in Agile

Agile vs Institutional Bureaucracy

If you happened to be listening to NPR this morning, you may have caught a segment on a video satirizing stifling institutional culture and bureaucracy at NASA, showing how a NASA engineer with fresh ideas gets shut down by bureaucrats afraid of change and clinging to documents and project plans like security blankets.

This video is must-see for anyone who works at (or contracts for) a large institution:

Now, while Agile is not specifically mentioned in this video or in the NPR segment, I see a lot of parallels between the themes and dynamics on display in this video and what many of the  designers and developers I talk to, especially some I recently met with at the NY Agile Finance Meetup, are suffering through.  Despite their best efforts, and despite clear signs of dysfunction and inefficiency pervading the organization, managers still just can’t let go of the old ways of working.  Just another reminder of how incredibly hard it can be to bring  the Agile message to large institutions entrenched in archaic processes.

But there is also another equally important message at the very end of the video, showing the same engineer now at Google (for better or worse, an archetypal Agile organization),  where it is as if she is an another planet,  and her manager displays Servant Leadership – a  powerful image, and one that to me resonates strongly of agile thinking.  At Google, her new thinking is invited with open arms and management extends her trust and autonomy to share her ideas far and wide.

This video was shown to top managers at NASA, and was supposedly a wakeup call for them.  I hope it gets shown to managers at similar organizations – or, better yet, leads to engineers and designers at those organization to make their own videos.