August 8, 2017

One Framework Does Not Rule Them All

Just as teams benefit from diverse, multi-functional teams, at the macro-level organizations can benefit from diverse practices such as systems thinking, design thinking, Lean practices and Agile. Too often I’ve seen companies, when one of those models individually doesn’t achieve the overall goal, pivot to another wholesale. Why can’t we draw inspiration from what works in high-performing teams, but at scale? Why can’t we organize around multiple systems and practices that each have their own benefits and values to work together collaboratively in service of the overall organization and culture?

Why would we use just one tool in our toolkit? When we’re fixing complex things, we need a combination of different tools – a saw, hammer, screwdriver, level, wrench etc. How can we be so naïve to think that one model for organizational change will solve everything? Agile and scrum will solve for getting things delivered quickly. Design thinking can help ensure we are articulating the right problem. Lean and systems thinking allow us to see the whole picture from a systemic perspective. But we still need a strong coaching culture to understand the human dynamic in how those models come together.

All of these different methodologies are new: Agile is about 20 years old, but at large scale it’s only really been in practice for the last 8 years. Design thinking still very young; systems thinking has been around a while, but everyone has a different take on it. How would we expect it all to work well together when individually they are still maturing in their own contexts?

We need to accept that organizational change is a very complex thing because it’s dealing with a ton of different people who have different needs. We need to work through the complexity and messiness of using a bunch of different methodologies and frameworks in order to help change the organization. Once we accept that it is going to be complex and hard, then we’re less prone to seek a ‘silver bullet’ solution through one single framework to solve everything. And, when we focus on how to get all these things to work together – in all their perfections and imperfections, in an imperfect organization – we’ve got a shot at meaningful and lasting change.