifesto signatory. Written 2006, the “Agile Imposition” blog post, Martin Fowler

“Transformation occurs through choice, not mandate. Invitation is the call to create an alternative future. What is the invitation we can make to support people to participate and own the relationships, tasks, and process that lead to success?” -Peter Block: COMMUNITY: THE STRUCTURE OF BELONGING (Arguably one of the most brilliant thinkers of our time on organizations and organizational development.)

The Agile Industrial Complex imposing methods on people is an absolute travesty….so that’s the first problem: the Agile Industrial Complex and this imposition of one-best-way of doing things. That’s something we must fight against. “

-Martin Fowler, Agile Manifesto signatory

We hold that imposing change tends to disengage the very people who are essential to success- the employees who actually do the work. Accordingly, our position is that forcing and imposing change is not advised.

Instead, we strongly recommend and strongly encourage the use of the Eight Open Patterns of Business Agility.