In recent years, it seems that many organisations have become blindsided into maximising the speed of technological change. Being able to get technological innovations to the consumer quickly is of crucial importance, but in some cases it appears that technology is moving much faster than the rest of the organisation. Put differently, whereas once technology was seen as ‘the bottleneck’, this really doesn’t have to be the case today, and other parts of the wider organisational architecture and business context appear to be the things that are slower to adapt.
One illustration of this phenomenon is the electric scooter. Where I live, in Portsmouth (on the south coast of the UK), these things are ubiquitous. You can’t walk more than a few hundred metres down a sidewalk without one whizzing past you. The technology is very well-established now, however the legislation, regulation and (arguably) enforcement are lagging behind. You see, technically speaking, it is illegal to use privately owned electric scooters in public spaces. Or, it is probably illegal, unless they fulfil the requirements of a motor vehicle (car/motorbike), have the necessary lights and mandatory safety equipment and are insured and the relevant vehicle excise duty (‘road tax’) has been paid.
This creates a bizarre situation where it is legal to sell an electric scooter, it just isn’t legal to use one, unless you are using it on private land. To confuse things further, certain local councils (municipalities) have created bylaws allowing e-scooter rental schemes to be deemed legal. Meaning you can ride a rental scooter on the road (but not the sidewalk), but you can’t ride a privately owned scooter on the road or the sidewalk. Confused? I’m not surprised!
Why Don’t We Talk About ‘Legislative Agility’?
This illustrates a situation where the pace of change of the technology (the e-scooter), the processes to sell them and appetite for people to use them has far outpaced the speed of:
- Legislation that allows/disallows it
- Regulation that might impose certain safety features to be included by default
- Commercial products that offer third-party liability insurance and so forth for these types of scooters
- The ability (or appetite) for the police to control or govern the e-scooters
Of course, this article isn’t intended to debate the pros and cons of e-scooters. However the patterns above exist in organisational settings too. How often have you seen a situation where the technology and processes can change quickly, but the governance is a chain around its neck? Where an organisation can’t do what it needs to do because there’s a restricted ‘approved suppliers list’ (even though no documentation exists to substantiate why those suppliers were chosen, or when they will be reviewed)? Or where an organisation demands ‘agile change’ but then restricts the delivery team’s autonomy by defining a scope, timeline and budget long before any understanding of the underlying opportunity of problematical situation is understood?
The irony is that those in charge of the governance are often the very people telling those that deliver change to “just do it” and “deliver it quicker”. This isn’t to criticise them in any way (it’s a completely understandable perspective to take), it is just to highlight the contradiction, and to suggest that this contradiction needs calling out.
Agility Is About Synchronicity
There’s an old adage in manufacturing that there is no point in consistently manufacturing faster than you can sell, otherwise you just create inventory that might never be needed. Keeping things ‘in sync’ whilst listening out for changes in the environment and building in slack is important. If we want agility in our organisations, surely this synchronicity is important too? So much has been written and discussed about how to deliver technical change more efficiently and effectively…. and some of that has even worked 😀. Perhaps now it is even more important for us as a community of change practitioners to step back, zoom out and move the debate away from the speed of the tech.
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About the author:
Adrian Reed is Principal Consultant at Blackmetric Business Solutions, an organisation that offers Business Analysis consulting and training solutions. Adrian is a keen advocate of the analysis profession, and is constantly looking for ways of promoting the value that good analysis can bring.
To find out more about the training and consulting services offered at Blackmetric, please visit www.blackmetric.com