In WWII, German armed forces predominantly sought to destroy their enemies on the battlefield through Blitzkrieg. According to Lorris Beverelli the problem is that: "German strategists failed to conceive a way to defeat their enemies other than by defeating major parts of their armed forces and occupying their entire country if they refused to surrender. Germany ignored the fact that policy and strategy almost always must be somewhat flexible and adaptable to the changing circumstances of context.
The main flaw of German strategy in WWII was that it rested heavily on ideology and neglected objective elements that could have helped better assess the general situation. Ideology plagued strategy to the extent that the Germans sought to achieve extremely difficult goals and that the decision-making process was heavily affected by it. Strategy was no longer instrumental but was ideological in its direction and opportunist in its methods.”
The problem in business is that theories have turned into accepted truths that have turned into ideologies about how business works and how it should be run.
An example is “the Spotify model”. Spotify had teams called squads. A group of teams were organized into a department called a tribe. Each team was intended to be an autonomous unit with a product manager being responsible for a feature area. The teams had a range of specializations with the intent that they should have every skill necessary without needing to rely on another team for success.
While the co-author of the Spotify model and multiple agile coaches who worked at Spotify have been telling people to not copy it for years, we have seen implementation, like the one at ING, turned in accepted truths of how teams should work. Managers look at it and think it’s a framework they can just copy and implement.
One of my friend is working at a large bank in compliance. Compliance is focused on reducing deviation. They know exactly what they need to do. The PMO office is trying to implement agile in their department. Rightly so, people asked what value it would bring for them. The answer was unclear. Yet, they are now doing daily one hour scrum.
This is an example of the pretense of knowledge at work. We treat business as science and try to discover patterns to formulate economic, social, and psychological laws that inevitably shape people’s actions. Agile is excellent at removing uncertainty and handling change. In a context where the process is well known, it is making business worst and destroying value.
In business, as in war, we should recognize that there is no one size fits all. We should use more common sense that combines information on “what is” with the imagination of “what ought to be” to make business better, not worst.