Dualism in business

I’ve often observed – or interpreted – the manifestation of what I’ll call “business dualisms” – in the “binary opposition” sense. Two schools of thought, with adherents firmly in one camp or the other, and never the twain shall meet. Perhaps it’s a matter of there being a dominant way of thinking, or of doing things; and then along comes a new idea. Some people are used to working with the old way – they’re in their comfort zone so to speak – and don’t see the need to change. Perhaps they feel changing is a risk, not worth the potential reward. Perhaps they simply subscribe to the “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” adage.
Then there are others who see the new way as a better way, not just a new or different one. Such a person may be more curious, or a greater risk-taker, and be willing to try something to see if it is in fact better. They may perceive that the new way addresses issues with the old way, issues that frustrated them in the past. In any case, some people embrace the new, others refute it or ignore it.
This is starting to sound a lot like a blog about change management. Culture eating strategy for breakfast, etc etc etc. Well, there is something to that, but probably more than just change management, so let’s look at a simple example: Agile.
Agile project methodology seems to mean somewhat different things to different people; but I have worked with people who feel it is the very devil, and those who see it as the answer to pretty much everything. In fact, I’ve seen zealousness and emotional responses bordering on the religious, for something as mundane as a method of delivering software.
Is there a “right” and “wrong” when it comes to, say, methodology for delivering business process management software? At the risk of sounding like a consultant, I’d say that it’s not a matter of right or wrong, but that it “depends”. It depends on the organisation in question, the part of that organisation in question, the matter being addressed, the stakeholders – both technology and business – and various other factors. “One size fits all” doesn’t really fit anyone too well. So when it comes back to “Agile” – I’d say that it’s a “newer way” that has some really useful concepts  that address a lot of the issues inherent in the “old way”. Just don’t expect it to be all things to all people. Rather, consider the specific circumstances of the particular situation, and bear in mind that “Agile” doesn’t mean one single set of “right” practices.

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